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Long and winding road

April 26, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

To fully understand this story, you have to visualize the lay of the land on our lane. There are a couple spots where it narrows down to about twelve feet wide. Smart drivers center their vehicle in the lane to avoid the ditches on either side at those spots, hope nobody is coming the other way, and drive like mad to gain momentum. One of those spots is at the bottom of a steep hill, before you have to start back up the steep grade on the other side.

I am fond of telling people to commit when they ply the lane. I instruct newbies to not be timid and once around the last curve, just get some speed going down the hill, over the culvert at the bottom so they will have enough momentum to make it up the steep grade on the other side. The lane is much like a roller coaster, but instead of tracks, it is gravel, and you are responsible for the orientation of your vehicle. It’s really not for the faint of heart, or the timid. While it doesn’t take any undue talent, it does require you to, like I said, commit.

At the risk of disgusting any readers by my incessant diatribes regarding domestic beasts, there is a reason I am setting the stage and telling you about navigation of our lane. Besides the sometimes perilous transit, one of the resident domestic animals at Gilly Hollow adds an element of treachery to the route.

Holly’s best friend is Frankie. Frankie is a chocolate Labrador retriever. Frankie came to us through a mechanism similar to the other animals – he was rescued. My son and I were at one of the neighbors looking at some of their animals. They have geese, horses, goats, and several dogs. Before I knew it, my son had been talked into taking Frankie home with us on approval.

Frankie had been abandoned, or dropped off at their place. My take is that whoever dropped Frankie off had tried to housebreak him, and the attempt was not successful. Because of his rambunctious nature and the other animals, Frankie was relegated to living in a kennel. He is clearly a good dog, and the approval period has been extended indefinitely. Frankie is a fixture here at Gilly Hollow. Needless to say, Frankie is not allowed in the house. Like Holly, he is an outside dog.

Frankie is overly affectionate. If you come outside, he is right there wanting to be petted. Simple petting is not enough for Frankie. In fact, if you’re sitting in a chair or on a bench, Frankie will try to climb right up and sit with you. From there he will try to sit on your lap. Full grown Labrador retrievers do not make good lap dogs.

Frankie doesn’t like you to pet the other animals either. If you pet another dog, he will muscle right in between the other animal and your hand, demanding he be petted instead. Frankie’s jealousy goes well beyond this behavior.

Frankie has this maddening habit of cutting off the other animals. What I mean is you will all be walking along and Frankie will come up alongside the animal closest to you and step in front of them in an attempt to divert them away from you. The maneuver causes Holly to falter and sidestep, but generally causes Paris the three legged dog to fall on her face. Unfortunately, Frankie will do it over and over and over. He is so insecure he has to have all the attention, all the time.

Frankie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer either. You can just look in his eyes and see it. One metaphor of which I am fond regards someone who spoils their own habitat by defecating in their hat. Frankie is of this ilk.

I had a couple padded moving blankets I kept for protecting furniture and things while transporting them. Because it was cold outside and the bare concrete floor of the garage is not a good place to have to sleep, I gave those pads to the outside dogs. I folded them nicely and placed them against an inside wall so both Frankie and Holly would have a place to sleep protected from the cold. Frankie chewed up the blankets! Frankie has chewed up every blanket he has been given. Not only that, Frankie chews up the oddest things.

We recycle here. There is a bin where we keep plastic items which will make the trip to town to be recycled. Frankie makes his daily mission to find something and drag it outside. It is one of my regular duties to retrieve whatever it is Frankie has dragged outside. It’s usually a plastic bottle, a boot from the garage, one of his blankets, or all of the above.

OK, back to the original intent of giving you some imagery of the drive down the lane.

Frankie can run. Frankie should have been born a greyhound instead of a chocolate Lab. One of his joys in life is to run the half mile length of our lane with any vehicle leaving the property. But Frankie doesn’t run beside the car, or behind the car. He runs right in front of the car, darting back and forth across the path. He is trying to cut off the car much like he cuts off the other animals. He runs fast enough to stay out of harms way, and will continue the game until you go fast enough to overtake him, at which point he jumps out of the way, watches you speed away and then turns around to go back home.

Frankie can run flat out close to thirty miles per hour. You have to go faster than that to overtake him and end the game. You have to trust Frankie will jump out of the way at the last second and not be run over.

Now take someone who is making one of their first trips down the lane. They may be timid, but listen intently to me when I tell them to commit and that they won’t run over Frankie. They are intent on keeping the car between the ditches and building up enough speed to make it back up the steep hill, at the same time a canine dope is cris-crossing in front of their car. They don’t want to hit Frankie, but because of my mini lecture are intent on gaining enough speed to crest the next hill. Most do it with white knuckles ten and two and don’t start breathing again until at the head of the lane.You really have to see it to believe it. Amongst delivery people, our lane, and Frankie are legion.

Until next time—

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342

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