Day after day Spasher gained more courage under the tutelage of Herkimor in the fine art of chasing trains and keeping them away from the territory. Before long they both chased the trains with equal ability and fervor.
One bright day – a beautiful day, a day of sunshine and trees bending to and fro at the mastery of the wind. The train came, the dogs gave chase, but did not return.
Dickie was torn between looking for the dogs and his duty to warn the kids of Chuck’s return. He walked down the tracks and saw the lifeless body of Splasher.
Tears and grief were uncontrollable as Dickie fell to his knees between the tracks. He nudged Splasher and the only motion was that initiated by his urging. He had only heard about death now he felt its thrust. He wept and sobbed. He could not move. He didn’t want to move. He thought his presence would somehow bring him back to life. A flood a memories rushed in on him; running, wrestling, jumping, petting, and chasing – all the things a boy does with his dog.
“Why Herkimor!” Dickie cried. “Why did you have to chase trains and teach Splasher.”
A shadow fell over Dickie. He turned and blocking the sun Chuck stood over him. Dickie jerked and fear gripped him. Chuck had a weather-beaten plank at his side. It looked as if it was something that fell from a train years earlier.
Chuck walked down the side of the railroad bed. He scraped a grave with the plank. Chuck picked up Spasher’s body and gently laid it in the small grave.
“You want to help?” Chuck said as he used his hands to shove the dirt over the grave.
Dickie helped Chuck. When all the dirt was on the grave Chuck patted the grave to firm the dirt.
Dickie cried again and Chuck gently placed his hand on Dickie’s shoulder.
Herkimor could not be found. Dickie’s Mom and Dad said that he must be someplace grieving.
The next day the four o’clock passenger train whizzed by without the presence of Herkimor.
Dickie walked the short distance to where a creek runs close to the tracks. He spotted a clearing in the weeds and walked to the grave. On the grave was Herkimor. Dickie edged closer. Herkimor did not move. Dickie called his name. Herkimor did not move. Dickie nudged him. Herkimor was stiff. He was dead.
Chuck came a few minutes later and next to Splasher they buried Herkimor.
Dickie and Chuck walked up to the tracks and headed back to Serenity. As they got close Chuck said, “You better run and tell the kids I’m coming.”
“You’re nice,” Dickie said.
Chuck smiled. “If you don’t run I’ll eat you up.”
Dickie smiled. He ran ahead and warned the other kids Chuck was on his way.
A few years later it was reported Doc died and there was no one to care for Chuck. It was said he was put into an institution, because he couldn’t care for himself.
Doc and Chuck are a distant memory. A memory of family devotion under trying circumstances.
Serenity was a place of endless Summers, tall trees, creeks, railroads, people, bare foot kids, and dogs.
In a small clearing next to the tracks where a creek runs gentle, and quiet the sun shines, the trees sway. There are two graves with two dogs who once romped and played and chased trains – Herkimor and Splasher.
And someplace; Dickie doesn’t know where, but only in his imagination are the graves of two men, Chuck and Doc who may only be remembered by him, nonetheless they form a part of his past and are remembered with compassion and the dignity that escaped them in life.