"Billy, official town dog"


Billy had to get his chores done early. It was the heat, of course. Now that it’s summer, he no longer has to escort the kids across the street while Martin holds the sign. No kids at the crosswalk for a couple of weeks now.

  So Billy, being the official town dog, was still kind of feeling his way along in this business, because he was not quite a year into his reign and he was learning to roll with the seasons. He got up from his bed under the elm tree before it was even daylight and went on down to the Mule Barn truck stop and coffee shop, because they turned their lights on first. Well, except for the police station, and nobody needed him there, really. So he’d go to the back door of the Mule Barn and wait until the kid with the apron came out with some trash. Then he’d wag real hard and sometimes it means fried egg scraps, sometimes a porch chop bone, and if he was lucky, a slice of bacon. Real bacon. The kind that crunches.

  Then he’d kinda hang around in the park for a while in case anyone who was out for a walk and was dogless would like to have him tag along for company. Walking without a dog, everyone knew, just wasn’t right. And the water in the fountain was always good.

   After the old folks had their coffee and breakfast at the Rest of Your Life Retirement Home, they go in the activity room and watch the news on television. Billy always helped them with that. There were good ear rumples in it for him by experienced rumplers.

  But in the heat of the day, there wasn’t much else to do but go to the shade and sleep.

  I mean, not every day can be as much fun as helping the kids get to school. But September’s coming. He just had to nap and wait. September’s coming.

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Newspaper columnist Slim Randles, who writes the weekly Home Country column, took home two New Mexico Book Awards in 2011. His advice book for young people, “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right,” took first place in the self-help category, and “Sweetgrass Mornings” won in the biography/memoirs category. Randles lives and works in Albuquerque. Home Country reaches 3 million hometown newspaper readers each week

Slim Randles learned mule packing from Gene Burkhart and Slim Nivens. He learned mustanging and wild burro catching from Hap Pierce. He learned horse shoeing from Rocky Earick. He learned horse training from Dick Johnson and Joe Cabral. He learned humility from the mules of the eastern High Sierra. Randles lives in Albuquerque.

Randles has written newspaper stories, magazine articles and book, both fiction and nonfiction. His column appeared in New Mexico Magazine for many years and was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and the Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country,” which appears in several hundred newspapers across the country.


  Huntington Beach News

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