Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I've been thinking about the story of "Old Drum" recently. I saw the movie a long time ago and thought I remembered something about a faithful dog - I found the movie and watched it, using an instant download through my Wii from Netflix. The story in the movie reaches its climax with a speech by a famous attorney. Turns out the story is basically true - except the dog that is shot in the movie survives. The reason I've been thinking about the faithfulness of dogs is my dog George's behavior since my mother passed away. George was very close to my mother, and vice versa. My mother saved his life a couple times when she knew he was not well and I hadn't noticed anything was wrong. The first time, I hesitated because I hadn't noticed he was sick, and barely got him to the vet in time. The second time, I loaded him in the car the minute my mother said something was wrong - I think they were able to read each other's minds. Anyway, Ol' George has always spent his sleeping time on the cold wooden floor of the downstairs bathroom or on the cold wooden floor of the kitchen where anyone using the back door had to step over him. Since my mother died, he's been sleeping on the carpeted floor next to her couch. After she turned 95 she spent most of her not-in-bed time resting or sleeping on that couch. That's where George is right now, stretched out on the floor, leaning his back against the couch.
Here is part of the speech, spoken in the real Old Drum trial in the Supreme Court of Missouri. It's the only part of the speech that was saved.
George Graham Vest speaking:
"Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us -- those whom we trust with our happiness and good name -- may become traitors in their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog.
"Gentlemen of the jury, a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
"If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death..."
This is one of those situations where the English language falters. Back when I was in grade school (we didn't ever call it elementary school) I asked a teacher why all of the speeches and poems we studied always said, "he", and I was told that "he" stood for everyone: men, women, and children. Well, I don't think Lawyer Vest meant it that way back in 1880, but I'll accept that the master he in this speech stands for my mother - and the watchful, faithful and true dog is our Ol' George, my mother's dog.