I figured I was gone for a couple of hours more or less, which didn’t seem like a long time to me, but it must’ve been a lifetime to that poor ole dog and his little master. Jimmy looked up right away as I entered the stable and flashed me a cautious smile. His greetin’ surprised me, not for his kindness, what I plainly didn’t deserve, but for the look he had, what came from a boy who was years beyond his age with his brow all furled up with deep concern.
In some strange way, it seemed like those two short hours had transformed little Jimmy the crybaby into a boy who was fixin’ to become a man. He later confessed to me that Ernie’s secret and the time he spent alone with his dyin’ dog had brought about the greatest change on the outcome his life would eventually take.
Someday I’ll tell you the story about an important doctor, what was the head of a big hospital back east by the name of Dr. James Warfield Barton, who you most assuredly can guess was little Jimmy. I’ve come to see that there are moments in time when life gives us a powerful tug in one direction or another. Sometimes the tug is a strong one, like with Jimmy, but it can also be as light as a leaf landin’ on your shoulder. One thing I can say for sure though, is that if a feller has a mind to pay attention to the tugs, even the light ones, his life can turn in unexpected and wondrous ways.
As funny as this may sound, I have a good feelin’ for my small part in his nudge, even though my initial intentions were down right despicable. Sometimes good comes from bad, what taught me an important lesson about how grand and wondrous our Maker is, ‘specially when He wants us to learn somethin’, which for a hard head like me, happened far more often than I’d like to say.
I’ve lived over seventy years on this fine Earth and have never changed my opinion about the power of good over bad. I’ll admit that there were plenty of times, ‘specially regardin’ my brother Willy’s demise and some other close calls, where it looked like the dark-hearted fellers had won the war and there weren’t nothin’ I could do about it. It was durin’ those most difficult times when I had my greatest lessons. I have found that far more often than not, the goodness from our Maker would stage some miraculous last stand, what would change the expected defeat into some surprisin’ victory.
I knelt down next to Jimmy and watched him comfort his dog for a while, until Ernie came back to the stall carryin’ a bucket and some other fixin’s to care for that poor creature. I gave Ernie the plants and bowl sack of mud that I’d gathered, what he took and examined carefully by lookin’ at the leaves of each plant, then he stuck two fingers into the mud and held them up to his nose as he rubbed them together.
He looked at me and gave me a nod of his head and a quick smile, which told me that I’d found everythin’ he’d asked for. I was greatly relieved, ‘cause by that time I would’ve done just about anythin’ to help save that little dog of Jimmy’s, even if it meant headin’ back into the woods to look for somethin’ else.
From this part forward in the story about Jimmy’s dog, my understandin’ of science and medicine are greatly at a lackin’, ‘specially since it came from the eyes of me as a ten-year-old. I’m sure that some of the mystery of that evenin’ could be explained in reasonable terms if I’d witnessed it when I was thirty or forty, but as I look back on that event, some of what Ernie did will never be fully understood by me at any age.
First thing Ernie done was to spread out some of his tools and things in a neat row along the north side of the stall next to the animal, which was where he put the plants I gave him and the bowl sack of mud. I was watchin’ everythin’ from behind and to the right side of Ernie, who was huddled over the dog, while Jimmy was on the south side of the little mutt, up against one of the walls. Ernie was talkin’ to Jimmy as he moved the dog into a position that made the poor creature look like he was runnin’, with his legs extended outward.
Ernie told Jimmy to hold the dog’s head ‘cause the next part would cause the animal some pain. Jimmy complied by puttin’ his hands around the little creature’s head in a soft but firm way and waited for what would come next.
The dog remained still as Ernie moved his hands gently along the length of the animal’s leg, lookin’ for where the bone was broke. When he found it and made some adjustments to how he was holdin’ the leg, he made a movement that was faster than I could see. There was a horrible loud crackin’ sound, which caused the dog to cry out terribly and put a shiver up my spine that raised the hair on the back of my neck. To my great amazement though, the dog made no further movement or for that matter any other sound.
For a minute I thought that maybe the poor dog had died of pain, but when I moved to get a better look I could see that it was breathin’ hard as it rested, best that it could in Jimmy’s hands. Ernie grabbed some of the mud, mixed in some straw, and then formed it in his hands into a kind of ball, which he applied to the dog’s leg. Maybe it was ‘cause the mud was still a little cool to the touch and probably felt good on that hot day, or maybe it was Ernie’s gentle hands, I don’t knowd, ‘cept that it did seem to comfort the animal a great deal.
