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© 2011 - William C. Highsmith

The morning sun felt good on this crisp fall Saturday morning. The cloudless sky was blue and beautiful. The leaves had begun to change to red, gold, and brown. It was a good time for a boy of twelve to be alive.

Lonnie watched as his pet chicken crossed the road. She was free to roam about as she pleased. The boy had saved her from her own species when she was just a 'biddy'. After the manner of fowl, she was endangered because of a simple spot on her back. This made her different and thus the target of her siblings. They began to peck her unmercifully until he happened to notice and removed her from the pen. He took care of her, and now she had been special for two years. Her name was Henrietta.

Lonnie knew what it was like to be different. He was the youngest of four children and the only boy. His oldest sister was now eighteen, and the twins were fifteen. He sometimes felt like he was hen-pecked too.

Although his family lived on a farm, it was no longer the main source of income. His father worked in town for the local John Deere tractor dealership. Therefore, Lonnie's chores included feeding Mildred the cow, her calf, and old Silver the horse as well as the chickens. Life on the farm was a continuing educational experience. One thing he learned was to pay attention to the animals. They have senses humans left behind in the evolution. This included Thor, the boy's dog and special companion, named after the superhero in the comic books. His duties included protecting the farm and its other animals.

Unlike the penned up chickens, Henrietta had no special place to lay her eggs. She would deposit them when and where nature dictated. This would prove to be a predicament for the boy to consider.

As the morning passed and chores were finished, the serendipity of this magic time of the year was broken by the excited clucking of Henrietta off in the brush. Both Thor and Lonnie heard it at the same time. Something was amiss. Thor headed in her direction to check it out. Suddenly, he began growling deep within his massive chest. Lonnie knew there was a problem. He rushed into the house and picked up his 410 shotgun given to him last Christmas by his father. Along with the gift came lessons in handling a weapon and in responsibility.

As he hurried back to the edge of the brush, he saw Thor was thoroughly engaged with something. Then he saw it - a large copperhead snake was attempting to escape the barking dog. Lonnie knew he must be careful not to hurt Thor or Henrietta. However, Henrietta proved not to be a problem. She simply took to flight and removed herself from the danger.

"Thor - come here!" the boy commanded.

After Thor moved, the 410 did the barking.

The copperhead became a leadhead.

By William C. Highsmith - July 20, 2011