Adventures of Cookie the Stray, Chapter 13

Updated on December 6, 2017
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Peg Cole is a self-published author who writes true and fiction stories and book reviews, along with nostalgia and how-to articles.

The Old Oak Tree

Source

Rupert was Hot Dog Man’s real name, but he never cared for it. Instead he went by Rusty, a name that would have fit most of the workers at the plant excepting the plant managers that sat in air conditioned offices with glass partitions to watch the floor. They were spared the sting of metal filings that bit into skin and clothing cast off by the equipment. Work clothes developed a reddish tinge when sweat and metal combined. Rusty got his name from wearing the same outfit day after day, stains and all, washing it on Friday nights at the laundromat behind the A & P store.

He was a hard worker and gave a good day’s effort for his wages. No other job or trade ever satisfied him like working the night shift at the plant had done. That slice of happiness lasted only until old man Barton sold off the plant to foreigners. Soon, the plant’s long-time employees were let go without ceremony and the new owners hired in their own people for lower wages. The exchange took its toll on the small community whose loyalties to their own were compromised by the need to earn a living. Cafés, service stations, hardware and dry goods stores, and other small businesses no longer enjoyed the patronage of their old friends that were out of a job. They quickly looked after their own interests and welcomed their new patrons. The faces changed but the money was still green.

Rusty

Source

Rusty had never taken another full time job although he’d had many offers over the years. The closest he ever came to the joy he’d known working at the mill was riding on the railcars. The rhythmic clankety-clank of steel wheels rolling along the tracks was music to his soul. He’d ridden by more than his share of breathtaking scenery in the hills, valleys and fields from the northeast of Maine all the way to the coast of California. He’d even traveled to the southernmost city in the U.S. as an undocumented passenger of the Florida East Coast Railway. When he crawled from the boxcar onto the tracks near Flagler Avenue, he worked for a time offloading cargo from the boats at the docks before hopping back on a northbound train.

He’d often stay in a small town or village for a few days working jobs no one else wanted. Whether he was toiling in dusty warehouses, cleaning out garages, stringing barbed wire around pastures or loading hay, he put forth his best efforts before moving on down the track.

Source

Rusty was a smart man although few would guess it to look at him. In his faded jeans, holey shoes and worn out pea coat he presented the image of homelessness. No one knew that he set aside the bulk of his earnings with visions of the dream he held dear. One day he would own his own ranch with wide stretching boundaries, creeks, and animals of all kinds. That thought made him remember the faces of the two stray dogs at the campsite he loved. He was nearly ready to build his cabin in the woods, grow a few vegetables and live the good life. Just a little more money and he would be there.

During the past ten years, each time he’d roll through a certain rural town he’d stash away the biggest part of his earnings, although, not in any bank, for which he had no use. His bank was a secret hiding place beneath an old oak tree that had stood for a hundred years. He would hike over to the abandoned farm where, in a hollowed out crevice beneath the gnarled roots, he had buried a steel box. Locked inside was his entire fortune, a tidy sum, minus only the few dollars he spent for food and the occasional lodging.

When bad weather forced him to remain indoors in the days when temperatures fell below freezing, he’d rent a room in a wayside motel. There, he could catch up on world events through the TV broadcasts, enjoy a hot cleansing shower and a comfortable night’s sleep before moving on.

Source

For the most part, he loved the feeling of lying in his sleeping bag under a crisp, deep-blue sky sparkling with stars. The farther he camped away from the glare of city lights, the more beautiful the stars appeared. Surrounded by nature he would ponder the days of his youth and fondly remember the people he’d once loved. The first woman, his mom, died when he was a small child from some disease for which there was no cure.

The only other woman he’d ever loved was his high school sweetheart whom he thought about often, wondering how different things might have been had he not left town. She was the envy of many, blessed with a beautiful face, long, wavy hair and the greenest eyes he’d ever seen.

One school day in the middle of fall, the Principal of his school had shown up at the door of his history classroom. After a brief whispered conference with the teacher, Old Man Gillespie, he’d motioned for Rusty to join him in the hall. Walking the narrow corridor to the Principal’s office, Rusty thought they’d somehow solved the mystery about the cherry bombs he and two others had set off in the boy’s bathroom. Water had flooded the first floor classrooms, resulting in a half day off for students. He had been the hero of the senior class for a brief moment. He felt the sweat form in his armpits as their footsteps sounded on the shiny linoleum floor.