Ernie worked for quite a while, until he’d applied an even layer of mud to cover the entire leg of Jimmy’s dog, both top and bottom. Ernie said that he was goin’ to work on the ribs next and that the real healin’ would come later, as he tackled the internal parts.
Ernie used his hands to find the damaged ribs, but luckily he didn’t have to crack any of ‘em, though he did seem to be stretchin’ one rib with a pullin’ motion. The dog made no sound for these, which I was more than a little glad about, since the last cry was still fresh in my mind and I was in no mood to hear another one.
Jimmy on the other hand was so concentrated on what was goin’ on, that I don’t even think he was aware I was still there. He almost never lifted his head up, ‘cept to look into Ernie’s eyes every now and again, so he could see what he was supposed to do.
The last part of the healin’ process was the most difficult for me to understand, mostly ‘cause of bein’ a youngin and all. The truth is, I’m not even sure if I could explain what Ernie done if I saw it today, save that it was just another wondrous example of God’s magic.
Strange as it may seem, it all made sense to me back then in a trustin’ and knowin’ sort of way. Only time I’ve ever had trouble with the hard to believe things that I’ve seen, was when I tried to put them into my mind logically, which don’t work on God’s magic. Children is lucky in that way, ‘cause they tend to learn and understand from their hearts, not their minds, and by so doin’, they’re open to all the possibilities of our Maker, which from my point of view, is beyond anythin’ I can imagine.
Ernie told Jimmy that he could spread the mud along the ribs of the dog, which he done, what took a spell and left the little creature lookin’ like it’d fell into a mud puddle. Jimmy had a gentle hand with his little dog and the animal never even lifted his head off the straw to see what was happenin’. I do believe that by that time the dog had complete trust in its two healers, what pleased me to no end.
After Jimmy finished with the mud, Ernie asked me to go and fetch the hot water what was brewin’ over a fire in his livin’ quarters. While I was doin’ that he told Jimmy that he’d have to stand back where I’d been, ‘cause the next part of the healin’ process was only between him and the animal.
Ernie took some of the plants that I’d gathered, broke them into little pieces and dropped them into the steamin’ hot water. He was chantin’ as he did this, but if you asked me to tell you the words he was sayin’, I couldn’t tell you a one.
One of the plants Ernie placed into the water made a hissin’ sound, what caused me and Jimmy to move back a couple of steps from the brewin’ concoction. Ernie then dipped a feather into the liquid and carefully brushed it onto the areas where the mud had been applied to the dog. The liquid made a kind of steam as it wet the mud, which bubbled and then almost instantly began to dry into a yellow-tanish color.
I wasn’t sure if I was seein’ things clearly, so I nudged Jimmy to see if we was dreamin’. He seemed to be as mesmerized as me, as we watched Ernie perform his mystical healin’, somethin’ I was sure very few eyes, if any, had ever seen before. I could hardly believe what was transpirin’ before me, as coal-black mud I’d collected by the river was bein’ turned yellow. For as surprisin’ as that was, it seemed no greater than a child’s magic trick compared to what was to come next.
As soon as Ernie had finished his doin’s with the mud, he stood up and told us to stay away from the dog, unless it tried to get up. He left quickly, sayin’ that he’d be back in a short spell. For poor ole Jimmy, not bein’ near his dog was powerful hard, but I believe he knowd that if Ernie wanted us to stay away it was for a good reason.
We both sat down at the entrance to the stall and waited, as we kept an eye on the dog and though I don’t believe we said one word to each other the whole time, I felt in some strange way we was growin’ close like brothers. I could hear Ernie in his livin’ quarters, chantin’ and makin’ sounds like the clangin’ of utensils hittin’ together, until the only sound that was clear above the others was that of somethin’ bein’ rubbed, stone against stone.
In that moment in time, as I sat with Jimmy and listened to my friend Ernie doin’ his fixin’s, it struck me that the three of us had been throwd together, each from a different side of the circle to save a hurt dog. As I look back, I realize that was the first inklin’ I’d ever had that we was all connected in some strange and wondrous way, which as it turned out, was far more important to my understandin’ life than savin’ some little dog’s life. It weren’t really somethin’ I could put my finger on, but for some reason, what I believe was probably the innocent trust children have, I was open to what my Maker had to show me. Even though it was just a brief glimpse into His wondrous world, it was somethin’ I would always cherish for how it filled me up with its complete goodness.
After what seemed like a long spell, Ernie returned with a stone bowl that had another stone piece what looked like a small club stickin’ out of it. He also came with a crust of bread and a piece of cheese for me and Jimmy, what we relished to no end, since we hadn’t eaten for the better part of the day. I later found out that the stone tool that he used to grind up things was called a mortar and pestle, which he probably got from the Ancient Ones.
