I’m a sucker for a good dog story. Especially the ones that center around a little boy who begs his dad for a dog, and the dad says something like, “We ain’t got time or money to waste on no dog.” But they end up with the dog anyway because the old man is not as tough as he tries to make people believe.
This is not my story. It was told to me by my former boyhood Sunday School teacher. I know this story to be true. It took place before my time, so I can’t swear on a stack of Bibles to the extraordinary behavior of this dog. But Miss Helen does not lie.
She sent me this story with only a scant few details. So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll use the wizardry of creative license and personal experience to fill in a few gaps.
Melton Greer grew up along a dirt road in Henry County, Georgia. Born in the middle of the Great Depression, he didn’t have regular store-bought toys. He played with a stick which he imagined to be a shotgun. Rocks, which he threw for baseballs. His life pretty much revolved around feeding chickens and slopping hogs and finding some way to pass the time under the hot summer son.
It was late fall in a year when the allied forces were about done putting Hitler in his place, when a little pup just showed up outta nowhere. Melton fed him a scrap of biscuit. They became pals right off. Melton even gave him a name, Sandy, because the color of his coat looked like the color of the sand in his no-grass-mostly-dirt backyard.
When his dad, Mr. Roy, got home, Melton went to pleading. “Can I keep him, Dad? Can I? He’s a real smart dog.”
Mr. Roy took one look at this stray mutt and said something like, “No sir. We ain’t got the time or money to be wasting on no dog.”
Then, as it is in any good dog story, something magical happened. Mr. Roy told Melton to bring an armload of stove wood to the back porch. And when Melton showed up with the wood, Sandy had a piece in his mouth and laid it on the floor right at the master’s feet.
The pup sat back on his haunches and looked the gruff old man square in the eyes. Mr. Roy said, “Humph! I reckon you can keep him.”
I spent a fair amount of time at Roy Greer’s Service Station when I was a kid. Even though Sandy was long gone by the time I came along, I knew the store. I have vague memories of Mr. Roy and Miss Lucille. Their store was where Sandy spent his days while Melton was in school.
Every shopkeeper in Hampton knew this fair-haired canine by name. And this is the amazing part, believe it or not, Sandy knew them.
I don’t know if Melton just had a way with animals, or if Sandy was born smarter than your average 5th grader. If Miss Lucille was working down at the service station and decided she might cook up a roast for supper, she’d just send Sandy to go get one for her.
Stay with me here.
She’d write her order on a note then put the note and some money in a small coin purse. The cloth kind with a brass snap, like your granny used to have. She’d call Sandy over and stick the purse in his mouth. “Now you take this down to Marvin Daniel and give it to him. Hurry back.”
I’m telling you. This is straight out of an episode of Little Rascals.
Sandy knew exactly where to go. He’d trot down the sidewalk past Harrison’s 5 & Dime. Wag his tail at the tellers as he passed the bank. And when he got to the grocery store, he’d nudge his way in through the screen door and make his way to the meat counter in back. Word is, he wouldn’t give that purse to anybody but Mr. Marvin.
“Hey there Sandy. What you got for me today?” Mr. Marvin opened the purse and read the note.
Just like it was no big deal, he’d wrap up a roast in butcher paper. Tie a string around it. Put the change back in the purse. He would help Sandy get the string and the purse situated in his teeth, and send him on his way.
No roast was consumed between his store and the gas station.
Sandy was good for errands of all kinds. It was his regular job to go down to the Post Office and pick up the mail.
Mr. Roy: “Lucille, you reckon the mail’ll be out by now?”
“Surely they done put the mail out this late in the morning. You want me to go down and pick it up?” She already knew the answer.
Mr. Roy hollered from the back room. “Naw. Don’t trouble yourself. Just send Sandy.”
When wonder-dog got to the front door of the Post Office, he’d wait until someone would go in or come out so he could get through the door. From below the counter, he would bark. Just one time.
Mr. A.B. Mitcham was the Post Master back then. He recognized that bark and would go to the Greer’s PO Box to retrieve the mail. He’d tie a string around the stack, walk out front of the counter, hand it to Sandy and open the heavy glass door for him.
I hear tell he never lost not even one envelope. They say he had a delicate mouth.
There was this one Saturday when Melton was hanging round the service station. He liked to use the long cane pole with the hook on the end, helping his dad get down a fan belt from a nail way up on the wall. He also liked all the old men who came to town and who swapped stories sitting around in cane-bottom chairs.
Miss Lucille said to nobody in particular, “I reckon it’s about time to send Sandy to get the mail.” Melton volunteered, “I’ll go with him.”
Now, Melton knew Sandy didn’t need an escort. He was just itching for something to do. Mr. A.B. handed the mail to Melton. “You taking care of Sandy’s job today, I see.” Melton grinned, “Yes sir. I reckon I am.”
But Sandy was having none of that. As soon as Melton got out on the sidewalk, Sandy ’bout knocked him down. He finally had to give him a piece of mail to carry to keep the peace between them.
I wish I knew more. I wish I knew all about how this story ended. I figure Sandy was a part of Mr. Melton’s family for quite a spell. I suppose Mr. Roy never regretted his choice to let that little stray mutt stay around. I imagine they gave Sandy a real nice burial under the big oak out back of the barn. With a dog like that, it just had to end well.
What I do know for sure, like Miss Helen wrote to me, “This is just a story about a boy and his dog. I hope you can tell it in one of your stories.”
Thank you Miss Helen. Sandy sounds like a dog even a grown man could love.