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The Loyal Friend

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

The old horse turned his head to the scratching noise coming from the stable door. This was the sign he'd been waiting for. He nudged the bar with his snout, the door swung open, the dog entered wagging his tail at his old friend.

They had ridden this way together before. Ruby's father had bought the horse a few years before he was born. The little boy sat proudly, looking all around at the exciting new world growing up around him as they jogged along delivering wood and hardware to their customers, farmers and new settlers erecting homes in the area.

At 13 Ruby managed the business. One day he stopped to offload some lumber at a farm in Delmas, 20 miles away, a new settler was hammering away on the roof of a house.

He heard yapping from the stable behind the house. He investigated. Alsatian puppies in a basket, were fighting for milk from their mother's teats. Pick one, said the land landowner. It's Mona's birthday, she would love one of these for a pet, the loving brother thought.

The stallion pulling the wagon turned his head toward the little creature and whinnied. The baby animal cried for his mother but Mona fed him and her sisters petted him. He stopped crying and wagged his tail.

They made many trips to and from Delmas until the house was completed. The nag and the dog became familiar with every bend and stone in the road. His black snout pointed upwards, the sweet fast blowing wind flattening his ears as they rolled along. The girls called him Captain and put a policeman's hat on his head, because he guarded the vehicle and the goods like the chief of police.

Trucks and motor cars replaced animal driven transport. His sisters petted and brushed the old grey steed until they'd all grown into elegant young ladies. The loyal Alsatian slept in the stable with his companion.

He would fetch balls and play hide and seek with the young women and their friends, who were always laughing, on the lookout for a bit of amusement.

Often when they went to feed him they found the dog, his face turned towards the old beast, his long pointed Alsatian ears perked, listening. The nag pawed and neighed, as if he was telling stories about the days when the master considered him useful, needing him to pull the wagon.

One day the customer from Delmas came into uncle Ruby's shop, for some building material. As usual they chatted about one thing and another, and the young shopkeeper happened to mention his old horse, he was in a quandary about what to do about him.

The man said he wished he had such an animal, to carry things around the farm. Take him with pleasure, said the generous Ruby, happy to do a favor for the farmer and thinking to himself, the beast had served him and his father before him well. He deserved a good master.

The next day he came round to the house, and straight away formed an attachment to the horse. He saddled him up as the dog gazed on, puzzled.

Rider and steed moved off, at first Cptain barked, howled, and tried to run after his companion but the girls held him firmly. All he could do was look until his playmate faded into the distance and disappeared with his new master, in the direction of Delmas.

The dog lay disconsolately for a day on the kitchen floor. The next morning the family awoke to find him gone.

The canine had set off for the stable, his birthplace and where the new owner kept the horse, he had acquired from Uncle Ruby.

Several days passed, the sisters searched everywhere for their beloved pet, but the thought that he had gone off to find his friend, never entered their minds.

The prisoner pulled, the rescuer pushed and the stable door opened. Away they went. People rushing by to get to work stretched their necks out of the windows of their cars as if to cheer on the two friends in their successful getaway.

The ladies on the stoep stopped knitting and sewing, jerked up their heads, looked in the direction of the neighing and barking and gaped in astonishment as the frolicking pair came dancing and prancing to the gate.

The melancholy dispersed in an instant, laughter and happiness once more permeated the atmosphere of the Zilibowitz household. The girls jumped up and down, clapping their hands, welcoming the return of Captain and his friend the horse.

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