Corn Damage, 3 of 3

Suzanna looked doubtfully at the tall, thick-bodied tan dog facing her. The man at Mora had generously loaned Gerald one of his three English mastiffs to test the theory that it would keep the deer from her cornfield.

“His name is Duke,” Gerald said, stroking the black-muzzled head. The dog’s tail wagged slowly as it studied Suzanna with sleepy brown eyes.

“He seems very docile,” she said.

“They were bred to hunt and are said to be very protective.” Gerald shrugged. “I guess we’ll just have to see.”

She nodded and watched as Gerald and the dog headed toward the cornfield, their own two mixed-breed dogs romping alongside. The mastiff majestically ignored the other dogs and Suzanna’s lips twitched. Then she shook her head and went back inside.

The barking began at daylight the next morning: high yips from their own dogs and a deeper, more solid sound. Suzanna rose and went to the window. The mongrels were at the edge of the corn patch, dancing around each other. As she watched, Duke appeared at a steady trot, circling the field.

Suzanna grabbed her shawl and went out onto the cabin porch, where she could see the entire patch. There were no deer in the corn. Duke circled the field again, stopping occasionally to mark its boundary, lift his head toward the hills above, and bark menacingly. There were deer on the hillside, moving steadily upward.

Suzanna turned toward the house. Gerald was standing in the doorway, watching her.

“How long will it take a puppy to grow to Duke’s size?” she asked, and he chuckled triumphantly.

from Moreno Valley Sketches II

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