Dawn came earlier than ever before. At least it seemed so to me.
Lying by the fireplace, I wanted more rest but the master was already up. I knew what lay ahead today. It was spring, the time for cattle round up.
“Come on, my good ole’ Sam. The birds are chirping and the sun will soon be shining. Let’s go boy; it’s spring!”
The master’s whistle usually sent a thrill of excitement through my body. Leaping past him, I would flash through the door before he could put the worn cowboy hat over his graying hair.
Oh, how I would run through the fresh sprigs of grass during spring roundup! One look at the master’s face and I knew what to do. From nipping the heels of cattle to chasing strangers back to their car, I took every part of my work serious. I lived to please my master, and was often rewarded with affectionate scratching behind my ear as the master spoke in the sweetest pitch, “That’s my good ole’ Sam. Don’t know what I would do on this ranch without ya.”
This spring was different. I whined softly as I struggled to get my legs under me. Each step to the master’s side was more difficult than tackling an angry bull.
As I looked in my master’s face, I felt his sadness. He squatted down, cupping my head in his well calloused hands. His pitch was soft. “Well ole’ Sam, I know this has been a long winter for ya. I’ve seen ya struggle just following me to the barn. Thought the feeling of spring might perk you up.” He sighed. “Ya know, I always thought our bodies would give out at the same time. But you always worked twice as hard as me.
“You did your job well. Now I reckon it’s time for your retirement Sam. There’s no shame in it. Actually, life will be easier for you, lying ‘round the porch, chasing squirrels whenever you want. I sure will miss having you by my side though. My good ole’ Sam.”
I could not understand all the master’s words, but I understood the pitch he used; so sad it made me whimper deep in my throat. I licked his hand, putting my head on his knee with my own sigh.
“Lay” was the only command the master gave me that spring as I tried following him to the truck every morning. Watching him drive away without me, I could only whine in confusion.
Each day it was more difficult for me to raise my head, until a familiar green car rumbled onto the ranch.
My tail wagging, I slowly followed the master and mistress in greeting the little carrot topped miss.
“Good o’ Sam!” Carrot Top squealed, grabbing my ears in a way that used to be so annoying. For a moment, I could act like a young pup again!
Later that day as I lay resting, my ears pricked to catch the slight noise. The screen door was swinging out quietly. Carrot Top tiptoed over to me, patting my head as I whimpered.
“Shhh, Sam. Grandma thinks I’m nappin’. I’m gunna to pick her some flo’ers.”
My head cocked in curiosity as Carrot Top was disappearing behind the barn.
Instinct told me something was wrong. Carrot Top never went anywhere alone.
Tired as I was, I scrambled to my feet and limped to a trot, sensing an unknown danger.
Behind the barn, I found Carrot Top picking her flowers. Stepping closer, every hair on my body tensed. Reaching for a daisy, her hand nearly brushed a copperhead snake lying in the grass!
Barking ferociously, I leaped between Carrot Top and the copperhead. She screamed. Teeth bared, I instinctively attacked the snake. Moments later, it was dead.
I heard the mistress call Carrot Top’s name as she scooped the weeping child into her arms. Seeing the dead snake, the mistress began crying. I cocked my head in confusion.
Shouting anxiously, the master appeared and rushed to them, holding them close.
The master looked at me. My tail wagged in excitement when I saw his pleased face.
“That’s my good ole’ Sam!”
His caressing hands rubbed my head as I leaned into them. “Here I thought it was time to put you out to pasture. But I see your most valuable work is only beginning.”
Through the loving pitch of his voice, I knew exactly what my master was saying.
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