A big yellow dog was sound asleep at the foot of a gas pump. He didn’t wake up when I walked by. Nor, when I opened the door and walked in, did the proprietor. He was in an easy chair, facing the door, sound asleep as well.
I cleared my throat, and gradually his eyes opened — the proprietor’s, not the dog’s.
“Hep ya?” he asked from his chair.
“You sell maps here?” I asked.
“Nope,” he answered.
“Can you tell me how to get back to Tuscumbia?” I asked, not entirely sure he would be willing to do so.
“Go up to Russville and turn left.”
“Go up to where?”
I thanked him, complimented him on his fine looking dog, and walked out. The big dog was still asleep. The gas pump dog being too bucolic a photo opportunity to pass up, I got my camera out of the car, took a few steps closer to him, and took a picture.
Though slamming car doors hadn’t awakened him, the subtle click of the camera did. He opened his eyes, looked at me, turned his head and looked at my car. That’s when he saw Ace, whose head was poking out a half open, or half closed, depending on your point of view, window.
His hackles rose and a growl began to form, though he still hadn’t gotten up. As he began to rise, I walked slowly back to my car, then not so slowly back to my car. He followed, slowly at first. I was in the car by the time he ran toward us, barking first at Ace’s window, and then, by the time I got the car turned around, at mine. He chased us down the highway a bit before turning around and going back to the station.
I proceeded in the direction the gas station proprietor had advised, for miles and miles, but didn’t hit Russville. So I stopped again, and got the same directions. “Go up to Russville and turn left on 43.”
A few miles later, I came upon the town of Russellville, which — its three syllable name apparently requiring too much effort to say — is locally known as “Russville.” Kind of like Rutherfordton in North Carolina, where locals drop two, maybe two and a half, entire syllables when pronouncing it … “Ruffton.”
Eventually, I reached my destination, Tuscumbia — a lovely little town where residents pronounce all four syllables of its name, and home of the Helen Keller birthplace — having relearned an old but valuable lesson:
Let sleeping dogs, and sleeping gas station owners, lie.
Monday: Coon Dog Cemetery.
For all of Dog’s Country, click here.