By Jim Callicott
His name was Ted. We didn’t know too much about him. He had moved into the community about five years ago and lived in a small house just pass the river bridge. Ted pretty much kept to himself. He was a big guy with the looks of a former football player. Some said he was a Marine veteran from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. No one really knew the truth.
Ted made his living as a handyman and he was very good with his hands. He could build or repair just about anything. His rates were reasonable and he was friendly to his customers. He just didn’t talk much.
Ted drove an older model pickup truck and you could hear it rattling down the road a mile away. He only had one close friend and that was his dog, Steady. It was quite an ironic name as the dog was missing one front foot.
The dog emerged from the woods at Ted’s house one night and the big guy took the dog in and nursed him back to health. Apparently his foot had been caught in a trap and the dog had chewed it off in order to free himself. Ted said he knew what it was like to be injured with no one to look after you. Soon he and the dog were inseparable.
Ted would load his truck up in the morning for his day’s work and the dog would ride with him as he made his rounds. A young punk made the mistake of belittling Steady one morning. Ted lifted the man off the ground by his shirt with one hand and told him one more ugly word about Steady and he would be walking around like him, missing a limb.
Ted injured himself on the job late one afternoon and had to make a trip to the emergency room. The doctor said they would have to keep him overnight for observation. Hospital rules wouldn’t allow Steady to enter the building but the dog slept on the ground outside his master’s hospital room that night. A concerned neighbor brought the dog some food and water, but Steady wouldn’t eat or drink because of his concern for his master. Next morning Ted was released and the man and the dog went for breakfast.
The following spring was the year of the great flood in our area. It rained heavy for six solid days. The river was overflowing and water was everywhere. Ted and Steady had driven into town for a few groceries and was driving back home, about to cross the river bridge, when the right front tire on Ted’s truck blew out. The pavement was wet and when Ted hit the brakes, the out of control truck plunged into the raging river.
The force of the river against the truck was such that Ted could not open the door. Water began to make its way into the cab of the truck. Ted was too big to crawl out of the truck window and he must have felt his time had come. He managed to roll the window down, pick Steady up and somehow lifted him on to the top of the truck cab. Water was now pouring into the truck.
The next morning brought sunshine and a neighbor on his way to work spotted the half submerged truck with a dog lying on the top of the cab. He called the sheriff’s office and soon a crew was dispatched to pull the truck from the river. Steady refused to move from the truck cab during the entire rescue.
When the truck was back on dry land, Ted was still inside. He had drowned.
There was complete silence for a couple of minutes except for a low moan coming from the dog.
The neighbor took Steady back to Ted’s house and left him food and water. Ted was buried two days later in a nearby cemetery close to the river that took his life. Someone brought Steady to the burial and the dog refused to leave the grave.
Neighbors took turns leaving food and water for the dog at the gravesite but he seldom ate or drank. Two weeks later the cemetery caretaker found the dog dead. That night, in the dark, someone buried Steady next to Ted. No one would have objected. A small cross appeared about a week later.
Some in the community claim that if you walk along the riverbank at night, you can hear a strange low moan coming from the vicinity where the truck entered the water. Regardless if that is fact or fiction, what is true is the lesson Ted and Steady taught the community. They gave us a living example of why caring for one another may be the reason we are on this planet and that true love knows no bounds, be it between humans or a man and his dog. True love is forever.