Until he moved to Polkton to live with us, Major spent his entire eight fice-years around self-sufficient Scots folk, who got joy from building what they needed, growing what they ate, making their own biscuits, drinking water from a dug well, watching doodlebugs, and polishing pennies. What you learned you got from somebody else, or you figured it out yourself.
I honestly don’t know how long Major had been with us before he left. We knew he loved his old home, with leftover biscuits and well water, but we thought he loved his new home as well.
We never expected him to run away, because he was so fat he couldn’t get very far. Major did not share our delusions. After he squeezed through the fence, he took his 30-pound self on a daunting journey. At eight inches per step, he took 2,666 paces to make the 0.3-mile trip from our house to where the road teed out at John McRae’s store. Turning left from there, he took another 7,878 paces to reach first water at Brown Creek bridge.
That’s as far as he got.
Back home, we worried so our stomachs hurt. When Daddy got home from work, he hurried downtown to tell everybody that Major had run away. If anybody saw a 30-pound fice with a guilty look, would they please come tell us. Then daddy walked all over town whistling for him, and calling, “Major, Major. Come here boy.”
But Major didn’t come — for two whole days.
By afternoon of the second day, Major’s escape was not going well. When he reached the bridge and went down to the creek for water, he must have come back up on the wrong side of the bridge. That way he was walking back toward Polkton, in exactly the opposite direction from the Prison Camp and his old home.
Major knew something was wrong. But bewildered, fice-tired and hot, he just stopped and lay down in the grass beside the road. Then he got up and started off again, but then changed his mind and made a new U-turn in the opposite direction. He did so several times.
As grace would have it, about the time Major hit the creek, another weather-beaten and self-sufficient soul climbed in his work vehicle and hit the road. Robert L. Smith, fix-it man, was headed to H.W. Little’s to get some 2x4s which he would haul back in the rumble seat of his 20-year-old ‘32 Chevy. Robert L. was not related to us at all.
Fifty yards before he reached the west fork of the creek, Robert L. saw something white, low-slung and fat shuffling down the other side of the two-lane road. He looked again.
“Potchie,” he said to his car, “That’s L.C.’s children’s dog.”
Forgetting his mission to Wadesboro, Robert L. made a U-turn and drove onto the right-of-way.
“Your name Major?” he asked.
Major stopped, then turned his head and began to walk away.
“I think that’s your name,” the human said, easing out of the car and looking at Major.
“You’re trying to get to Hattie’s, aren’t you?”
Major stopped short.
“Well, if you are, you’re never going to get there. You’re running around in circles.”
Major turned toward the human.
“I know three little young’uns in Polkton who sure miss you.
“Come on, Major,” the human continued. “Let me take you back home.”
Major turned away.
Robert L. reached inside the car and pulled a leftover biscuit out of his lunch box. He scratched his teeth across it. It was tough as a 2×4 , but it was all he had.
Major’s short ears perked up when he saw the biscuit.
“Major, I’m going to put this biscuit on the running board. I’ll stand back while you eat.”
Major sidled over and got the biscuit. While Major wolfed his snack, the human found a paper cup and poured the dog some water from his thermos jug.
Major drank it all.
“You’re a good old dog, Major,” the human said. “It would be too bad if you never got back home at all.”
After a while he continued, “Major, would you let me pet you?”
When Robert L. reached over, Major let him stroke his head.
“Major, I want you to let me pick up, and take you home.”
Major was not completely at ease with this idea, but this human with gnarly fingers gave a gentle back rub. He had also given him a hard biscuit and a drink of water, and had said he was a good dog. So Major decided not to resist when the human came and picked him up, then lifted him onto the seat of the car.
“You’re a heavy dog, too, Major, ” Robert L. smiled, as he and Major headed back to Polkton.
It was over in the evening when we heard the clicking of Potchie’s motor as they pulled into the driveway.
“I got your dog,” Mr. Robert L. called. He patted Major. “He’s on the seat.”
We ran to the car. Then we climbed up on the running board to see Major riding shotgun in the car.
He looked funny sitting up in there. It almost made us forget we were supposed to be mad at him for running away.
Daddy picked Major up, then patted and patted him on the head. We patted him, too.
“You’re still a good dog, Major,” we said. “But we cried when you ran away.”
Then we thanked and thanked Mr. Robert L.. He said it wasn’t any more than any neighbor would do. Then, he told us all about how he brought Major back from Brown Creek Bridge.
After Mr. Robert L. drove off, we took Major into the house and gave him some more biscuits and water. Then we sat beside him on the floor and watched him sleep for a very long time.
Daddy said Major’s coming home was a good sign: that all of us were going to turn over a new leaf.
Daddy was right…but that’s another story.
Leon Smith, a resident of Wingate who grew up in Polkton, believes the truth in stories and that his native Anson County is very near the center of the universe.