The landscape was filled with flat expansive fields as far as the eye could see. When the sun set slowly into the horizon it splashed buckets of purples and reds, oranges and burgundy all over the sky. The farm was small; it had ten acres, a house and a barn. The barn was old, the timber for the roof was coming loose and the barn door was depending on one rusty hinge that squeaked angrily open every time a breeze blew past.
My boyish blue eyes stretched out into the hills that were peppered with snow. I had tasted snow before, white, crunchy angel food that numbed my gums and slid down my throat freezing me belly. There was never enough snow to make a snowman but just the taste whetted my appetite for more.
The barn door hung loosely on its hinges as I spotted a flock of geese following their migratory path.
“Son, son…!” A roar exploded from the building as I ran into the timber barn that was strewn with straw and old neglected tools. I saw father bending over something. He was wearing a pair of dark black boots that would have swung at me if he was in any way angry with my antics. Jeans and a faded brown flannel shirt covered his skin. I approached him afraid that he was angry with me for doing something.
“Boy!” He rattled.
“Yes?” I squeaked. He mustn’t have heard me.
He stood up, his hands covered in something red. I saw him now lying on the floor cover in blood and torn flesh.
“Bullet?” I questioned. His neck was ripped open as the blood continued to ooze out. Bullet was my collie, a lovely black and white dog that I loved.
He turned his head and looked at me, his eyes questioning, as if saying “What happens now?”
I dropped to my knees and held him close, the blood clinging to my clothes. The whining started as I continued to hold him.
It was terrible!
Dad decided it was time so he handed me his hunting rifle. I looked at the polished wooden gun and then back at Bullet. “Son, it has to be done!”
“What?” I asked cocking my head. Bullet raised his ears.
“You have to put him out of his misery. He’s in too much pain.”
Are you out of your mind?
“Yes, look at him he needs to be put down.”
How did it happen anyway, was it from the wire fencing that was erected to stop the wolves and wild dogs from entering our land? I shook my head.
“No!” I said defiantly. “I’m not killing…”
He looked at me with those big sad eyes of his and said, “Son you have to.”
I knew it then and there that this was a test to see if the Johnson boy was man enough. This would be the defining moment of a boy’s life. If I failed I would be doomed.
I was no girl.
I grabbed the gun from his large hands, wearily cocked the gun and aimed it towards my dog's eye. He gulped realising his time was up. He stopped whimpering. My heart stopped too. I started to shake as I steadied my arm. I had done this before, shooting was fun. I had shot game and poultry, but now staring at me with those sad brown eyes was the scariest moment I had ever come face to face with. I wiped my brow and with all my concentration I tried to relax and calm myself down. I was doing it for his sake, to put him out of his misery but I was going through hell.
I had enough. I threw the gun down and ran out of the barn. My legs carried me as far as I could go as I fell under the tall oak tree that was born for a swing. I started sobbing; all the clouds in the sky couldn’t rain as much as my eyes were raining.
The shot jolted me from the ground, it had come from the barn. Bullet’s brains had been blown out by my dad.
I was doomed to a life of a weakling; my dad would remind me of it.
I ran into the house, upstairs and under the covers. I would never have another dog.
Nowadays you pick up the phone and call the vet he comes over and in the most respectable way gives your pet an injection that puts it to sleep. Back then it was only a hunting rifle.