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Best Friend

March 2024
1min read

FOR YEARS, A COPY OF THIS PHOTOGRAPH HUNG IN THE HOUSE OF WENDELL C. HOLT’S grandfather, in Fairfield, Illinois. It shows Holt’s father, William, around the age of eight, and his dog Cap, a creature that to young William must have loomed as large as a horse. Mr. Holt tells us that Cap figures memorably in family lore: “Being located near the railroad tracks in southern Illinois, the Holt homestead was prey to invasion by occasional freight-hopping hoboes in pursuit of something to eat. While most of these vagrants were decent sorts who were guilty of nothing worse than being down on their luck, the bad apple sometimes appeared.

“That’s what happened one day when Grandma Holt was in her kitchen, scraping something together for the latest supplicant, whom she had left waiting on the back porch. Startled by the sound of the screen door opening, she looked up to see the transient standing inside the room. ‘What are you doing?’ Grandma asked. ‘I told you to wait outside.’

“The man moved toward her. ‘I know you have some money for me, haven’t you, little lady?’

“‘Cap!’ called Grandma.

“The big dog slowly rose from his bed behind the kitchen stove and yawned, while stretching to his full length, then sauntered into full view. The tramp’s face turned white as death. Extending his hands before him, he cried, ‘Please, ma’am, don’t let him at me. Please!’ Then he spun around and was out the door and gone.”

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