Whitesburg KY
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Dog had right to fear lightning

Points East


Many of you already know that there are few things on earth that I love more than watching a good thunderstorm. If distant thunder awakens me in the wee hours of the night I will usually get out of bed, grab a camera, and head for the front porch swing hoping that a storm will soon roll in.

If I had back all the money that I’ve wasted over the last four decades on film and photo processing in pursuit of my attempts to get the “perfect” lightning shot, I could easily afford to purchase the high-dollar, top-of-theline Nikon digital camera that I currently covet to the point of sinfulness.

If I had back all the sleep I’ve lost in said pursuit, I’d also be a better rested man.

Normally, when a storm moves in close, I try to get in my truck and away from trees. One does not have to be a lightning rod to enjoy a storm but I will admit that I have, on occasion, taken risks that fit well within the definition of insanity.

Suffice to say that when one is outside in a storm and one’s hair stands on end, one’s skin goes to tingling and one has a sour taste in one’s mouth even though one is not eating a lemon, one should find a hole to crawl into or at least get back inside one’s truck.

I normally follow that advice and so far the only bodily harm I’ve experienced is a substantial loss of hearing in my left ear that came about when lightning took out a huge maple tree not 10 feet from where I was standing.

Uncle Willie Adams’s favorite dog, a mountain cur named Ole Pudge, was not so lucky.

The story that I recall had Uncle Willie and Pudge squirrel hunting in the head of Blair Branch in Letcher County on a hot, late-August afternoon when a storm blew in. Uncle Willie found shelter in a small cliff overhang but both he and the dog had gotten wet.

Uncle Willie decided that there was not room for both him and a wet dog in the small space so he shooed Pudge out of the hole after deciding that the rain might offer a good bath and make him smell better.

Ole Pudge took up shelter under a huge oak tree a few feet away and suddenly lightening hit it, knocked off a great limb, and stripped the bark off one side of the tree.Uncle Willie said it put off intense heat and he could even smell the wood burning.

The blast knocked Ole Pudge several feet down the hillside and he lay there like he was dead for several minutes. Uncle Willie, fearing for his own life, didn’t dare check on his dog until the storm abated.

But when he did, Ole Pudge came right out of it and hobbled home behind him.

A few days later the sky was cloudy and it looked like rain – perfect weather for squirrel hunting. Uncle Willie grabbed his gun, called his dog and headed for the woods but Ole Pudge wouldn’t budge from the porch and even commenced growling and barking at my uncle who muttered something about getting rid of a dog too sorry to hunt and went on into the woods by himself.

Sure enough, a storm blew in and Uncle Willie hurried home but Old Pudge was not on the porch. Aunt Lona said he’d nearly knocked the door down getting inside at the first sound of thunder and that he was back under the bed whining and shaking with fear.

I don’t remember when Old Pudge finally died nor what killed him. But everyone in the head of Blair Branch knew his habit of getting inside a house at any cost if a storm was brewing. I can recall one instance when he left only a wide gaping hole in the spot where my dad had hung a brand new screen door only a day or so earlier.

Last week I was in the parking lot at an office building near Lake Reba Park in Richmond and there was thunder in the distance.

Suddenly a mix-breed, longlegged, mostly-yellow dog came tearing from the park with his leash flying like a kite string behind him. He skidded to a halt beside a big SUV and began bellowing at the passenger door like he’d treed a bear.

Moments later a young fellow came running up all out of breath and began trying to calm the dog.

“I don’t know what got into him,” the guy said. “I’m keeping him for my aunt who is on vacation and he’s been perfectly behaved until just minutes ago.”

The thunder rolled again and the dog hunkered to the ground and began whimpering. I told the guy he must have been hit by lightning.

“His name isn’t Pudge, is it?” I asked.

“Yeller,” he replied and I was wondering why I even asked but the fellow wanted to know.

“He sure looks like Ole Pudge,” I told him. “Pudge got hit by lightning,” I said as though that might explain everything.

“Gotta go grab a camera,” I said as I envisioned a streak of lightning, perfectly framed, coming out of the sky into the dead trees standing there in the lake in that little cove right beside the golf course.


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