We lived in Milwaukee. My father and mother hated the big city. We lived there because that is where the welding and steam fitting jobs were plentiful. He was born and raised in a small town in northern Wisconsin.

He left to hunt or fish every chance he got. He took turns on his trips. One went to Oconto Falls (His) hometown and the other went to (Mom's) Gays Mills. The trips alternated.

It was the fall of 1958 and our family was in Gays Mills. My dad wanted to go pheasant hunting. My dad and uncle went hunting. The bird hunting was OK that day........The job hunting was even better! On the way home to Milwaukee my dad sprung it on the family.

While pheasant hunting, he ran into a guy that worked at the power plant in Genoa. He was the plant manager. Dad was hired during a pheasant outing to be the new welder there.

My dad was so excited to get out of the big city; he had even bought a house in Gays Mills already. We were moving in 2 days. The house was 33 steps from the Kickapoo River. It was a four bedroom with a large front and rear porch and a huge yard for the children.

My father went in to his job site and contacted his boss. The boss was not surprised at my dad's leaving. He told dad that "You always left to the sticks every chance you got." "Have a wonderful life in rural Wisconsin." My dad made one more stop before he left his old employ.

It was at the company bulletin board. Dad had seen an add on there. "Puppies" to good home. Beagle and Spaniel mix. My dad had always wanted a hunting dog. He loved grouse/pheasant/rabbit/squirrel hunting and figured now that he had a house, he could have his first dog. Dad stopped on the way home and picked up a puppy.

She was a beagle and spaniel mixture. Reddish brown colored with a little wave to her fur on the back. Her original name was Ginger. My oldest sister named her.

Ginger was the ultimate family pet and hunting dog combined. My dad didn't waste any time taking her into the wild to hunt. Her first outing was rabbit outing.

Her beagle half was obvious from the get go. She had that beagle bellar....and stubborn on the track mentality. Dad and Ginger had a wonderful first outing. They harvested three rabbits. It was time to go home to show the family the fruit of their first hunt together...but Ginger was on a hot track.

She was on a rabbit and she wasn't giving up. My dad sat and waited for her by the Van for 2 hours. Ever so often he heard a bellar in the distant. He finally got disgusted and went home (leaving Ginger there).

(Going home for reinforcements)



Rabbit hunting was about 40 minutes from home. Dad drove home cussing that stubborn dog the entire way. When dad got home, he was met by my two oldest sisters and mom in the driveway. They were worried about dad and ginger. Dad was angry at the dog. He was ready to give up on her for not listening properly.

My mom had all the kids load up into the yellow van. Mom and the girls had grown quite fond of the dog and they were going to make dad go back and get her. We went directly to the rabbit place. My mom even offered to have the girls and her look for the dog.

Mom explained to Dad. "Do you want a lazy dog or do you want one that stays on track?" "This was her first time." "She needs more training." Dad wasn't angry at the dog by the time we got there. We pulled off the road and went into the woods to look for Ginger.

She must have heard the vehicle...She met us half way into the woods.

She was muddy and wet. Three quarters of her body was covered in burs. She was happy to see mom and the sisters........When dad yelled at her. "Ginger get over here!" Ginger cowered and slowly worked her way over to my dad.

Dad grabbed Ginger by the scruff of the neck and lifted her nose to nose with him and he yelled at her as loud as he could. "When I say come, I mean come!" He picked her up and carried her back to the yellow van.

Everyone was quiet on the way home. We were afraid that dad was so angry at Ginger that he might give her away. Dad told all of us NOT to pet the dog. Not to show any attention to her the entire way home. We were all certain that Dad was going to give her away the next day.

We all piled out of the van. Dad told my oldest sister it was her job to clean up the dog. He said she was NASTY and she wasn't allowed in the back porch until she was completely clean. It took my 2 sisters three hours to clean her up.

The next morning my dad woke us all up and we had a family meeting. We were all certain that Dad called the meeting to tell us he was giving away the dog. The girls were all crying and my mom was a little misty eyed. My Dad announced that the he was keeping the dog...but he had decided to change her name. Her name from that day forward would be NASTY. He made it clear to us that if the dog didn't listen to him. She would be gone.

Nasty turned into the best hunting dog ever. My dad said that she was better than any AKC dog. She listened and stayed on a hot trail better than any 500-dollar AKC overpriced dog.

I remember the rituals before hunting. My dad fired up the dog by going to the gun cabinet. And opening up the cabinet and then he closed it and walked away. It was a game my dad liked to play with the dog. He would work her into a fever pitch. She would get so fired up by the time Dad put on the hunting coat...She would be howling and running round the house bouncing off of furniture. Mom would finally get sick of the two and kick them out of the house. They would get into the yellow van and go hunting.


As I got older, I yearned to go with them. At age eight I was allowed to go. The three of us made many hunting memories together. I can still remember like yesterday the time Nasty had a squirrel latch on to her nose after my dad had shot it. She shook it off and let it lay. She did not attack it. Dad had taught her well about not chewing up game.

