During that most bucolic of rural events,
Threshing, a carnival of wagons and oat shocks,
A behemoth thresher machine, a long table of food,
A growing stack of straw piled by my sweat-blackened father—
Ernie, my grandfather’s much loved collie,
Caught his tail in the power-take-off connected to the grain elevator
And was instantaneously skinned.
Gramp ran for his rifle and shot the dog,
Loaded him into the trunk of his car,
And told me to come along.
We drove across fields to the far end of the farm
Where, along a fencerow, Gramp parked,
Removed his WWI spade from the trunk
And silently weeping dug a grave for his dog,
While I watched, an awed boy of seven.
I glanced one last time at the mound of dirt
As we drove back to the farm buildings,
Somehow intuiting that grownups
Bury their mistakes, inter their grief.
After I had served during the Vietnam War
I wasn’t allowed to keep my Collapsible Entrenching Tool,
But had to use a spade to bury my dogs,
Tears dripping off my chin.
—Gary Jones, Sister Bay, WI