Ernie made several trips back and forth from his quarters bringin’ fixin’s to the stall, where he’d carefully set them down near Jimmy’s dog. Ernie told us that we could go home if we wanted, ‘cause this was where his healin’ would be a solo effort. I figured that I’d stay, but only if Jimmy was fixin’ to stay, which ended up takin’ about a second for him to decide. I could see his brave and determined look, what told me in no uncertain terms that he was in it for the long haul, which meant that so was I.
Ernie told us we’d have to wait out back, but Jimmy, who’d been quiet and done everythin’ what was asked of him, spoke up strongly and said that unless he’d cause harm to his dog by bein’ there, he weren’t goin’ to leave the stall. I was surprised at his boldness and wondered if this was the same child who earlier that day and for that matter, all summer, had given in to his fear as he ran from trouble time after time.
I don’t think this new Jimmy would’ve been afraid of us bullies at all. Why, I even believe that this new Jimmy might’ve even given one of us a good punch in the nose for all of his foolishness, which I’m here to tell ya, I would’ve fully deserved. Anyway, Ernie must’ve been impressed at Jimmy’s new boldness and he, least of all, would’ve done anythin’ to take away his new found courage.
He turned to both of us and looked deeply into each of our eyes and told us we could stay, but that whatever happened that night couldn’t leave his stable no matter what. He made us promise by crossin’ our hearts and swearin’ to our mothers that we wouldn’t say anythin’ to anyone, ever, which we earnestly obliged.
I suppose in truth, I’m breakin’ my oath to Ernie, but as it is, my momma is gone and so is Ernie, bless both their hearts, so I’m goin’ to tell you anyway. I just hope that Ernie doesn’t reach out from wherever he is and grabs me by the hair, what’s left of it anyway.
By the time Ernie had finished makin’ us swear our oath, the sun was in its final stages of disappearin’ behind the black waters of the Mississippi River. I was surprised ‘cause the day had slipped away mighty fast and strangely, it only seemed like a couple of hours ago that we was tryin’ to get Jimmy’s dog out from under Mrs. Crawson’s porch.
Now the world was growin’ dark, like a great hand was pullin’ a blanket over our little town. Normally that was a comfortin’ time for me, probably ‘cause I liked to watch the risin’ moon, but on that evenin’, too much hung in the balance for me to find any peace of mind.
I was glad that Ernie had given me and Jimmy a crust of bread and a piece of cheese to eat while we waited for him to prepare the final fixin’s. I can’t speak for Jimmy, but I knowd that my energy was nearly gone and I was willin’ to bet his was also. I think Ernie was pretty certain that we was goin’ to stay to the end no matter what, which was why he gave us somethin’ to eat instead of sendin’ us home to our mommas.
I knowd my momma would be lookin’ for me, but I was hopin’ that one of the other two bullies, namely the culprit that lived in the same house with me, had told her where I was. The last thing I needed was to have momma worry her self into a tizzy if I didn’t show up that night. Jimmy’s momma had stopped by earlier and spoken to him and Ernie about what they was doin’, which eased her mind to let her son stay until the full healin’ on his animal was over.
Jimmy and me moved back into the stall after Ernie had brought everythin’ he needed from his quarters and set it up next to the dog. He’d brought two lanterns with him, one that he hung on a nail on the back wall of the stall above the little creature and the other he placed to his left side, next to his fixin’s. We sat ourselves down on the far side of the stall, to Ernie’s right, so we could see everythin’ while not gettin’ in his way.
Ernie wasted no time as he took some of the things he ground up out of the stone bowl and started to mix it in a pan that had steam comin’ out of it. The mixture instantly filled the place with a sweet and pungent smell that was both pleasant and overpowerin’ at the same time. I felt my self begin to get sleepy right away and looked over at Jimmy who’d leaned his self back against the wall and was rubbin’ his eyes. He looked like he was fightin’ sleep, just like me. I can only speak for my self about what happened next, but to me, it was no dream ‘cause I knowd I was still awake.
Soon Ernie began to chant while he worked on his concoction in the steamin’ pan. The air in the room began to move around and the sweet, pungent smell gave way to an odor that I couldn’t place. In the moments that followed, I’ll swear to you that the air got so cold that I could see the breath come out of my mouth, yet my body didn’t feel its chill.
Ernie began to spoon out the liquid from his concoction in a circle around the dog. When he finished, he reached up and put out the flame in the lantern above the injured animal, then he dimmed the other lantern what was next to him to a nearly invisible light. The stable took on an eerie darkness, what for some reason left me feelin’ a little unsettled.