As luck would have it, that wasn’t the news the principal had for Rusty. If only it had been, Rusty would gladly have taken whatever punishment was due rather than hear the truth. Seated across from Principal George Maynard, Rusty learned the meaning of the phrase, “War is Hell.”

“Rupert, there’s no easy way to tell you this,” Principal Maynard began. He held out a half sheet of yellow paper with a few typewritten sentences that began, “We regret to inform you…”

Telex Machine

Source

Rusty's Dad had been killed in the undeclared conflict in Southeast Asia when he stepped on a land mine. Living with his mom’s sister while his dad served overseas, he took off without a word to anyone and struck out on his own. That was the seed that set into motion his days of wandering. He came back a couple of years older and took a job at the steel mill where he’d found what he once considered happiness. That was until the plant changed hands. Rusty was older now than his dad had ever been during the days he toted a rifle, a full backpack of military issued gear and marched through jungles across foreign lands.

This trip, Rusty had hopped aboard a flatcar near Sligh Avenue in Orlando and after a day of picking oranges in the groves, he’d stowed away in a boxcar and ridden upstate to Tallahassee, then Pensacola, where he’d loaded boxed goods from a shipping container into a semi-tractor trailer. Afterward, he’d slept his way across Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana before making it all the way back to Texas.

With storm warnings making their way into the state, he stopped for one of his rare motel stays and saw the news bulletin about Connie’s disappearance. The photo of her that flashed briefly on the TV was disturbing in itself, but the identity of the man in front of the camera talking about his missing wife was far more sinister. It was Jeb, someone he’d once made the mistake of trusting.

He hoped he’d find the big dogs again and headed back the way he’d come backpack stuffed with two packages of hot dogs, sugar, coffee, a small bag of dog food from the closest grocery store, fourteen miles from the camp. With a combination of hopeful thoughts and concern for Connie, he headed down the trail that led toward his favorite campsite.

show route and directions
A markerSligh Avenue Orlando Florida -
Sligh Blvd, Orlando, FL 32806, USA
get directions

B markerAubrey Texas -
Aubrey, TX, USA
get directions

© 2017 Peg Cole

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    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 3 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello William, It's never too late to stop by here. We're open 24/7 on HubPages. Isn't that great? The other chapters are ready and waiting when you have time.

      I'm truly glad you came by and thank you for reading this.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 days ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I know I'm coming into this late, but it's really great stuff, Peg. I need to go back to chapter one and get caught up but for now, better late than never!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I loved learning Rusty's story in this chapter and his connection to Connie (and unfortunately Jeb).

      I know where I want this to go ... but I also know that 'only your muse knows for sure'... ;)

      Love the TH and Bee Gees song - all time favorites.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 6 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hey there, Frank. Check on my profile and you'll see the other chapters. Thanks for coming by.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 7 days ago from Shelton

      Peg cole looks like I missed a few of these and only found chapter three.. but I'll keep looking :)

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Chris, It warms my heart to know you're thinking about adopting a dog from the Humane Society. Both of our dogs are from the SPCA. Rescued dogs are eternally grateful for being offered a kind home, regular meals and affection. We've had many over the years. Most of them were strays who'd either been dumped out here in the country where we live or ran away from an abusive place. We've enjoyed years of gratitude and genuine affection from those we were able to keep. Thanks for letting me know about your plan.

      Also, I appreciate your kind words about the story and your continued visits. Smiling.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 7 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mike, I'm honored that you took the time to read all those chapters in one day. Thank you. And thanks for the possibility of a different title for the book. Perhaps I'll put the contenders into a poll on the last episode. Hmm.

      Yes, I'm trying to tie up all the loose ends. That is taking a lot of thought but maybe it will all reveal itself. Meanwhile some more mischief is brewing in Chapter 14. Hope you will join me there in a few days when I release it. Cheers friend.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 8 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Dora, The surprise connection with the bad boy awaits! Thanks for coming by and for reading this.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 8 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Me, too, Gypsy. But first, a few close calls perhaps? Thinking of you this morning.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 8 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Nikki, Thanks again for being here and for your kind words.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 8 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi there, Linda, It's always great to see you here, following along with buried treasure and canines. Hope you and yours are keeping warm. We had a cool snap roll in overnight so it's good writing weather. I hope to get all the loose ends tied up soon and give Jeb what's coming to him.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 8 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Jackie, you are too kind. Dogs are dear to my heart and there are so many stories to tell. Thanks for the kind words.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 8 days ago from London

      Rusty is very interesting person to know Peg,,really enjoyed reading his past and his school love.

