Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

Nona’s Stories: The Train-Riding St. Bernard

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When Ray and I arrived in Laredo, where he had a job in a new Power Plant as Power Dispatcher, we took an apartment with a Mrs. Foster. Her apartment house was near the Railroad, and a nembur of Railroad Engineers roomed there.

We had been there several months when late on afternoon two Engineers arrived with the largest and most beautiful St. Bernard dog I ever saw.

I think his head must have been twelve inches across. They said he had jumped into their cab as it started moving and they couldn’t put him off, that it was apparent he was used to riding a train and made himself quite at home.

He was such a nice dog that even Mrs. Foster, who wasn’t, as a rule, fond of dogs—liked him so well she allowed him to stay in the house.

But her green, ill tempered parrot, Polly, was furious. She hated dogs and cats, and would scream at the dog “Get the Hell outtta here!” accompanied with a string of Mexican curse words. Mrs. Foster’s husband had been a Capt. In the Army, and spent much time across the border in old Mexico. The Parrot had been his mascot, and the Mexican soliders has taken great delight in teasing the arrot and teaching it to curse—in both Spanish and English.

Hence “Polly” hated men, too. She would often go down the hallway, rapping on the doors of the Engineers rooms with her beak, saying “get the —- hell outta here!” They took it all In fun and didn’t mind.

When the dog was lying on the floor, “Polly” would walk ‘round and ‘round him, picking up tufts of the hair, especially his tail, in her beak, cursing and scolding, and saying “what the Hell!”

When it was bedtime, the St. Bernard proceeded to jump up on a cot in the hall, lay his head on the pillow, and go to sleep.

For several months the St. Bernard went and came with the Engineers, sometimes he would get off the train at different stations, sometimes he would disappear for days, then be back waiting to board the Engine. They said he appeared to be looking for something or someone, watching from the cab as they traveled. He wore no collar, so the men chipped in and bought him a nice collar so some dog catcher would know he wasn’t a stray.

I wrote Ray’s mother about the dog and his habit of riding the trains.

There came a time when the dog was no longer waiting at the stations for the trains, much to the disappointment of the Engineers—and the rest of us, for we had all grown fond of him. They inquired at every stop on their runs, but no one had seen him. One day a letter came from Mrs. Milam saying she believed, from my description of the St. Bernard, that the same dog had appeared at Ed Myers ranch. It adjoined the Six Mile Milam ranch. The dog was on the Myers front porch one morning when they got up. They had no idea where it had come from, but it’s feet were sore, and it’s coat matted and tangled. They inquired in town, and no one had seen, or was missing, such a dog. So it stayed on at the ranch. It’s collar was missing.

Sometime later, late one afternoon, the dog was lying on the Meyer’s front porch. Mrs. Myers said she heard the dog growling, and was curious, as she had never heard it growl at anything, so went to see about it. It was standing, with it’s hackles raised, looking down the road that led from their house to the main Highway—about a quarter of a mile.

She said there was a man coming up this road toward the house. As she stood at the door, the dog bared it’s teeth, and still growling leaped off the porch and charged down the road toward the man.

There was a shot, and the dog fell, the man turned and ran back to the Highway, stopped a car, got in and drove away.

Mrs. Meyers went to the dog. It was dead. The bullet had struck it in the chest.

When Mr. Meyers came in late that afternoon, he brought the dog to the house and buried it in the back yard. He thought the man was probably a “tramp” or drifter, either looking for work or a “handout.” But, why the St. Bernard, that had been so friendly with everyone else, would seem to want to attack the man puzzled everyone.

I let the Engineers read Mrs. Milam’s letter. They, too, believed it to be the same dog. And, thought since it was plain the dog was used to riding trains, that it probably had belonged to a road show or small circus that had, maybe, gone broke, and the dog was abandoned. That, perhaps the man that killed it had been with the show or circus, and was looking for work at the ranch. And, for some reason, the dog had reason to hate him. That it was one of those stranger than fiction happenings. That probably neither the man or dog knew the other was there. The dog could have caught the scent of the man, and knew who he was. No one will ever know.

But we all felt badly about the fate of the dog. One Engineer said if he ever found out who the man was that killed the dog—it would be the last dog he would ever kill.


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