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Garbage Patrol From Hank the Cowdog #3: It's a Dog's Life Hank hitches a ride into town to visit his sister, Maggie, who never really took to ranch life. Maggie doesn't like swimming in the sewer, chewing on old bones, or digging in the mud. So, it's up to Uncle Hank to teach Maggie's four pups the basics of their cowdog heritage, beginning with Garbage Patrol. We marched down the alley until we came to the first garbage can, which was a fifty-five gallon drum with the top cut out. I showed 'em how to go up on their hind legs, hook their paws over the edge of the barrel, and pull it over.
"All right, now you kids sort through that stuff and find some grub."
The boys gave a yell and went into the barrel, but the girls kind of hung back.
"What's the matter?"
April spoke up.
"Mom says that playing in garbage is unladylike."
"And we're not supposed to get dirty. Mom said so."
"Well, moms are always right, don't forget that," I said. "So go through that garbage in a ladylike manner and try not to get dirty. And don't worry about your mom. I'll take care of her."
The girls looked at each other, grinned, and dived into the barrel with the boys.
They didn't find much in that first barrel, just a couple of chicken bones and a whole bunch of newspapers, so we moved on to the next one. Same story there: corn cobs and potato peelings. By George, that was kind of a lean alley. We had to investigate a dozen barrels before we found a real treasure: a bunch of fish heads wrapped in newspaper.
Oh, the kids loved them fish heads! They jumped right in the middle of them and gobbled them down. I stood back and watched and, you know, kind of remembered myself at that age, when all at once a man stepped out into the alley. Guess he was dumping trash or something.
He looked up and down the alley. You might say we'd left a little mess. I mean, when you get all caught up in a garbage patrol, you don't stop to think about the mess you're making.
The man dropped his trash basket and came running towards us, yelling and waving his arms.
"Hyah! Get outa here, go on!"
I sounded the retreat and we lit a shuck, headed south down the alley as fast as we could go. We went several blocks and hid in a hedge row. The kids were out of breath and all excited.
"Gosh, that was fun!" said Roscoe, and the others agreed.
"I was scared," said Barbara. "I thought that old man would catch us."
"Yeah," said April, "he sure looked mean!"
"Uncle Hank," said Spot, "I like fish heads,"
"And playing in garbage is fun!" said Barbara.
I smiled and nodded my head.
"You see, kids? If we hadn't gone on a garbage patrol, you never would have learned all this. As your mom's told you many times, education is very important."
I stepped out of the hedge and scouted the area to make sure the coast was clear, then I gave the password "Stinkeroo" was the secret word and the kids formed a line and we went marching home. I figgered they'd had enough education for one day.
We were marching down the alley, maybe three blocks from home, when we passed a yard with a big cedar fence around it. Sitting on top of the fence was a big fat yellow cat.
My ears shot up and my lip curled, all on sheer instinct. I mean, my instincts about cats are pretty sharp. I glared at her as we went trooping by, just waiting for her to make some kind of smart remark.
You know my position on cats. I don't like 'em. I don't go out of my way to cause trouble with a cat, but any time I find one that's shopping around for a fight, I can usually be talked into it.
Well, this cat looked dumber than most but she must have had a little bit of sense because she didn't say a word as we went past. She just stared at us.
I supposed that was the end of it, but when we got past her, little Roscoe came trotting up to the front of the column. He had a worried expression on his face.
"Uncle Hank, that cat said something when we went past."
"Hold it! Halt!" The column came to a halt.
"What was that again? The cat said something? What exactly did the cat say?"
"She said, 'Your momma wears combat boots.' What does that mean, Uncle Hank?"
"What that means, young feller, is that we're fixing to have a demonstration of violence and bloodshed. About face! Follow me!"
And we marched back to teach some manners to a certain lard-tailed yellow cat.
Will Hank survive his trip to town? Will the town survive Hank's visit? Can cats really learn manners? Find out in Hank the Cowdog #3:It's a Dog's Life (Copyright John R. Erickson).