      Interesting story and I want the dogs to get home soon.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 8 days ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      You've got me thinking more and more about getting another dog. It's been too long. I just wish I could get a leash on one of the strays in your story. I'll do the next best thing and visit a humane society in one of the towns I work in as I travel. Your story makes me wonder about the stories a stray dog could tell. At the very least, their lives are full of hunger and hardship. I'm all caught up with your story again. You're doing a great job.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 9 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Kari, The next few chapters will tell the tale about Rusty's savings and the fate of the dogs. I appreciate your continued interest and thoughtful comments.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 10 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Bill, I'm so grateful that you took the time to stop by and read this chapter. I appreciate your kind remarks. Secret scenarios - I like that. I hope to be sharing the secrets soon. And thanks again!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 10 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - I see a good deal of waving going on in this episode. You are tying up loose ends. You have us all on the edge of our seats.

      Paragraph: "Over the past ten years," hollowed out crevice beneath the gnarled roods

      So glad that I have been able to catch up on your writing and story.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 10 days ago from The Caribbean

      I like this interlude with Rusty and the surprise ending of his connection with Jeb. Want to read one.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 11 days ago from Riga, Latvia

      Looking forward to more and sure hope he finds the dogs.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 11 days ago from London

      well pleasure is all mine dear Peg.

      Many Blessings and have a great weekend.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Nikki, It's wonderful to have you join us here and thank you for your concern about the dogs. That's what it's all about. I'm glad to know you were reading along before, too. Thanks.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 11 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It was very interesting to learn about Rusty's life. I hope he finds the dogs. I also hope his money stays safe. The link between Rusty and Jeb is intriguing. I'm looking forward to learning more about it!

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Shyron, Yes, meanwhile, back at the ranch... I hope I can fulfill your wishes and see Rusty's dream come true. Thanks for the lovely comment about the "lost souls." Blessings and hugs dear one.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Verlie, I'm so happy you like Rusty. He seems like a hard working good guy who deserves a break. Your comments always make me feel better and I so appreciate your visit. The old oak photo was taken in a subdivision and I photo shopped out the houses, electrical lines and cars. So glad it came out to your liking.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Flourish, I hope so, too. I think his dreams are realistic and if fortune shines on them, the dogs will benefit as well as Rusty. As always, I appreciate your visit and thoughtful comments. Oh, and I love your term "lost souls".

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 12 days ago from The Beautiful South

      You could keep it going all winter for my part, it is so relaxing to read. Loved listening to the Bee Gees, too.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 12 days ago from Ohio

      OK, (sigh), now I'm wondering if Rusty gets to see the dogs again and how he knows Jeb. I'm liking Rusty. I'm also worried that he has his money stashed under a tree, lol. I cannot wait for the next installment. Will it be tomorrow?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 12 days ago from Olympia, WA

      What a rotten place for you to stop, rotten in that we now are left with many scenarios in our heads and only you holding the secret. :) Keep these excellent stories coming, please.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 12 days ago from London

      Hi Peg,,

      Amazing story and your style is adorable.I have read other parts too.I am just loving this story,I hope the dogs find their home soon.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 12 days ago from Texas

      Peg, you just keep us wanting more, I can't wait for all the lost souls to get together on the ranch.

      Blessings and hugs my dear friend.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 12 days ago from Canada

      Oh man! This is good Peg. Love Rusty. I hope he didn't tell Jeb about his hidden treasure. Great how you're connecting the dots. The story is unfolding perfectly. The old oak tree photo is fabulous. Can't wait for more. Enjoying the mood music. See ya later.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 12 days ago from USA

      I hope these lost souls find one another again. An animal can bring so much love into one’s life, and sometimes it really helps to need another living being and be needed in return. These dogs certainly need him.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 13 days ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Jackie, Thanks for being so quick to drop by and for the kind words about the storyteller. You are very kind. I hope to wrap this up with a few more chapters.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 13 days ago from The Beautiful South

      Great new chapter Peg! Finally seeing a home for those dogs if all goes well. Hard to tell, though you are maybe my favorite storyteller, of this sort for sure.