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Dutchtown Dogs

By T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson



Dutchtown Dogs

Well, when I was a boy (1925 through 1943) dogs were our pals and friends. They tagged along on adventures or waited on the sidelines until the next escapade. Almost every kid in our Dutchtown neighborhood had a dog or two. “Hutch’s Rainbow Bridge,” contains the author’s stories and sketches of dogs, cats and horses his family have owned and enjoyed during the lifetime of the ninety-six year old educator and author. Pets enriched his life and he writes of them in the same ‘down-home lighthearted vein he used in “On Leatherwood Creek,” a 2016 Indiana Bicentennial project.

     

Dogs were like loyal and obedient shadows that belonged in every boy’s life and there were days when I felt they were my only friend. Dog ownership taught us the facts of life, love and sorrow. We learned that our best friends were expendable and when they died from age, disease, or accidents, we accepted it as a fact of life. Dogs ran free in town and every family with kids had one or two for friendship. Old folks loved them for companionship, protection and burglar alarms. Businesses often kept guard dogs in fenced areas, thus such phrases as, meaner than a junkyard dog. A good watchdog with a healthy bark is a valuable asset when you live in the country. Any “crank” who called the “Town Dog catcher” could expect lots of pranks and mischief as pay-back! My folks considered it necessary to have a dog or two around the place and I gladly carried on that tradition. Hunters used hunting dogs for rabbit or quail hunting, owning a smart Beagle. Pointer or Coonhound was a status symbol and coon, fox or rabbit hunters came from miles around to buy, sell or trade dogs. Hunters kept those valuable dogs in kennels until hunting season opened. The poor things were only free for ‘field tests’ on special days and hunting season. A dog chained or in a pen , usually meant “keep away”. Guard dogs were chained or confined in fenced areas, thus such phrases as, ‘Meaner than a junkyard dog!’

     

Hoosier kids enjoyed all four seasons. As the saying goes, “If you don’t like today’s weather, just stick around a while, it’ll change tomorrow.” Our gang enjoyed the benefits of Leatherwood creek the year round and our dogs ran free without a collar and a leash was seldom used except for working dogs. Families with kids usually had a dog or two for protection and friendship. We seldom needed a dog collar, we just tied a rope around the dog’s neck if we needed to lead or control it. There were many dog houses but, family dogs slept on the porch or under the house in the heat of summer dog-days or freezing weather. They found cool spots to lie and pant in the shade or curled-up in the woodshed. Most people let their dogs in the house in the winter to sleep near the pot-bellied stove. They were allowed to sleep on the bed on extremely cold nights. We really needed the extra body heat when the fire in the pot-belly stove burned low and everybody was too sleepy to to roll out and feed it more coal.  --- adapted from “Hutch’s Rainbow Bridge”




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