Back home in Windy Gap, the sun was setting and George had not returned home. Since his wife had died three years earlier, he had live alone with his old hound dog, Blue. Like George, Old Blue had also seen his better years. He thought it best to leave old Blue at home for this trip.
Down at the end of the gravel lane, his neighbors the Clancy’s lived with their ten year old son Jim. Patrick and Nora were wonderful friends who looked out for George since his wife died. Nora took George hot meals from time to time and often invited him down to visit.
Patrick heard the roar of the old Dodge truck as George headed down the lane in the hours before sunup. George mentioned earlier that he was headed out hunting on Moonshine Ridge, hoping to come across the old buck that had eluded him the last several seasons.
George told Jim hunting stories and how he dreamed of getting one last trophy buck. Those who had seen the deer said it looked like he might have a rack with as many as fourteen points and weigh at least 200 pounds.
When Jim came in for supper that evening, he announced that George’s truck was not at the house and Old Blue was barking up a storm inside the house. With snow beginning to fall Patrick decided to go up and check on Old Blue and see if there was any sign that George might have returned home and left again.
Patrick climbed up the steps to the porch and peered in the window. Nothing seemed disturbed as Old Blue jumped up at the window with a deep mournful wail. Jim found the key under the old crock on the porch and let himself in. Old Blue greeted him happily, jumping up on him trying to lick his face. Patrick left Old Blue run out in the yard to relive himself. He saw there was no water in Blue’s bucket and no food in his bowl. Very unusual for George not to tell anyone to feed Old Blue.
He went to the cupboard and took out the bag of dog food, pouring some into the food bowl. Blue eagerly gobbled it down crunching the hard bits between his teeth. Patrick added a little more and filled up his bucket from the old pitcher pump. Seeing the snow falling faster he had an uneasy feeling about what might have happened George in this extreme weather.
When George did not come home by 9:00 PM, Patrick knew something was wrong. He called the Sheriff’s office in River Bend, ten miles away. After telling the Sheriff what he knew about the situation, Sheriff Taylor said with the storm closing in, and with six inches already on the ground, there was no way they could send a search party into the mountain to look for George before morning. It would take four-wheeled-drive vehicles to make it back to Windy Gap. He told Patrick to meet him at the Sheriff’s office at 7:00 AM. They hoped George found shelter from the storm; otherwise, his chances of survival were very slim.
Photo: Dwight L. Roth