We now return to our Blogger’s Memoirs.
She will wait five minutes for you to pop some popcorn and pour yourself a drink.
This blog contains adventure, stupidity, compassion, evil and high drama. Pull your chair closer to the screen and please don’t get salt and butter on your keyboard.
Today’s episode features Tasha, the half-coyote dog raised by our young hero and heroine, the transplants to the Upper Peninsula from the staid and flowing farmlands of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Please read Chapter I and Chapter II if you are not yet familiar with their exciting stories. You can also read about a Tense Marital Moment surrounding the first two chapters if you’re filled with intrigue.
Let us re-join our protagonists, who are still barely full-fledged adults, living in the old Finnish farmstead on a back road near Pelkie in western Baraga County in 1980.
Across the road from Kathy and Barry’s new abode lives an elderly Finnish brother and sister, Elsie and Emil Lyttikainen. Their parents immigrated from Finland, and they grew up with their ten other siblings in their farmhouse. They skied to their country school on long wooden skis. They milked cows. They saw the twentieth century bring oddities like young people from Downstate. They were kind.
Elsie served Kathy steaming loaves of nissu (a Finnish sweet bread). They sipped hot Finnish coffee destined to grow hair on the chest of weaker coffee drinkers. They lingered near the ancient kitchen woodstove around a peeling formica table. In the winter, the siblings closed off the rest of the house and warmed their hands near the stove in the kitchen.
Kathy and Elsie grew to be friends.
One dark and stormy winter night–OK, it could have been a mild autumn evening, or perhaps even a sultry summer twilight–it was dark anyway–the telephone rang on the Drue kitchen wall.
“Hello, Kathy?” said Elsie, on the other end. (Interjection! It was a party line back in those days. You all know what a party line is? It’s not a festive gathering…it was an old-time convenience where several neighbors shared a single line. We modern downstaters had never experienced a party line. We were horrified to learn that bored or vengeful neighbors could pick up their telephone during our phone conversations and say things like, “Get off the phone! You’ve been talking too long!”)
Elsie’s voice sounded disturbed that long-ago evening.
“Kathy,” she said with her Finnish accent, “dere is a dog crying by da house. Can you come and get er? It’s under da kitchen window.”
Kathy pulled on her boots (if it was truly winter) and donned a chook (a winter hat) and heavy coat and tramped across the dirt road in the dark. Walked up the long driveway. A lone light shone in the window. Our rescuer trudged through the light snow (if there really was snow) toward the below-ground window well.
Sure enough, lying in the window well was what appeared to be a small animal.
Here is where absolute stupidity arises. I simply do not know how this young girl could have been so foolish. Without a second thought, she leaned down in the window well and scooped up the small animal.
The animal could have been a raccoon with rabies. It could have been a vicious fisher. It could have been a baby bear. The young girl did not know any of this–she didn’t even really think–but scooped up the whimpering animal in her arms.
The creature let out a wild howling frightened scream.
A wild-animal scent of horror rose immediately following the scream. (If you’ve ever smelled a wild-animal scent of horror, you know it is not pretty.)
And then the creature lay utterly still in the arms of its foolish rescuer.
It did not bite.
Kathy, still not realizing that fate had blessed her, in the way that young folks still don’t realize the possible consequences of all their actions, carried the animal toward Elsie’s light.
The elderly Finnish woman and the young transplanted downstater stared at the creature revealed in the lamplight.
It was–a dog. A puppy. It looked like it was about six months old.
It had been badly injured. It looked like (and here is where evil may come into this blog) it had been pitchforked. Or hit on the back with a rake, in an attempt to kill it.
Broken-hearted, Kathy carried the puppy home.
It lay beneath a chair in the living room all night, refusing to move, refusing to eat, refusing to believe it was finally safe.
The young people brought the dog to the veterinarian the next day.
“What kind of dog do you think it might be?” they plied the vet.
“Don’t know,” he grunted. “Part Siberian red husky, maybe?”
He confirmed the blunt instrument diagnosis, shaved, cleaned and stitched the wound, and bandaged the dog with thick white wrapping.
The dog healed.
The young people named the dog Tasha.
It grew to look like…strangely look like…it contained some coyote ancestry. They pondered if the dog was half-coyote.
Neighbors would say, “You better watch your dog. Looks like a coyote. Somebody’s gonna kill it.” (They do not say the word Ki-O-Tee here in the U.P. They call ’em Ki-yotes or Ki-yutes or simply Yutes.)
“Your ki-yute’s runnin’ around,” another neighbor would say.
One night Barry let the little girl out for the night. She had a nice warm doghouse filled with straw. He suddenly heard a howling chorus outside the back door and investigated. Dozens of eyes gleamed at him from the dark. A pack of coyotes stood yelping, gathering around our puppy. Our puppy hovered against the farmhouse, shivering and frightened.
Another time, months later, when Tasha was an older and wiser dog, she sat outside under a full moon and opened her mouth wide and wider and began to sing beneath the moon. Louder and louder she yipped, singing, inviting the moon to come down from the sky, in the manner of all wild coyotes.
She grew to be a wonderful companion. The most gentle of souls. How the young folks loved her! They took her to Texas when they “escaped” the Upper Peninsula and then brought her back to the U.P. when they “escaped” Texas. Pardon. The blogger is getting ahead of her story.
Kathy’s grandmother, god rest her soul, did not think that Kathy and Barry should have a half-wild creature, especially after the babies arrived. Her grandmother, god rest her soul, was adamant that the creature must not live with any of her great-grandchildren. (Kathy was so offended by this suggestion she couldn’t even speak to Grandma for at least a week.)
Grandma didn’t understand–couldn’t possibly know–that Tasha had a gentle soul, a soul that couldn’t hurt a flea. (OK, how did you know that Tasha got fleas when they moved to Texas and infected Kathy’s parents house so that it had to be bombed and sent her brother Scot to the doctor from vicious flea bites?)
Kathy knew that Tasha was the gentlest dog soul on the planet. How did she know? She simply knew when she reached down in that window-well and scooped up the whimpering injured baby creature. That would have been the moment for any biting tendencies to manifest.
Tasha ended up visiting Elsie and Emil quite regularly, in case you wondered. Elsie served her spaghetti sandwiches on a plate.
Thank you for listening to the story of Tasha, the half-coyote dog. I hope you remembered to eat your popcorn, and that your keyboard is not disturbed by salt and butter.