Duke was a good old dog; I spent my eleventh year on my uncle’s farm in North Dakota with my cousin Burt, and an old collie named Duke. Uncle Giles was a rancher, and my aunt Shirley was the superintendent of the family’s garden. Burt and I spent many hours pulling weeds from her garden. That summer, Burt and I worked like crazy, mowing and bailing hay, combining wheat and milking twelve milk cows.
On the other side of the chicken coop was a barbed-wire fence separating the yard from the pasture. Just over the fence was an old, rusted, 1929 Model-T pickup truck. Burt and I used to play cops and robbers in that old truck. Uncle Giles’s prize Angus Bull, Elmer, also shared the pasture. Elmer never learned to share so he was the cops. Burt and I would speed down the imaginary highway and at the last minute, we would bail and jump over the fence. On one of our getaway runs we were a little slow getting out of the Model-T. Duke realized we were in trouble and jumped out, distracting Elmer, allowing us to make a run for it.
Duke had his work to do on the ranch as well. It was his job to round up the milk cows every morning, and herd them into the barn for milking. He also did all the normal things a dog would do, like playing fetch, hunting, and sleeping on the floor at the foot of your bed at night to keep the monsters away.
One day I was playing with Burt’s green, toy riding tractor. Aunt Shirley called us in for dinner; I jumped off the tractor and ran to the house. I heard a crash followed by a yelp from Duke. I turned to see the toy tractor and Duke tumbling across the yard.
Uncle Giles reprimanded me for not putting the tractor back where it belonged when I was finished with it. “Duke is blind,” he said.