He then started to chant as he took some kind of powder out of a sack that he wore around his neck and sprinkled it carefully on the dog’s body. As Ernie was puttin’ the powder on the dog, it struck me that durin’ the whole operation that little creature hadn’t moved so much as a hair on his body. Why I weren’t even sure I could see its chest movin’, so I stared keenly at the dog to see if I could make out if it was breathin’ or not, which of course it was.
I don’t knowd if I lost my mind or fell asleep starin’ at that dog, but for some reason, when I came out of my trance I realized my head had slumped to the side, what left me facin’ the corner of the stall. As my eyes focused, I could see that the lights in the stall seemed brighter so I turned to look over at Ernie to see if he’d adjusted one of the lanterns. What I saw almost made me fall over.
Ernie was sittin’ cross-legged, with his hands extended outward over the dog. There was a light comin’ out of his belly, what was a golden-white color and took the shape of a thick rope that was all fuzzy on its sides. The light moved forward, until it was touchin’ the dog around where its rib had been injured, then spread itself outward to cover the whole of the animal.
Ernie looked like he was in a trance as he sang a chant, whose words were strange to me, but they was soothin’ in a comfortin’ kind of way, which helped me to get through the next part of the healin’. Ernie then moved his hands, which were over the dog and placed them on each end of the animal, one hand on the dog’s head and the other on its back end.
For a short spell nothin’ seemed to be happenin’, but soon I could hear a small sound that seemed like it was comin’ from the dog, almost like there was a rumblin’ in its belly. I thought maybe the dog was hungry, but that rumblin’ didn’t stop there. It started to get stronger and stronger, until I could see the straw around the dog’s body begin to rustle. Soon the whole stall began to shake like we was on a boat goin’ over a rough patch on the river.
If I weren’t so scared, I probably would’ve liked the way it felt, but in that particular moment, there weren’t no comfort in the way we was bein’ shook around. That poor ole dog of Jimmy’s was twitchin’ this-a-way and that, until it seemed to lift up from the very ground itself.
When it did, the light formed around the body of that poor shakin’ creature and calmed it right down for a short spell, before it gently lowered the dog to the ground. As soon as the animal made its way onto the straw again, the rumblin’ ‘mediately stopped, which gave me a funny feelin’ in my belly, what I can only describe as the way a feller feels when he steps onto dry land after bein’ on the river for a good spell. Your whole body still feels like it’s movin’ up and down, but your feet are fixed on solid land. That’s how I felt for a little while, before my mind lost its hold on the world, leavin’ me with no memory for anythin’ else that happened that night.
The next thing I knowd for sure, was that when I awoke, I was in a different stall, it was light outside and I could hear Jimmy talkin’ to Ernie nearby. The only thing I could figure was that I must’ve dozed off after all the shakin’ and that Ernie must’ve moved me to another stall where I could sleep off all the excitement.
I got my self up after a short spell, devoted mostly to stretchin’ and yawnin’ and made my way outside to look for Ernie and Jimmy. When I stepped out into the light, I realized that it must be near mid-day, ‘cause the sun was high overhead and that tiresome heat had returned for yet another day. I called out to Ernie and Jimmy, but no one answered, so I went back into the stable and took a look in the stall where Jimmy’s dog was at.
The dog was still in the same place it was the night before, but for some reason, the little creature looked better. It still had the mud on its ribs and leg, what was a reminder of how that dog was in a world of trouble the day before, but strange as it may seem, it looked like it could’ve walked right out of there.
While I was standin’ there watchin’ the dog sleep, Ernie came up from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, which made me jump a little. He chuckled a mite and then smiled warmly at me.
Ernie said that Jimmy and I had fallen asleep at about the same time, which was close to the end of the healin’ process, so I didn’t miss too much. He said that the dog was goin’ to stay with him for a week or so, which was about the amount of time he figured it’d take for it to get the sleep out of its body, then it’d probably want to get up and walk around.
I asked Ernie where Jimmy was, which he told me that he’d gone home a good spell ago, what surprised me, since I didn’t think I’d stretched and yawned for that long, though I did feel like I could do with some more sleep. Ernie said that I should head home, ‘cause my little brother had come by the day before to check on me, since my momma had begun to wonder if I was plannin’ on comin’ back or fixin’ to live at the stable from then on.
