General Santa Anna Besieges Our House

Ernie On Guard

Ernestine on guard.


The New Year began with an urgent warning.

"Mexicans, Colonel! Thousands of them! I can see them from the parapet!"

"Ernestine," I groaned sleepily, "Let's get a few things straight."

"First, my name is not Colonel."

"Second, we call it the 'back deck,' not the parapet."

"Third, that is not the Mexican army. That's Pastor Nicholson and his dogs."

"Fourth, we have been at peace with Mexico since eighteen..."


But Ernestine didn't hear. She was already off to rally the defenders at the south portal, or what we foolish humans call the "back door."

"We should never have rented that Alamo movie," I griped.

"How could we have known she was paying attention?"

"Good point. You never really know what parts the dogs are picking up."

Living on a bare hillside with a commanding view brings many pleasures: the bay in the distance, with its boats and its lighthouse; the muted blue of the far-off mountains; the jewel necklace across the water every evening.

The dogs care for none of that, however; what they notice is the daily parade of strangers taking advantage of a prime dog-walking route: up the hill on the side road, around the front on our street, then down the block and out of sight. Diligent watchdogs that they are, the Newfies announce the approach of each party with bravado. Outdoors, they rise on hind legs and shout warnings across the fence; indoors they follow the invaders' every movement from window to window to window.

The brown dog dashed back into the bedroom. "Come on, will you? They're moving around our flank! If we don't do something soon, they'll have us surrounded!"

What makes the pandemonium so silly is that when the occasional Newf-savvy person does walk up to the fence for a closer look, everything changes in an instant. Tails wag, tongues lick, and every bit of dog language proclaims, "Oh, it's you! I remember you, I think! You're my friend! I am so embarrassed!"

"You know, as long as you're here, I've got an itch- could you scratch my belly for a minute? Little lower... yeah, there... that's great. So, how ya been, anyway?"

Now Mary has joined in. While Ernestine and her mother bellow at the bay window, Mary runs round and round in tight circles, barking hysterically. Nelson, meanwhile, retreats downstairs to his basement couch, hoping against hope that today is the day the noisy guests will go home, wherever that might be.

"Ernestine!" I yelled above the din. "Would you shut up a minute? I have a special mission for you."

"A mission, Colonel? I'm ready!"

"I need you to run to Goliad for help. You'll find it pretty easily- it's a straight shot down I-35 once you get to Minnesota, keep right on through to Texas. Now, get going!"

"Never mind," said my wife. "I'm wide awake."

"Yeah, me too. Happy New Year, I guess. Any of you dogs want breakfast?"


Next: This May Be A Long Weekend