The dog was about the size of a small horse. He would scare you even when he was tied to the giant log chain in the fenced in back yard. He had teeth the size of elephant tusks. He was junkyard dog mean. And he didn’t like little kids.
Home for him was the big two story house at the corner of Stonewall and Magnolia. Every child out toward the end of Stonewall had to pass by “Bruno” on our way to town. He’d start barking at you about Cherry Avenue and would still be barking when you sprinted past the Baptist Church up where the road turned toward town. If you slowed down or looked in his direction, he’d climb that wood fence to get you! When we got by unscathed, we’d collect our breaths in front of Mr. Raymond White’s service station and thank our lucky stars.
I took to taking the long way to town around by Bethel College and then down the railroad track so as not to arouse the dog’s ire. Going by at night was like jungle warfare. We’d snake around by Jack Brummitt’s Funeral Home, crawl through the woods and come out behind Bo Booth’s house. I didn’t mind the extra distance or the dirt on my hands and knees; I made it home safe and sound!
I don’t remember who decided it was time we did something. I do remember it was Halloween week and we figured by the sixth grade we’d outgrown the simple “trick or treating” anyway. We needed, according to Yogi and Buddy, “a little more adventure in our lives”. It probably would be prudent to change the names here to protect the innocent…….but as I look back on it, there weren’t no innocent people in this caper!
“Let’s dig a giant pit beside the stop sign, dangle a little bait in front of Bruno and when he lights out after us, we’ll lead him into the hole”.
I could see a hundred problems with this plan already. “Buddy, are you nuts!” Terry was the first to find his voice, “Which one of us is going to be the bait? And what if that dog misses the pit?”
Pretty sound questions I thought, but Squeaky trumped any reasoning I had, “What if one of us falls into the hole WITH the dog?”
“Let’s kidnap Bruno. We can put a burlap bag over his eyes. You know how that works with horses. It calms them right down.” Ricky lived way over on Forrest Avenue, he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. “We could take him to the Halloween Carnival and throw him in amongst them folks hopping around the musical chairs!”
I have to admit I got caught up in the moment; the sight of that big hairy dog loose in the midst of the dart throwing, apple bobbing and haunted house would be something to behold. And, listen, Bruno leaping across the cake table, barreling through the corn maize or biting the PTA president might be worth the risk.
We didn’t bother with any costumes or masks. We had no idea who lived in the big house. No one was ever at home. I’d never seen any lights on or anyone out in the yard. Ruth Ann swears she’d spied “ghost like creatures” floating by the windows but ya’ll know how Ruth Ann was prone to exaggerate.
It was a pitch black Halloween night. We made no sound as we descended on the big house from the town side. We figured if Bruno was watching he’d expect a frontal attack. All breathing stopped. We inched toward the side gate with the quietness of a World War II sniper. The plan was simple. Terry and Buddy had burlap bags, the rest of us had a rope and a stick. When the burlap bag got over Bruno’s head, the closest guy was going to wrap his rope around the bag, closing it tight. The stick was to beat the dog off of us in case the first plan didn’t work.
As Yogi eased the door open and we leaped into the back yard I wondered why we hadn’t heard the dog. In the dead silence something bumped against my leg. I whacked down hard with my stick and jumped back. I heard a growl or a moan, I’m not sure which and then a burlap bag landed over my head. Something bit my arm and I’m telling you I took to swinging that stick like I was Willie Shoemaker himself whipping Sword Dancer down the last furlong at the Belmont Stakes!
You know, sometimes Ruth Ann didn’t exaggerate! I kicked something or somebody off of me, threw the burlap bag over the closest object that I could make out in the dark……took a last couple of swipes with my club and I vacated the premises. This year’s Halloween Carnival was going to have to limp along without Bruno.
As Mom was examining my arm I explained how the wild gremlins from another planet caught us off guard— “Well, this bite looks more like the human variety to me. And what scratched you all over the face?”
My only consolation was I didn’t look as bad at Ricky or Yogi. Some ghoulish fiend had beaten them severely about the head and shoulders! And there was some lasting satisfaction out of the nights escapade, Bruno never barked or chased us again. He did, however, sit up on the front porch and laugh his silly head off every time we went by.