There went Charlie, happy to ride off with a group of strangers. Broke a mother’s heart.
The helpful railroad worker offered more. “We’ll be heading back to town ourselves shortly, we’d be glad to take ya.”
“Thank you, sir. That’s very kind. I’m just going to run back to the house and I’ll be right back.”
I hurried up Martha’s porch and she opened the door before I could knock.
“What is it now?” She asked, her tone less suspicious and more helpful.
“Do you have any paper, and a pencil I could borrow? I promise I’ll return the pencil. Any scrap of paper would be fine. Just to sketch Charlie real quick, in case I can’t find him right off.”
She disappeared from the doorway. I was starting to get nervous. I couldn’t go home without Charlie, wasn’t sure I could even get home without Charlie. In movies they always made it clear you couldn’t alter history. Gosh, what a time to be thinking about movies. I was scared for Charlie and getting a little scared for myself. I should be trying to get home instead having to hunt for my dog, but going to town did sound fun, my curiosity was killing me.
Martha appeared with a pencil and a few square pieces of what looked like butcher paper.
“Thanks so much, Martha, this will work fine.” I sat right down and went to work, keeping on eye on the workers so I wouldn’t miss my ride. Within just a few minutes I had a good likeness of Charlie sketched out, complete with the funny little tufts of hair around his mouth and wild eyebrows framed by floppy ears.
“That’s a very good likeness, Miss Sally. Looks just like him! Looks like you’d best be going.”
“Thanks, Martha, I’ll get back as soon as I can.” I tucked pencil and paper into a deep pocket of my skirt, hoping she didn’t mind if I borrowed them for longer, and ran down the steps to where the men were loading into another truck. One of the workers gallantly helped me into the front seat and then climbed in the back with the other men. I waved to Martha as we pulled away, and I tucked my skirt as best I could around my hiking boots.
* * * * * * *
I was grateful to Charlie for making me chase him into town. What a site! I had read about the history of Pinetop and even recognized some of the store fronts from my own time. The road wasn’t paved, of course, and there were more trees right in town, some big stumps in between some of the buildings, and wooden board walks instead of cement sidewalks. I loved it! Climbing out of the truck near the train station, I thanked the men profusely for my ride into town. They all tipped their hats and wished me luck finding my dog. There was no sign of the truck Charlie had ridden in so I gathered up the long skirt and picked a direction, deciding to start with the west side of the street and show his picture around. There was an awesome general store with tin and enamelware on display out front, along with sacks of feed, flour, and fence material. Then I passed the bank and millinery shop – something sadly lost to my time and here I was looking at an authentic one! Next there was a bank. I showed Charlie’s pictures to several passers by and they all shook their heads no, they all wished me luck. Just as I was about to go into the newspaper office a train pulled into town, blowing its whistles – a good, old-time steam train, spewing smoke and ash and sounding marvelous! I found a quaint wooden bench and pulled out the pieces of paper Martha had given me. I sketched for probably thirty minutes, first the train and the station, then the scene across the street, people coming and going, the false-front buildings, then I guiltily remembered Charlie. Getting up in a hurry I plowed right into a handsome gentleman who I’m guessing was standing a little too close, perhaps looking over my shoulder. We both sputtered apologies.
“I do beg your pardon, ma’am. I was admiring your sketches and should have introduced myself. Roger Dawson, at your service.”
I held my hand out to a man who looked like a young Richard Crenna with a mustache. I love Richard Crenna.
“And I’m Sally Burke. I’m really looking for my dog but I got sidetracked, so much to see here!”
“I agree, but I’m a newspaper man, I make my living by paying attention and seeing everything. You’re very talented, I can see that. Do you ever sell your work?”
“That’s very kind, thank you. No, I just do it for fun. There are a lot of artists more talented than I.”
“Not around here. I could use your sketches in my paper, times when a sketch says more than a photograph. And I’ll give you $2 for that one of the street scene.” He fished two coins out of his pocket and traded two silver dollars for my sketch. I was speechless. “That’s so you know I’m serious.” I wish I could have sketched Roger’s smile to take home with me. I never wanted to forget it.
