February 28, 2021

Remembering an old man and his dog

This archived article was written by: Robert Morton

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a dog and I’ve been thinking about getting myself a new little four-legged friend. I had a dog most of the years as I was growing up and they were always my best of friends.
The first dog that I ever recall was a large St. Bernard named Shep. Along with him, we had a full-grown sheep that also shared the back yard. I used to take turns putting an old horse halter on those two animals and riding them around the yard.
I haven’t seen the photos for a number of years, but I remember them as being pretty cute. I can picture myself riding through the tall, deep grass with my old straw hat with feathers sticking out of the top, firmly strapped to the old sheep.
After leaving Montana we moved to an old house up Emigration Canyon, just east of the Salt Lake Valley. With all of its room to roam, Emigration Canyon was a special place for a young boy growing up .
Upon arriving to our new home I quickly discovered an old man who lived across an aged bridge back in the trees on the hill behind our house.
Old Man Holtby we called him. He really wasn’t all that old, but to a young boy under 12, he was ancient. In all actuality, he was probably only 40 or 45 at the most.
It didn’t take long for my brother Lance and me to make friends with Old Man Holtby and think he took to us just as quickly. In the beginning, one of the things that attracted us the most to the old man was his dog Jimmy.
I fell in love with Jimmy the first minute I laid eyes on him. Jimmy was a three-legged Boston Bull Terrier with big round, red eyes that said I love you and at that moment I knew I had met my very best friends, him and the old man.
Mr. Holtby (as mother had taught us to refer to our elders) and Jimmy immediately took me under their wings, always inviting me up for a snack of chili or Vienna sausages with crackers and soda pop.
Hidden back in the trees behind our house, he lived in this fantastic old rustic cabin any adventurous kid would love. It was like stepping into a fantasy world for me.
As you first stepped into the cabin you were immediately surrounded by beautiful, rough cedar woodwork, deep rich red carpets, and deer head mountings hanging on the walls, old collectables beautifully positioned throughout.
As you step a little deeper into the cabin, you are met by a raised dining area with hard, cedar floors and a large multi-colored throw rug under a huge, oak dining room table.
One of my favorite places in the house was the attic. Just beyond the dining room table and hanging from the ceiling was a drop down wooden ladder. You just reached up, grabbed a hold of the ladder and pulled down. In a moment and a little climb, you found yourself tucked away in a rustic attic hideout that came straight out of any little boy’s dream. You would swear it was made just for you.
The memories are still clear in my mind, sitting there by the old fire place listening to the crackling of the pitch in the logs as they spat and sputtered in the fire, eating hot chili, scratching Jimmy behind the ears, looking into his big, beautiful, red eyes and listening to Old Mr. Holtby tell me those stories of when he was a boy.
Mr. Holtby was like the dad I never had. That old man loved me and I loved him. That old man loved his dog, but he also saw the relationship I had with Jimmy and he must have known that we belonged together. Mr. Holtby wound up giving me that dog. Jimmy and I were as thick as thieves and stuck together like glue for the years that we were together.
I attended Mr. Holtby’s funeral a few years ago. It had been quite a while since I had seen him and that dear old man and his dog are some of the best memories I have. They don’t stray from my thoughts very far, for very long.

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