Growing up as I did in the hinterlands of Nebraska was a profound and moving experience. The relentless winds of the Great Plains howled maudlin concerts across the prairie, with seething fields of golden grain set waving and heaving back and forth by torrid currents of the same. This was the land of my forefathers, and those who had come before had cultivated an untamed and wild soil in the latter days of Manifest Destiny. We who came after could only hope to follow their hearty example. It was a fantastic and exotic place to grow up.
As kids do, we would dash across those same fields of sod and furrow until our hearts fairly leapt from our chests in protest and exhaustion. The expanse of flat and endless black earth made the world seem infinite, and our dreams were rooted as fast as the mulch we turned. The triumphs of our collective youth were realized in these vistas, and along for the ride of a lifetime was Melancholy, our happy spaniel.
And then one day she abruptly left us, as if the confines of home, hearth, and mind could no longer hold such a free and untamed spirit. Along with her departure went what was left of our youth. Like a tempest that lifts an unpinned sheet on a clothesline, Melancholy’s death took aloft and away every semblance of our childhood, and stood as a talisman for what was yet to come in our more lackluster adult years.
We found out later that an errant and aloof buffalo had chased Melancholy into the gears of a working combine. That was alright; we didn’t much like her smell anyhow. And her bark was irritating, not unlike the sound of chipped and uneven fingernails on a chalkboard.
Sometime later, we acquired a spotted and rancid ferret named Filberto.