Short story from my childhood.

A Dog Named Laddie and a Boy Named Billy

When Billy was age 9 he went to spend the summer at his Uncle Martin’s dairy farm in upstate New York. Martin had a black and white collie dog named Lassie. Billy lived in the city and had never owned a dog. Laddie became Billy’s play-mate.

Each afternoon, Uncle Martin would ask Billy to do an important job by going out to the far pastures and bringing in the cows for their evening milking. Billy never realized that the cows would come to the barn by themselves. The cows were milked morning and evening. Laddie would always go with Billy to help bring in the cows. Laddie was a dog who had herding instincts. Except, these cows really didn’t need a herd dog to control them. But Laddie didn’t know that, and so he would run about the heard and bark and wag his tail.

The cows wanted to come to the barn because they received delicious special grains and vitamins. Cousin Donny was Martin’s only son. Donny always helped with milking the cows. Martin and Donny had both milked cows by hand all their lives and were very skilled at it. The farm did not receive electricity until the late 1940s. By the 1950’s, Martin and Donny used milking machines to milk the cows. The milking machines were suction devices. One suction cup fit on each of the cow’s 4 teats. Cows like to be milked because by the end of the day, if they are not milked they will feel pain in their udders from all the milk. After the milking machine removed as much milk as possible, Martin and Donny would milk the last few ounces by hand. Their hands were big and muscular. They knew just how to squeeze the cow’s teat to make a long stream of milk squirt into the pail. Laddie was always right there with Billy to watch. Martin and Donny had such a sense of humor. Sometimes one of them would squirt a stream of milk at Billy, and laugh. Other times, they would squirt a stream of milk at Laddie, who was happy to lick it off his fur. The barn was filled with cats who would try to steal milk every chance they got..

Billy had a BB gun air rifle, and would pretend to go hunting with Laddie. They would go behind the barn to the pond and shoot at frogs and a strange kind of fish that lived in the pond, perhaps a catfish, who would come to the surface to take a gulp of air. Billy never caught anything, but he and Laddie had lots of fun pretending.

There were always lots of chickens and ducks in the barnyard. By the end of the summer, some of the hens would march around with their brook of little peeping yellow chicks. The mother hen is fiercely defensive of her chicks. If Billy got to close, the mother hen would lower her head, spread her wings, and charge him. It was very scary, and Billy and Laddie ran away as fast as they could.

Donny’s hobby was keeping fancy pigeons. He had a special little barn just for the pigeons. Sometimes Billy would sit in their by himself. If he sat very quiet, then, slowly, little mice would come out of hiding and search for kernels of corn that the pigeons had dropped. Billy could not take Laddie into the pigeon barn because it was not allowed.
Summer came to an end, and Billy had to return to the city for another year of school. That next summer, Billy arrived at the farm all excited. The first think he did was run around the barns shouting for Laddie. But no Laddie came. Martin and Donny looked very sad. Martin said, “Billy! I am afraid we have some very bad news for you. Laddie ran over to another farm, and was barking at the chickens there, so the farmer took his rifle and shot him.”

Billy was so sad! Sad and angry! “Why that farmer had no right to shoot my dog!” Billy began to cry. Martin and Donny explained that the farmer has a right to protect his chickens. It was not the farmer’s fault that the dog got loose and came into his chicken yard.

It was a long, lonely summer for Billy that year on the farm. He played his usual games. He went out the pastures to bring in the cows to the barn for milking. But there was no Laddie to run ahead, barking and wagging his tail.


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