We got him as an 8-week-old puppy. I believe he came from Ohio — an English shepherd, black and tan coloration. (There are other color variations). We picked him up at the train station in Old Kuttawa. I remember hearing him barking and whining in the baggage area.
It must have been August 1957 because it was also my first day of second grade at Old Eddyville. I was late for school because we picked up the dog. I had gone to first grade at Yale (in the region known as Between the Rivers). My teacher was Mildred Gilette. She was a nice lady.
When I arrived at school, one of my classmates commented that I smelled like a dog. But I didn’t care. I was glad to have the dog. Dogs were an important part of our lives, not just as companions, but also to hunt with and herd livestock and for home protection.
We didn’t have much money. But we had plenty of dogs. In fact, we had a little community called “dog town.” The old men were very protective of their dogs. You insult their dog — you were in trouble.
Old Tojo taught me a lot; he was an aggressive male. I was his friend, but my dad was his boss and he worshiped him. I still believe that a dog will recognize the dominant male, and serve him. My dad was not a mean man, but he was certainly dominant. His nickname was “slim.’
Tojo was not scared of cattle. He was a natural heeler. When he got a hold of a cow’s heels, she could not stay around. After one or two experiences, she would be happy to stay with the other cows. Sometimes, he was too aggressive, he could run a cow through a fence. Sometimes he was hard to call off, usually he would mind. Cows hated him and would try to kill him. They would surround him to stomp him. But he always came out on top. They would bawl and foam at the mouth, they were so angry. But after a couple of his treatments, they would just stay with the herd.
Tojo was a natural tree dog. If a squirrel jumped out he was history. Also, he could easily run down a rabbit. We went to the John Lane place near Ferguson Springs where we enjoyed watching Tojo ride on a load of hay on our way home. He quickly learned to dodge the tree limbs At that time, Ferguson Springs was a beautiful community. There was a big blue hole of beautiful water, and people would go there during drought times for water for themselves and their livestock. The beautiful community didn’t last long after the government took over.
Uncle Paul taught me something. One day Tojo was barking and Paul said, “That dog has a snake.” Evidently, a dog has a special bark when he has bayed a snake. I never learned to recognize it. Tojo got bitten a couple times by copperheads, and his head would swell up.
Tojo’s hair was too long for the summer heat, and we borrowed sheep shears from a farmer at Saratoga. They were noisy and Tojo hated to have his hair cut. But he wouldn’t bite us. He seemed to enjoy the short hair, although he looked sort of ridiculous.
I believe it was the fall of 1963, we moved from Cravens Creek to Whalen Ridge. Most of our neighbors were already gone. It was not a happy time. I drove an H-Farmall tractor with a wagon load of furniture. Tojo trotted along beside me. It was only about seven miles.
At Whalen Ridge, Tojo and I both had to adjust. It was sort of a lonely place. No neighbors nearby. He no longer had livestock to herd (we sold cows to William Hudson). Tojo got sick and I believe he died of cancer. I can’t remember what year. It was hard on my dad. Just another loss for him, and he was sad. We got another English shepherd. But he was not satisfactory. Not at all aggressive. I can’t remember what happened to him. By 1967, I was off to college. And the old life was behind me!