“The Buckle”

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					                                          “The Buckle”
                                        By Jeff Thompson

        Just as he did every morning, Zack hollered goodbye to his dad and started off on his
walk to the nearby high school. With his dog Tasha step for step at his heels, he lumbered down
his long, dirt-road driveway. As part of their daily routine, Tasha would escort Zack to the
school grounds, but never further, and then return home on her own. Tasha was a special dog
with extreme intelligence that made training her much easier than most breeds. She was a big
dog by most standards, weighing about ninety-five pounds, and made of pure muscle. Her coat
was mostly black, with white and tan mixed throughout. Her one eye was blue and the other
brown, and her ears stood at attention when called. She was definitely part Husky, but no one
knew for sure the other. Some said wolf, but others who knew her best thought German
Sheppard because of her loyalty to Zack and his family. Ever since that dog found her way into
Zack’s home about four years ago, just after he began middle school, they had been inseparable.
        However, this Friday in June was unlike any other. The rain had finally stopped after two
days of precipitation, and the ground was squishy and soft. The sun was out, but the temperature
was unusually cool for the middle of June. Heavy winds from the storm had scattered branches
and debris along the driveway, making it difficult to navigate. So, instead of his usual route to
school, Zack’s curiosity sparked and he decided to take a detour. He had heard his friends at
school mention a rumored Civil War burial ground, where the graves lay three-deep and the soil
was soft enough to dig up relics from the war. Knowing his dad was an avid collector of Civil
War remnants, and himself, a true procrastinator, Zack thought he might be able to find a gift for
this Sunday’s Father’s Day celebration and still make it to school on time. So, he and Tasha
trudged through the swampy grass to an overgrown path which led to the site. As they marched
on, he remembered his dad’s strict orders to stay away from that burial ground. Zack was not
one to openly defy his father, nor was he one to explore such a place where dead bodies lay, but
he could not help thinking of his dad’s smile when he received his Father’s Day gift.
        So, continuing his journey, he trekked through the mucky grass with his book bag slung
awkwardly over his right shoulder, his bag lunch swinging back and forth in his left hand, and of
course, his faithful dog, Tasha, following his every move.
        The burial ground was about a quarter mile west of the driveway, so Zack would have to
walk at a steady pace in order to find his father a gift and still be at school on time. In a matter
of a few minutes, Zack and Tasha stumbled upon the old graveyard. While surveying the
grounds, Zack spotted something reflective in the grass. He picked it up and discovered an old
belt buckle with the faded initials C.S.A. inscribed on the front. Having heard his dad talk about
the Civil War to friends, Zack knew that C.S.A. stood for Confederate States of America. He
was overjoyed! He had found the perfect gift for his dad, and he still had time to make it to
school before his first class began. Zack was so excited at what he had found he ran recklessly
around the burial ground while Tasha cautiously followed. As he romped through the high
grasses, celebrating his discovery, the damp ground abruptly caved in and he fell into a deep,
dark grave. Due to the unanticipated fall, he landed clumsily on his right ankle. Screaming out in
agony, he knew he was unable to stand, much less put pressure on it to walk.
        Zack’s shrill cry alerted Tasha, and she guardedly approached the edge of the grave
where he lay. His anguish continued as his dog looked on from above. Her canine instincts
alerted, Tasha knew Zack was in danger. But the hole was too deep for the dog to be of any
help, so Zack ordered Tasha to go home and get Dad. She looked inquisitively at Zack, not
knowing what he meant.
        Again he pleaded, “Go get Dad, Tasha! Get Dad now! Go on girl, get!” Tasha must
have sensed the desperation in his voice because she took off running toward home.
        Dad was working in the garden when he saw Tasha running at him, barking continually.
He knew the dog well and had never seen her act like this before. “What’s wrong, girl?” he
asked. Tasha kept barking, each one more piercing than the last, and then began tugging on
Dad’s pant leg with her teeth. Tasha was certainly trying to tell him something. Dad did not
know what was going on, but when Tasha began to run back the way she came, Dad anxiously
followed. He followed the dog all the way to the grassy path that Zack had taken, and then
pursued his son’s best friend right to the burial ground. Completely out of breath, Dad wondered
to himself why Tasha had led him to a graveyard. But before he had time to think of an answer,
he heard a cry for help. He immediately recognized the voice. “Zack?” he screamed. “Is that
you?”
        “Dad,” a weak voice replied. “I’m down here.”
        Dad followed the sound of the voice to the grave where his son was stuck. “Zack, what
are you doing here?” he asked. “Why aren’t you in school? Are you okay? How did you…”
He stopped, suddenly realizing he needed to calm down. Dad had many questions for his son,
but first he had to figure out a way to get him out of the ground. He surveyed the area and
spotted a thick tree branch that had been severed by lightning. Quickly, he retrieved the branch,
removed his belt from his pants, and secured it tightly to the branch. Then, he lowered the
branch into the hole, allowing his son to grab the belt. “Zack, tie my belt around your two front
belt loops and hold on to the branch,” his dad commanded.
        Zack followed the directions, and his dad began to pull his son attached to the branch out
of the hole. He pulled as hard as he could but struggled to get him out. Zack was almost out of
the grave when his dad began to tire, and Zack’s injured body began to descend. Suddenly, to
Zack and his dad’s astonishment, he began to rise to the top of the hole again. It was the dog!
Tasha had clamped her teeth down on the end of the branch and helped pull her master out of the
grave just before the belt snapped.
        “That a girl, Tasha!” Zack shouted with pride.
        Although Zack’s dad was angry that his son had disobeyed his firm command to stay
clear of the graveyard, all he could do was hug his boy with joy. His ankle was swollen badly so
his dad hoisted him onto his back and carried him home, stopping along the way to rest. When
they all made it home, Dad escorted his son to his bed, and gave him an ice pack for his leg.
        “For not listening to me Zack, you are grounded for two weeks, and you owe me a new
belt,” Dad uttered impetuously.
        Zack understood his dad’s anger and accepted his punishment. “I’m really sorry, Dad,”
Zack stated with sincerity. “I am so sorry.”
        “I’m just glad you’re okay,” his dad genuinely replied as he started to close Zack’s
bedroom door.
        “Dad, one more thing,” Zack said.
        “What is it Zack?”
        “I know I still owe you a belt, and I will get you one when I’m better, but in the mean
time, here is a buckle,” he murmured. “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”
        Zack proudly handed him the Confederate belt buckle he had found. His dad eyed the
piece carefully, looked up at Zack sitting in bed with Tasha lying beside him, smiled, and said,
“Next Father’s Day, just get me a tie.”

				
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posted:10/20/2011
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