A great slaughter of chickens and gathering intel…
Throughout the buggy, buzzy, humid heat of Summer, the commandos of operation GenghisGone met. Sometimes in the back-yard swings at each others’ homes. Other times in their forest fastness. Still others, sitting on their backsides in the creek that wound its way down from mountain springs and on to the mighty Ohio. The creek where they scanned for water snakes (at least as irritable as Genghis himself), and caught crawdads and other assorted creatures throughout the days of warmth and delightful, languid boredom.
Nobody was quite sure what to do, but they knew it had to be done. Over the weeks since school had been out, Genghis wrecked his canine havoc all up and down the road. In the wee hours, cats would growl and climb up into trees as the dark, malevolent spirit ran barking through their otherwise Edenic yards. Other dogs would come up limping, and ear torn loose, a gash on their tails or shoulders.
Candace heard the ruckus one night and went to her mother. ‘Mama, it’s that dog that belongs to Bobby’s grandma and grandpa. It’s out hurting things!’
‘Why Candace Winters, I don’t believe that for a minute. They were walking that sweet dog just yesterday and he was as shy as can be.’
Genghis, it appeared to all involved, was a master of lupine deception.
So, as cats disappeared, raccoons were lain waste and dogs cowered in the night at the sound of that bark, the urgency of their operation became more evident.
There was one sign of hope. And that was the night of ‘the Great Chicken Slaughter.’ No parent would believe them. And indeed, they were children given to flights of fancy. It was only last Summer when they all believed Mark Roberts’ convincing and spine tingling tale of Bigfoot, seen on a ridge above their neighborhood.
None of them were willing to accept that it might have been from watching too many episodes of ‘In Search of,’ or perhaps the ill-advised decision to see ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ at the drive-in theater. No, they were all certain that the hills and valleys were crawling with inhuman primates. Dan pointed out that the dogs always barked at night. Dan’s father, reasonably, said, ‘son, dogs always bark all night.’ It was iron-clad logic and hard to refute.
So it was that the summer of Genghis’s reign, and the children’s distress, was met with many a parental question such as ‘do you think it’s bigfoot this time?’
However, when the Brown family chickens came up dead (the night they were in Cincinnati visiting a sick relative), the game suddenly changed. Grapevine road was a place where little of interest happened, outside the rare police chase or death of an unfortunate senior citizen born in the last century.
Suddenly there was gossip and speculation. ‘I think it might have been a bear,’ said Mr. Hall, who lived far up a side road. Irrespective of the fact that the last bear seen in the area had been shot by his grandfather 70 years previous.
Others speculated about hawks, raccoons, opossums, weasels, ferrets, coyotes and bobcats.
Old Jeb Green, survivor of terrible times in WWII and a veteran woodsman, came to visit the site where no less than 15 fine hens had been mauled, partly plucked and sent into chicken heaven. Everyone knew he could track and that he was a hunter unparalleled.
As a crowd stood around, and he circled then pen, he pronounced: ‘yep, it was a wolf. Though they were all gone from these parts!’ There was a sigh and gasp among the gathered adults.
The kids rolled their eyes. Jeb was a well-known drunk. What did he know, they whispered among themselves through popsicle stained lips.
Bobby had the first inkling of a plan. ‘We need to gather intelligence.’ All of them were in fifth or sixth grade, so intelligence seemed reasonable. ‘I’ll ask grandma to let him come out in the yard and you three stay in the bushes on the hillside and watch him.’ Dan had lately acquired a set of opera glasses after the passage of a dowager aunt. They were inlaid with mother of pearl, but were the closest thing to optics they could possess.
It was settled. With a bag of snacks, the three co-conspirators nestled into broom straw and blackberry thickets 50 yards from the Adkins house. Bobby went to the door and knocked, even as the dog growled and snarled.
They saw his grandmother answer the door. They all liked her; she gave them treats and patted their heads. In truth, this conspiracy caused them inner turmoil. It seemed bad to kill a man’s dog. But a woman’s? It was dark. But they were dark times indeed.
‘Grandma, can I pet Genghis?’ They heard him as a whisper from across the road.
‘Well sure, honey. I’ll get him.’
When she brought the dog out she made an observation. ‘Why, it looks like something has bitten him! He has dried blood on his face! Poor baby! What happened to my poor little puppy?’ She petted him and he looked up, drooling, but with a sidelong glance glared at Bobby. They locked eyes and both of them knew the truth. The game had to be played.
‘Poor dog! Is he OK grandma?’
(‘Better question,’ thought Bobby, ‘was what poor creature breathed its last in in his jaws last night!’)
‘Here, take him for a walk around the yard!’ She clipped a leash on to the dog’s studded collar and Bobby walked him a few uncomfortable laps around the small, but lush green yard. The children observed and took notes. He was part hound-dog, and appeared to have the large head and fur of something larger. There was some discussion about this, and a small shoving match between Dan and Mark, both of whom had dog breed books at home. Candace told them to shut up and watch. The dog walked slowly, perhaps sensing the heat. Bobby held the leash tight as grandma ran for her Polaroid.
Genghis was strong, and it appeared about 75 pounds. He strained at the leash from time to time. And when a small rabbit hopped out of the neighbor’s garden, Genghis snarled and began to run. Until he heard his owner’s voice and, as if on cue, he stopped and looked old and tired.
‘You don’t fool me,’ he said to the dark brown and black beast.
As the Polaroid was snapped, and the other children watching, Genghis looked up at Bobby in mock love, but with a look that said ‘you don’t fool me either.’