THE KINDNESS OF A STRANGER
Last week, as Piper lay helplessly trapped in a tool shed weak from hunger and thirst, he heard the sound of an approaching tractor and someone’s footfalls nearby.
When, for one reason or another, every long-distance attempt at managing his aging mother’s property and healthcare had failed, Alfredo Ramirez made the decision to move to his mother’s home and relocated his family from California to Summer Station, South Carolina.
La Abuela (the grandmother) was now being well cared for by Alfredo’s wife and, with the help of his teenage daughter, Maria, he had begun goat farming. Milk sales from the goats and the part-time work he did for farmer Ray Fletcher in Sandy Clay provided for his family’s needs.
Today, while inspecting fences on the Fletcher dairy farm, Alfredo noticed a series of fence posts precariously leaning to one side and stopped to check the extent of the damage. As he walked toward the fence, he thought he heard something between a sigh and a whimper coming from the direction of the nearby tool shed. He stopped to listen and there it was again. This time he was sure of it. Uncertain of what he might find, he cautiously headed toward the shed brandishing the pistol he carried for protection against snakes and wild animals.
As Alfredo neared the shed, he heard Piper’s weak bark again and looking through the opening of one of the shed’s slats, saw what looked like a black and white dog huddled on the floor in a cramped space among the tools. The dog raised its head and met Alfredo’s unbelieving gaze with a pleading look for help.
Alfredo pocketed the pistol, lifted the weather worn mat in front of the shed’s door, found the spare key left there for emergencies such as this, unlocked the shed and opened the door. Cool air and sunlight flooded the interior renewing Piper’s strong animal instinct of flight from danger. He tried to stand and run through the door’s opening but the piece of barbed wire still tangled around his legs kept him from moving. With a moan of pain, he sank to the floor again and, as the stranger approached, uttered a low and menacing growl.
“It’s OK fella. I’m not gonna hurt you. I want to help you.” Something in the man’s manner and tone of voice led Piper to accept that the stranger meant him no harm and, as Alfredo knelt to examine him, the feathery plume of his white-tipped tail began to thump the floor in a feeble response of gratitude.
Carefully, speaking kind, melodious and gentle words of his native tongue, Alfredo began the torturous extraction from the barbed wire. To his amazement the dog did not flinch and, as he removed the last of the painful barbs, turned its head to softly lick his hand in gratitude.
Once he had freed the dog, Alfredo backed from the shed and beckoned for Piper to come. “Venga aqui! Venga aqui!” The words, though strange sounding, were easily understood. Piper stood and tried to obey but could not manage more than a few steps before his weakened state overtook him and he collapsed.
Seeing the helplessness of the dog, Alfredo removed his coat and spread it on the ground. Then, lifting him as gently as he could, laid him on top of it, pulled up the sleeves of the jacket and tied them around him. Alfredo picked up the bundled dog, carried him to the tractor and, holding him in his lap, headed back to the farm. (To be continued…)
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