Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

Nona’s Stories: Pretty Poll and Big Boy

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“Pretty Poll” had an on-going feud with a white short-hair cat that belonged to the old lady that lived next door to Mrs. Foster. He was a tomcat named “Whitey” – for obvious reasons—and wore a red fancy collar and a little silver bell.

He took great delight in prancing back and forth across the Foster yard to tantalize and infuriate “Pretty Poll.”

Whenever she heard the tinkle of that little bell, she knew “Whitey” was trespassing in her yard, and, even if she was in the house, would yell, in a loud and angry voice- “Scat, you cat! Your tail’s on fire! Get the Hell outta here!” “Whitey” took note of her order by flicking his tail and quickening his pace slightly. It was apparent he thoroughly enjoyed getting a “rise” out of “Pretty Poll.”

One day two of the train engineers brought the largest and most beautiful St. Bernard dog home with them. They said he had run alongside the engine and leaped into the cab at one of their stops, and made himself at home. It was plain he was accustomed to riding trains. The train was already well underway, so they had to bring him along.

They brought him into the living room to ask Mrs. Foster if they could keep him in their room until they went out onn their “run” the next day. She agreed, but Pretty Poll was “cussing” in Mexican, bobbing her head up and down, stopping occasionally to tilt her head and look up at him and say- “get the Hell outta here!” He just perked up his ears and watched her, wagging his tail. She would pounce on it and grab a beak-full of hair, brace her feet and pull on it like a robin pulling a worm out of the ground. Of course she couldn’t pull hard enough to bother him, and he would only continue to wag his tail. This made her even more angry, stopping long enough to say “What the Hell!!” – she would lapse into “cussin” in Mexican, hopping up and down and flapping her wings.

Even after they took “Big Boy” as they decided to call him, for lack of a better name, to their room, Pretty Poll would waddle down the hall, rap on the door with her beak, and, when they opened it, yell—”Get the Hell outta here!” at Big Boy.

One day I was sitting on the front porch when Pretty Poll started down the steps, lost her footing, and tumbled down all three steps head first. She picked herself up, shook herself off, swished her tail, said “Hell! Fire!” and ambled off down the walk to the front gate.

The train men were engineers on freight trains, mostly hauling produce out of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

They took Big Boy back to where he had first boarded the train and let him off, expecting that he would return to his owner. But when they returned through that depot again, he was waiting and climbed into the cab with them. This went on for about a month, but one time he wasn’t there and they were disappointed because they had grown fond of him.

They inquired of other engineers at the round house and learned he was known to some of them, had rode up and down the Valley with some of them.

But they didn’t find him waiting for them again. Ray and I wrote the Milams about the Big St. Bernard and how much we all missed him, and what a nice dog he was.

They wrote back that a strange thing had happened there involving a big St. Bernard dog, and wondered if possibly it was the same one. The station master at the North Uvalde Depot said a big St. Bernard dog got off a freight train there and disappeared into the night. He had been asking about town trying to find out if anyone had lost such a dog.

Then, a few days later, John Myers, owner of a ranch about three miles from the Milam ranch, and a friend of the family—Carlos Myers and Ray had gone to school together—was returning home from town late one evening and found a big St. Bernard on the highway. He picked him up and brought him home.

The dog was thin and foot-sore. They fed him and groomed him, and ran a “found” notice in the paper, but no one claimed him. The family fell in love with the dog as he was so docile and loveable.

Their house set back a distance from the Eagle Pass Highway, there was a field in front of the house, with a road leading from the highway up a lane to the house. Late one afternoon the St. Bernard was sleeping on the front porch, and Mrs. Myers said she heard him growling—a deep “rumble’” in his chest, she went out in to the porch to see what he was growling at—it was the first time he had growled since they had him. He was looking down the lane, the hackles standing up along the back of his neck and shoulders. There was a man coming up the lane toward the house.

Before she could stop him, the dog lunged off the porch and down the lane, charging the man. She heard a shot, and the man turned and ran back to the highway and disappeared down the highway, still running. When she got to the dog he was dead, shot in the front chest.

A neighbor down the road told Mr. Myers the man had stopped at his place, asking about work. Said “he had bee a roust-about” at a circus that went broke. The rancher didn’t like his looks and distrusted him, so didn’t hire him, even though he did need help at the ranch.

Of course, there was no way to be sure, but putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, they thought the dog and the man had belonged to the same circus, and, as the circus traveled by freight train, that was the reason the dog always rode the freight trains, he was searching for the circus that had been home to him. And, for some reason he had cause to hate the circus roust-about. It was late summer at Uvalde, and the wind blowing from the South, so carried the scent of the man toward the house, and from it the dog knew the man.

The engineers at Laredo never saw the dog again. We showed them the letter from Myrt and Pop Milam, and they felt, too, that it must have been the same dog.

It was one of those cases of the truth being stranger than fiction.

They, as did Ray and I, felt badly about the dog being killed, but felt sure he had good reason to hate the man that shot him.


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