“Well, again, that’s very nice, but I’m just passing through. I need to find my dog and get going.
“And what does your dog look like?”
I showed him Charlie’s picture and felt the tug of worry, I had to find my bud.
“You are VERY talented. Your sketch looks exactly like that dog right over there.”
I looked to see Charlie on the opposite boardwalk, trotting along like he was on a mission. Perhaps it was unladylike for the time but I hollered his name and he looked over his shoulder right at me. I think his pace actually picked up and he ducked into the open door of a place called the Steel Rail Café.
“Thanks again, Mr. Dawson, it was a pleasure, I really must be going.”
“And you, Ms. Burke, a genuine pleasure. You will let me know if you change your mind.”
I gave that handsome man my best smile and hurried across the road. I would have loved to have lingered in Mr. Dawson’s company, maybe over coffee in the café, where I found another scene right out of a movie. I glanced around for Charlie while waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dim interior. A waitress rushed by me balancing two china cups and a teapot on a wooden tray.
“I’m looking for my dog, I saw him come in here.”
“A shaggy little thing, not far off the floor? I gave him a chunk of meat and sent him out the back door. Can’t have no dogs in here, cute or not. You can go on through.” She motioned with her head and I made my way through to the back door, past a kitchen I would have died for, cooper pots and new enamelware everywhere. No time for gawking. Sure enough, just out the back door in a dusty alley, Charlie was smacking his lips. I think he was hoping for more handouts.
“Okay, Buster, done touring around? Did you worry about me at all? Or worry about getting home?”
Charlie didn’t answer but seemed resigned to come with me. I found my way out of the alley, Charlie following dutifully. Then I realized I had no way to get back to Martha’s. I headed over to the general store, hoping the shop owner might know how I could get a ride. I didn’t know if $2 was enough to hire someone. Trying not to waste time shopping, in a place I couldn’t buy anything if I wanted to, but wanting to poke around and see everything, I went up the wooden steps and was about to go through the shop door when I stopped so suddenly Charlie actually walked into the back of my legs. There in a big bushel basket were iris bulbs, just dumped in, marked 10 for 35 cents. I thought of the lovely iris out at Martha’s and wondered if she bought them here. Or maybe she hadn’t yet??? The man inside was very nice, and before asking for a ride I asked about the iris.
“They’re right out of my wife’s garden, miss, there are creams and yellows, maybe a little orange. They multiple quite nicely, make a lovely display.”
“That’s very interesting, I’ll take ten please. And could you tell me, is there someone I can hire to take me west of town, there’s a woman out there, lives along the tracks with her husband. Is $1.65 enough to get me there?”
“Ah yes, the Petersons. You could get a ride out in the morning with the workers, if you’re not offended by my suggestion. I’m sure they are all gentlemen…”
“It sounds like I can be of service after all.” The voice sounded too good to be true. There was Mr. Dawson, and he was offering me a ride. Of course I smiled my consent.
“That’s very kind, Mr. Dawson, and your timing is perfect. I’m going to get a little bag of iris to thank my new friend, Martha, and I’ll be ready when you are.”
“I will fetch my car and be back momentarily.” Mr. Dawson tipped his hat and excused himself. I thanked the store owner and he gave me a little bag for my iris.
Out on the front step I chose ten fat iris bulbs and sat down with Charlie to wait. Such a lovely day, a scary day, my brain was overwhelmed. I looked down at Charlie and he had that contented doggie grin on his face again. He’d had a good day too and had to be worn out. I took that goofy face in my hands and told him how much I loved him, how glad I was I found him. And in another one of those weird, unbelievable moments, of which this day had been full, I’d swear I heard Charlie say something. So I asked him.
“Did you say something?”
“Do we have to go home, mom? I like it here!” We watched Dr. Dawson pull up in his car. “So do I.” I smiled. “So do I!”
to be continued….