I just nodded my head when Ernie told me about Willy stoppin’ by, probably ‘cause I was still shakin’ the sleep out of my mind, but it soon sank in and before I knowd it, I blurted out, Yesterday? Ernie did all he could not to fall over from his laughin’, what took a spell to come to a stop, then he gave me a broad smile and said that me and Jimmy had slept for nearly two days straight. I couldn’t hardly believe it, but I knowd that Ernie never lied and if he said it was nearly two days, well it was nearly two days.
Lookin’ back, I do believe it was the most sleep I ever got at one time for any reason, in my whole life. I also remember how good I felt in the days that followed, what made me think that maybe some of that healin’ worked on me and probably Jimmy too.
Speakin’ of Jimmy and his dog, you’ll be happy to knowd that his little companion got all healed up in only a couple of weeks or so. By the time that funny mud, which felt like it was made of a kind of cement, had fallen off the dog’s ribs and legs, Jimmy’s little mutt was runnin’ like nothin’ ever happened to him.
There was still unfinished business between me and Jimmy for the mess I got him and his dog into, what required me to offer him a sincere apology. I offered him that very thing the next day, though for some reason, I never really felt like it was enough. He seemed pleased that I’d told him the truth and said that he wouldn’t tell his mother, which was a great relief, though by then, I was expectin’ the worst and certainly deserved every scrap of it. The good news was that his ole friend the dog lived to a ripe old age of nineteen, though I didn’t get to see that, since Jimmy moved out of our town a year or so later.
Not long after Ernie had done his healin’ magic on Jimmy’s dog, I remember askin’ him if he had any doubts about bein’ able to save that poor creature. He just smiled at me and began to tell me about the life-spirit that’s in all of us, animals included, what I understood to mean soul. He said that it can’t die, only the bones, skin and everythin’ else that makes up our body dies, cause they’s made of Earth, whereas the soul is made of God.
Ernie told me that he could see the life-spirit of most animals and was able to tell if they was close to leavin’ their body or still firmly fixed inside. He said that Jimmy’s dog had a strong life-spirit and that it weren’t goin’ anywhere, which told him that the little creature was plannin’ on stickin’ around for awhile. Ernie’s description of the life-spirit gave me plenty to think about, ‘specially at that age, but as I’ve gotten older, his words have turned out to be a great comfort.
Now that I’m in the autumn of my life, sometimes I feel like it’d be nice to fall asleep, leave my old body behind and wake up on God’s front porch. I’m not sayin’ that life on this fine Earth ain’t a place where I want to be, but between you and me, sometimes I’m just plain tired out and wouldn’t mind feelin’ young again.
I do knowd somethin’ though, if I became sick or hurt and couldn’t find my way back into my head and skin, I’d like to release my life-spirit and leave this world. I knowd that may sound a little chicken, but from what I learned about the Ancient Ones, they weren’t afraid to release as Ernie put it, and leave for their shimmerin’ world of light.
From what Ernie told me, the Ancient Ones call their afterlife anatolyata and accordin’ to Tuni, the word anatolyata roughly means a place of great comfort and joy, where all the wisdom of the ages exists for the sole purpose of helpin’ the life-spirits develop their light energy. I can’t even begin to explain how that all works and neither could Ernie, but neither of us was worried, ‘cause anatolyata does sound like a powerful grand place.
I should tell you however that accordin’ to Ernie there’s more to the afterlife than just endin’ up in this anatolyata place. From what he says, the Ancient Ones have traveled from this fine Earth to their world of eternal souls, what they call the yeztal omo, which is somethin’ like a lifetime of travel between one place and the other.
‘Parently they have no notion of the startin’ point or the endin’ point, ‘cause it’s all a part of the body of the Divine Maker and that each place is designed for us to learn and growd. I’m quite sure they’re talkin’ about God when they say Divine Maker, which gives me a genuine good feelin’, though it does all sound rather complicated.
Ernie said that we’re all connected to the makin’s of God in one way or another, but unlike us, the Ancient Ones knowd how to use their special understandin’. They were always listenin’ to the sounds around ‘em and lookin’ in places that don’t make sense to you and me, but that was how they kept up with the changin’ world, what had a direct effect on their lives and on the forest they lived in.
They could always tell when a storm was on the way, even if it was days away, when it was time to fish in a certain spot on the river or if an animal was fixin’ to die. They also knowd when there was folks in the forest, ‘specially ones with dark hearts, since they was sensitive to the balance of their world, yet they never revealed they selves to anyone, unless it was for a good reason.
From my thinkin’ the most highly impressive thing that the Ancient Ones was masters of, was that of bein’ impossible to see, what didn’t only work on men, ‘cause animals could find them nearly invisible also. I knowd that if they didn’t want to be seen, no one could find them, save for the Aracunias, but that’s another story.