A warm day in winter
Like many dogs, Gertie can never get enough of getting outside and walking aimlessly on a forested trail or around a lake.
“Aimlessly?” she said. “I think I have pretty good aim. I haven’t gotten lost yet.”
“It’s a figure of speech,” I said. “It means – oh, never mind.”
Anyway, on one of those warm days that have been so common this winter, the Permapup and I decided to get some exercise and take in the sights by strolling around Austin Community Lake in the far southwest corner of Texas County. For all you armchair outdoorsmen who aren’t aware of it, the lake covers 22 acres on a parcel of Missouri Department of Conservation land about five miles from Cabool.
It features a boat ramp, picnic areas, a pavilion and even a fishing dock. As soon as I opened the door of the 2004 Ford F-150, Gertie bolted toward the shore.
“This place is pretty cool,” she said. “Let’s go!”
As if she had been there before, the P-Pup took off toward the nicely groomed grassy area along and atop the sizable dam on the west end of the lake. Her nose went into hyper-data-collection mode as she went from place to place sniffing and learning.
“Frog, snake, deer, boot, fishing lure, beer can – wow, this is like snout paradise!” Gertie said.
“I know, girl,” I said. “And hey, I’m proud of you for avoiding the water and the mucky areas.”
Normally when she gets anywhere near a lake, pond or river, Gertie ends up soaking wet and smelling like something between a used dish cloth and a rotten fish.
“I thought I might stay presentable for a change,” she said. “But I can’t make any promises; if a slightly submerged T-shirt or a muddy hair band calls my name, I may have to change my mind.”
“I’d much prefer it if you didn’t get wet this time,” I said.
“Not even my toes?”
“Not even that little white area at the end of my tail?”
“No, not even the white spot at the tip of that feather duster protruding from your caboose,” I said.
“We’ll see,” Gertie said. “I don’t always have control over these things, you know.”
As we continued around the north side of the lake, we came to a sturdy bench on a point of land.
The view was great, with a large stand of shortleaf pines on the opposite shore and sun-bathed water on three sides of us.
“How about this?” I said.
“Yeah, nice,” Gertie said. “You know the MDC was formed in 1937 and has a big budget to work with thanks to a 1/8-percent state sales tax passed by voters in 1976. The tax has no ending date, so as prices increase, MDC’s revenue does, too.”
“Dang, Gertie, it’s apparent you’ve been boning up on your MDC knowledge,” I said.
“Yep, and the MDC administers more than 975,000 acres all over the state,” Gertie said. “About 63-percent of that is forested.”
“Interesting information,” I said. “Especially from a Corgi.”
“I’m just saying,” Gertie said, as she half-buried her snout in a tuft of grass near a stump.
“You know,” I said, “there’s no such thing as a government branch or agency that doesn’t have room for improvement, and sure, there are seriously bad examples of deception, corruption and selfishness and everywhere you look in government operations. But I happen to think the MDC does a good job overall.”
“Me, too,” Gertie said. “So why are there people who seem to hate them so much?”
“I’m not really all that sure,” I said. “But I’ve heard some guys who work for them say people are like that because it’s an easy target.”
“Maybe,” Gertie said. “Or maybe they learned to swim in the shallow end of the gene pool.”
“Gertie! Be nice!” I said.
“Or maybe they were born on a highway, since that’s where most accidents happen.”
“Or perhaps when they had a chance to drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.”
“OK, Ms. Insultasaurus, that’s quite enough,” I said. “Let’s move on.”
As we finished circling Austin Lake on the well-groomed swath that surrounds it, Gertie chased a squirrel into the woods, found a downed log to play queen-of-the-world on top of and generally made sure she added to the ongoing reality that every day is a big adventure in Gertie World. As we returned to the parking area, she found no way to get around a picnic table, but managed to go over the top of it and continue advancing.
“Must…reach…truck,” she said, tongue flapping in the breeze.
“Boy, it’s a good thing I brought the emergency supplies,” I said. “I’d say you’ve been in the wilderness a little too long.”
When we arrived back home, Gertie downed a gallon or two of water and plopped down on the floor with a rawhide chew stick – one of her favorite things, along with other variations of dog chews.
“That’s because you won’t give me rib eye steak or ham hocks,” she said.
“I’ve told you a thousand times, that would cause too much of a mess in the house,” I said. “Do you remember me saying that?”
“Gertie, do you recall my saying that?”
“As I’ve told you a thousand times,” Gertie said. “I’m trying to figure out what the problem is.”
“Oh, brother,” I sighed. “There’s no problem, girl. No problem at all.”
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Gertie is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email Jamie at email@example.com.