Then there was the time that Dad winged a pheasant and it jumped into the Kickapoo River to get away from the dog. Nasty did NOT hesitate. She jumped right off the eight-foot sheer bank and swam and retrieved the rooster. We had to slide down the bank and help her up the bank. She did NOT drop the bird.

She always came along on fishing outing too. She sat right alongside my dad in the back of the boat. She could sense our excitement when we had a nice fish on and bark like crazy. My dad didn't like it at first but got used to it and called it our "Cheering Section". She also came along trout fishing but kept her distance behind us as to not spook the trout.

Nasty did not understand deer hunting. Dad went to the gun cabinet quietly. He tried to sneak out of the house without her seeing. He loaded up the yellow van in the dark. Nasty always watched at the window. She was waiting her turn to be loaded in the van. Dad left without her. She would lay by the gun cabinet sulking the entire time he was gone. I would tease her a little before dad actually came home. I would act excited and say dad was home. She fell for it a couple times and smartened up quickly because she did not hear the van coming. My mom would get mad at me for teasing the dog. She told me that Nasty loved dad and humans could learn a lesson from her on "unconditional love".

Nasty would always be the first one to know Dad was home from deer hunting. She would hear the van before we could see it. She would let out a howl and be bouncing off of the front door to greet my dad upon his return.

She quickly forgot about deer hunting and was allowed to ride in the yellow van again. She had her position. She staked the claim to the front seat long before I was old enough to hunt. My place was the next row on the van and Nasty and Dad in the front. The dog always had to have the window open so she could have her head out the window while we drove places.

Many falls had come and past. Nasty had developed a white muzzle and was getting a little slower...but she still had that fire burning for hunting. November came and it was her worst time of the year. Dad was going hunting without her again. At least I was home to play with. Once I tried to teach her to fetch a stick. She just stared at me with her big brown eyes. She cocked her head to the side and I swear if she could talk, she would have been saying: "That is a stick fool, I am not that dumb." We spent many hours waiting for dad together. I wasn't old enough to go deer hunting yet.

Nasty slept in front of the gun cabinet. She waited for her human to come home. It was the last night of deer season. About ten pm. Nasty let out her "Dad is Home Howl" We all went outside to the yellow van. Things were a little different this year for Nasty.

Her human never came in the house and the yellow van left without her again. What Nasty didn't know was that her human had died while deer hunting of a heart attack. November 27, 1967.


Nasty didn't have closure like we did. We went to Dads funeral and got to say good bye to him... She waited for many days for the yellow van to come home. She would stand on her hind legs and look out the window at vehicles that went by. She slept in front of the gun cabinet... The yellow van didn't come. We had sold the yellow van to my Uncle. My uncle wanted to have his brother's hunting vehicle.

Nasty finally quit looking out the window. I wasn't old enough to take her hunting. My uncle wanted to have her. My mother said she was part of the family and was staying where she belonged. Nasty became kinda fat. She was a family dog now. Not a hunting dog anymore. The years passed slowly for her.

It was June of 1972. My sister was getting married. My Uncle had asked if he could give away my sister. He was my dad's only brother so my mother and sister agreed.

My uncle was supposed to arrive the day before at noon. Nasty went crazy at about 11:15am. She was howling and bouncing off the front screen door. She tore her way through the screen door. She heard her yellow van coming.

Her human was finally coming home.

Nasty was the first to meet the yellow van in the driveway. She went directly to the driver's door. My uncle got out. She immediately jumped in the van. She searched the entire van... My uncle left the van door open. Nasty stayed in the van in the passenger seat. She sat there for a couple hours before Mom went outside and brought her into the house. Nasty went to her place in front of the gun cabinet and laid down.

We all greeted my uncle and the hours flew by. The next thing I knew we were watching my sister leave the church and we were all throwing rice. It was about 8pm when we all got home. It was quiet in the house.

No Nasty at the door to greet us as usual.

I went upstairs looking for her. There she was asleep in front of the gun cabinet. I bent down to pet her and ....it was obvious she wasn't sleeping. She had died. I didn't want to ruin the day's happening and tell everyone about Nasty. I quietly carried her to back porch and gave her a kiss good bye on the top of the head. I wrapped her in one of her favorite blankets and put her in wooden box that my dad used for reloading equipment. I placed one of Dad's hunting caps and a squirrel call in with her.

Everyone was still up talking. I got the keys to the car and put Nasty in the car. It was clear where I was going. I carefully cut out the sod and dug a hole and replaced the sod carefully. I said my good- bye to my childhood companion.  Now Nasty could rest in peace.

She was with her HUMAN.

For more of Len’s work visit; https://lenharris.blogspot.com, Small Streams Trout Monsters Club, or www.facebook.com/len.harris

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