Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 1

** Note** This is the new work in progress displayed on Tuesday while AeroQuest 4 is undergoing final edits and publication.

Bobby Niland, Farm Boy

Bobby was absolutely certain that turkens were the absolute stupidest birds ever to haunt a farm yard.  His dad and his grandfather had both had the challenge of raising hogs and keeping milk cows in the barn.  But no more.  In the 1990’s you raised corn and soybeans in alternating fields. And if you raised any farm animals at all, it was only a calf for 4-H projects, a pen of hogs, either black-and-white Hampshires or white American Yorkshires. Or some kind of chickens.

And turkens were a kind of naked-necked chickens.  Yes, like a half-turkey, half-chicken thing with a featherless neck.  In Iowa, no less!  The stupid things, by rights, should freeze their stupid heads off in the cold of an Iowa winter.  But miraculously, the buzzard-necked little uglies were better at surviving winter for some reason than actual chickens were.

Mom actually liked turkens.  She said they were much more like pets and easier to handle than regular chickens that her parents, Grandpa and Grandma Wickham always had on their farm when she was a girl.

But the turken in the old horse trough that morning had to have been the dumbest damned bird in the history of stupid chickens.  How does a stupid bird like that, one who’s supposed to be scratching around on a farmyard for worms and grubs and kernel corn that Bobby dutifully fed them, end up drowning in a horse trough?  Did it suddenly wake up that morning and think it was a duck?  Or maybe the local fairies had put a spell on it and convinced it that it should be a penguin for a day.  However it happened, Bobby now had to tell Mom that one of her birds was dead.  Drowned in the horse trough that she had been nagging Dad to get rid of.

As Bobby trudged towards the back door of the farmhouse, Horatio came bounding up to greet him.

Horatio was a collie.  An old one, but a good one.

“What’s the matter now, Robert?” Horatio asked.

Did I forget to mention that Horatio was a talking dog?  Sorry about that.  He also wore a green pork pie hat and smoked a Meerschaum pipe.  Really, he did.  At least, that’s the way Bobby saw him.

“It’s the stupid turken.  You know, the rooster Mom calls Little Bob.  The damned thing drowned in the horse trough out back of the barn.”

“That is most unfortunate.  Especially since she named that one after you.”

“She didn’t.  I told her I didn’t want no chicken named after me.  And she said it wasn’t named after me.  She named it after Great Uncle Bob.  Grandpa’s older brother.”

 “Of course she did. But maybe you are named after him too.”  Horatio puffed on his pipe and blew some smoke rings out of the side of his mouth.  That was a real good trick too.  People who blow smoke rings from pipe smoke, like Great Uncle Randall, Grandpa Wickham’s younger brother, take the pipe out of their mouth to do it.  Of course, Horatio had no hands.  “Why don’t you come with me over to the horse trough, Bobby?   Maybe I can apply my sensitive nose to the area and gather some clues to what really happened.”

“Okay.  That can’t hurt.”

So, together, the boy and his dog walked over to the horse trough behind the barn.  Horatio sniffed around the area and found some loose turken feathers.

“It seems there may have been an unwelcome visitor here,” Horatio said between puffs on his pipe.”

“What kind of visitor?”

“The verminous kind.”

“That’s a good word.  I read it in the Sherlock Holmes book I’m reading at school.  It means a pest like a rat or a mouse or maybe a weasel.  Can you say which it was?”

“Of course not.  You don’t know the answer to that question yourself, and dogs don’t really talk.”

“Well, can you at least guess?”

“Sure.  Those tracks in the mud are mostly turken tracks, but some of the littlest feet might be rats.”

“Oh, yeah.  I see that now.”

“A better theory to tell your Mom than that the turken thought it was a penguin for a day.”

“Well, fairies mighta cast a spell on him.”

“But you know fairies aren’t real either, right?”

“You know I saw one last year when I was in Miss Morgan’s class.”

“Yes, but you also thought you were turned into a swan by fairy magic at one point.  That couldn’t have been real either.”

“I know you are right, Horatio.  But there are some things that I just would prefer were real.”

“Like a talking dog who can solve crimes and smoke a pipe?”

“Yes!  Exactly like that!”

You may be about to hear a story now that is seen mostly through Bobby’s eyes.  And believe me, that is an unusual experience to have.  So, hang onto your green pork pie hat, and let’s go on that sort of adventure that liars and fools always are having.

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