Life Sketches by Terry Berkson
One bitterly cold morning, Joe Gravelding, my muskrat-trapping partner, didn’t come to call for me. It was the weekend, so I figured he slept in knowing he could count on me to go and check the line. When I left the house, my dog, Pinkie, began to follow me. I threw a few snowballs at him and yelled for him to go home, but he kept trailing me.
Pinkie might sound like an effeminate name for a male dog, but he was no sissy. Every time a dog in my old Brooklyn neighborhood had puppies they seemed to have Pinkie’s black and white color and markings.
It was a dry, sunny morning and the snow crunched beneath my feet like hands rubbing on an inflated balloon.
I walked along the creek checking and re-baiting traps with a fresh piece of apple. Two of them held prizes that I had to put down and stuff into the game pocket of my coat. Pinkie kept racing past me, barking and trying to bait me into playing with him. The water ran freely along the rapids but ice had built up over the slow moving deeper pools. I was almost finished checking the line when I heard Pinkie barking non-stop. I looked down the creek and saw that he had broken through the ice that had formed over a deep pool that sat below an eroded ledge. No doubt he had jumped from the ledge, which gave him enough force to break through the ice.
He was trying to get out of the water but his front paws couldn’t find traction. He struggled for a long time and it looked like he was getting tired. I stood on the bank wondering what to do. I knew that the ice wouldn’t hold me and I wasn’t sure how deep the pool was. Pinkie’s barks were now muffled with a watery gurgling. It looked like he was drowning. The last thing I wanted to do was join him in the creek. I sat down on the bank and took off my boots. Then I began to crawl out on the ice distributing my weight as much as possible. The whiplash sound of cracking made me stop my advance but I didn’t fall through. It was just a few more feet to where my dog was trapped. The ice seemed to be holding. I crept ahead and reached for Pinkie’s collar but, when I went to lift him, my left foot and knee broke through and I felt the sting of the freezing water. My boost had given Pinkie enough traction to get onto the ice. Then he scrambled to solid ground and began to shake the water from his coat.
I carefully lifted my foot out of the hole and began to crawl back toward the bank as the ice croaked and groaned. By the time I made it to shore, my dog was ready to play again and crashed into me with his wet coat. I pushed him away and began to put on my boots. The dry foot went in fine but I couldn’t get the other soggy sock down into the boot. It seemed like it was starting to freeze. I was worried about frostbite, so I picked up my boot and started to run home, the dead muskrats bouncing in the game pocket of my jacket and Pinkie biting at my socked foot all the way. I crossed through fields and then Smith Ford’s parking lot until I was out on Main Street. Then I limped east and in a short time I was passing Dick Clayton’s garage. He stopped pumping gas and waved questioningly to me as I turned right onto Lake Street with my boot in hand and Pinkie still trying to pull off my sock.
In my room, I dried and rubbed my foot for a long time and then put on a pair of warm socks. Pinkie didn’t seem to mind being wet but I dried him off anyway. I was eager to tell my partner about falling through the ice, so I left Pinkie at the house and headed for Joe’s with the muskrats in the back of my coat. In a short time Pinkie was dogging me. In fact he followed me everywhere, to school, to Friday night dances, to football games. Somehow he would always find a way of getting out of the house.
I guess I didn’t realize that in a way I had left my pal flat. For several younger years we had been inseparable. Now I was 15 and had different interests, but he couldn’t accept that and would find ways of getting my attention. I even had to rescue him from the dog pound.
Funny thing, at this late juncture in my life I think that Pinkie and I would have been more compatible—provided I could still crawl out on the ice.