Bill May: The fish dog


I've told about the "foot-log" Dad used to put across the river during low water so that we could cross the river to our mailbox. The foot-log had a six-inch board nailed on top to walk on, and stays were nailed to one side to support a smooth wire about 30 inches above the log to hold onto, to keep your balance.

All three Moffat boys worked here quite a bit. When Harvey and Oscar came down from Montana for Gordon's funeral, Harvey told the story about himself and Gordon crossing the foot-log at night after "being out on the town." As they were crossing the log, they got to thinking how put-out Dad would be if they were still drunk at breakfast time, and how if one of them fell off the log it would sober him up. So they decided to try to push each other off; they both ended up in the river.

There wasn't a good place to pull the logs out or store them on the west (our side) of the river, so Dad had to take the team five miles around on our trail through the pasture. The spring of '37, Dad and my brother-in-law, Elmer Door, took the bridge out. Elmer took the team around with the old woodspoke, high-wheeled wagon; Dad took our 1925 Dodge "touring car" (with the top folded down).

When they were through with the team, Elmer started home with the wagon, but Dad spent a few minutes more getting things straightened up before he started with the car. Dad passed the wagon just a little past Spring Creek and as he passed the wagon, Elmer tossed something over into the car - it landed on the floor behind Dad (but Dad didn't stop to see what it was). In those days, we seldom met a neighbor on the road without stopping to visit - sort of a carry-over from "horse and buggy" days, when a fellow was always glad to let his horses rest for a minute anyway. Dad had stopped to visit with a neighbor at Cullen's corner and heard a commotion in the back seat. There was a huge trout jumping around on the floorboard of the car.

Dad killed and dressed the fish, but didn't wait for Elmer to catch up with an explanation before driving on home. Naturally, it took Elmer some time to get home with the team on that five-mile trip around through the pasture. You can imagine the suspense Dad endured while he waited for Elmer's arrival. When Elmer did finally get home, he didn't help matters much by telling Dad that his dog had caught the fish in the middle of the road!

When the whole story was finally relieved, it was this: The dog was trotting down the road ahead of the team as Elmer approached the Hot Springs Creek bridge. (We always just called it Spring Creek). Well, about then, a great blue heron came up out of the creek with this 3 1/2 pound, 23-inch-long rainbow trout. Of course, the bird couldn't fly with such a big fish, so when the dog made a run at him, the heron had to leave his catch in the middle of the road to get away.

Elmer always claimed that that was the best "fish dog" in the country. Whether that was the same fish that Dad claimed couldn't get under the foot-log, I don't know. We've never had trouble with big fish knocking out the car bridge, which we've had since '38.


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