Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

Growing up in Baca County by John Havens- Episode 3


   On the farm my pet was Big Dog, but when we moved into Vilas I had to leave Big Dog on the farm.  So for a while I didn’t have a pet.  Then one day when I was home from school, and sick with the Measles, Dad came in with the cutest little dog.  He was white with a bit of tan color on his head and ears, and he had short, stubby legs. Dad wanted to know if I would like to have him as a pet.  Someone had dropped him off in town and he became just another stray.

  I immediately fell in love with this cute little dog and gave him the name Shorty.   He became like a member of the family.  I didn’t want him sleeping outdoors, so we put a mat in the old captain’s chair and that became his bed.  He also became the guardian of our property.  At night, if anyone dared walk across the driveway of the station, Shorty came out of that chair sounding like a ferocious dog three times his size.

     Back in those days our doors were not locked too securely.  Only a thin metal latch was used to lock the front double doors, but to my knowledge no one ever tried to break in.  But there’s more to this story about Shorty.  Next door to our station was the Butler Building.  It was a large two story wooden frame building that had been moved into Vilas from the Rodly Community some 15 Miles South of Vilas.  A family by the name of Butler lived in the building, but rooms upstairs were rented out. Among the renters was a man by the name Shakey.  I know nothing about his background.  Due to having Palsy people called him Shakey, but he didn’t seem to resent it.

  Shakey’s favorite chair was that old captain’s chair, so he and Shorty learned to share that chair.  Shakey would sit in it with Shorty on his lap and they became inseparable friends.

   Since Vilas did not have a restaurant my folks added an extra room onto the station and Mother opened a small dinette.  She only served sandwiches, pie, coffee and a few delectable items. But it didn’take Shorty long to discover that if he laid in the right spot he would receive a lot of left-overs, scraps and tasty items.  Shorty began to put on weight.  About once a day he’d stroll across the street to Tony’s Market and there he was fed more scraps.  He was getting spoiled and fat.

     One Halloween night some pranksters got hold of Shorty before bedtime.  They held him down and with red enamel paint they wrote on Shorty’s side I EAT HERE.  Well, of course people saw Shorty laying near the door of the diner and laughed when they saw the sign on his side.

  I’m sure the pranksters didn’t realize that by applying that paint on Shorty it would cause his hair to come out.  But that is what happened and that Winter Shorty died of pneumonia.  It was devastating to me, but even more-so for Shakey.  He deeply grieved over Shorty’s death.  He’d lost probably his closest friend.  Shakey gathered up pieces of wood and cloth and made a casket for Shorty. Somewhere across the street he laid Shorty to rest. I never knew the location.


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