Quote of the Week:

"He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." (Jim Elliot)

Drop me a line if you want to be notified of new posts to SiTG:

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!
My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Woodlief. Make your own badge here.

The Best of Sand:

The Blog
Greatest Hits
DVD Reviews
Faith and Life
Judo Chops
The Literate Life
News by Osmosis
The Problem with Libertarians
Snapshots of Life
The Sermons

Creative Commons License
All work on this site and its subdirectories is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Search the Site:

Me Out There:

Free Christmas
Don't Suffer the Little Children
Boys to Men
A Father's Dream
WORLD webzine posts

Not Non-Fiction
The Grace I Know
Coming Apart
My Christmas Story

The Craft:

CCM Magazine
Charis Connection
Faith in Fiction
Grassroots Music

Favorite Journals:

Atlantic Monthly
Doorknobs & Bodypaint
Image Journal
Infuze Magazine
Missouri Review
New Pantagruel
Southern Review

Blogs I Dig:

Education & Edification:

Arts & Letters Daily
Bill of Rights Institute
Junk Science
U.S. Constitution

It's good to be open-minded. It's better to be right:

Stand Athwart History
WSJ Opinion


Home School Legal Defense
Institute for Justice
Local Pregnancy Crisis
Mission Aviation
Prison Ministries
Russian Seminary
Unmet Needs


Cox & Forkum
Day by Day

Donors Hall of Fame

Susanna Cornett
Joe Drbohlav
Anthony Farella
Amanda Frazier
Michael Heaney
Don Howard
Laurence Simon
The Timekeeper
Rob Long
Paul Seyferth

My Amazon.com Wish List

Add to Technorati Favorites

March 14, 2005
Look Before You Leap

We're playing in the back yard, soaking up the last warmth before another cold front rolls in. I'm kicking a miniature soccer ball around and Caleb and Eli are squealing as they chase it, periodically whacking me in the shins with their little sneakers. Caleb has learned to throw his body into mine in order to make space to steal the ball. Eli hasn't learned this, nor has he learned that the only place where the ball absolutely will not be is where it lies when he begins one of his full-tilt charges. I feel a little guilty, like when you give your dog a peanut butter cracker and watch him lick at it incessantly after it gets stuck to the top of his mouth. But if you can't enjoy your children, why have them?

I pick up a little red ball and say, "Hey boys, watch this." I drop-kick it high into the air, inspiring them each to utter "ohhhhh" as it launches. It arcs as the earth pulls it back home, and then it lands with a thud on the other side of the short picket fence running along the edge of our back yard.

A relevant piece of information in this story is that our neighbors own two gigantic furry beasts that are "dogs" in the same sense that Hummers are "passenger vehicles." No kidding, when we first moved in and before I was sure they couldn't get over the fence, I kept my handgun close by when the kids were out back. But the dogs proved fairly passive and immobile, and today they weren't even outside.

Or so I thought, as I put my hands on top of the fence and propelled myself over it.

Now, if you're a giant, hulking, protective canine, and you want to catch someone invading your space, about the only place you can hide in that yard is behind a little scrap of tall fence that precedes the long run of short fence comprising most of our border. This is how I know he wanted me to jump the fence, because he was crouched behind the tall section. Had this been a court of law, I might have gone free with this proof of entrapment.

But this was not court, this was High Noon, and my gun was safely, uselessly tucked away in my bedroom. As an aside, I know they have statistics on how locking up your sidearm leads to fewer accidental shootings, but do they track the cost of fewer on purpose shootings? Just pointing out that gun safety isn't always.

Not that I could have blamelessly shot the creature; I was in his yard after all, and it's just not Christian to jump your neighbor's fence and shoot his dog. That may be something they would do, say, in New York City -- if they had guns and yards, that is -- but not down here. It's not that we're less violent, mind you, it has more to do with the fact that if you shoot a man's dog down south, he's liable to jump your fence and shoot you back.

I confess that this thinking has only occurred in retrospect. My immediate thought as I landed to the sound of a deep, fearsome growl was less edifying. Think Sergeant Hulka in "Stripes," as the errant mortar round whistles toward him, and you have the extent of my eloquence in a moment of duress.

Now here's an interesting geographical tidbit about Tony's back yard: it's sloped, such that the fence is considerably taller from the other side. I wouldn't have known that, had I not been standing seven feet from a furry monster with an alarming ability to accelerate. Were I not over there with him, the difficult return leap would have given me comfort as I contemplated his irritation.

But I believe in a God of miracles, and more importantly in this case, a God who equips our bodies with a natural wonder-drug called "adrenaline." Adrenaline, I can now attest, has the remarkable property of enabling one to leap with all the vigor and dignity of a cricket on crack.

As I scrambled back over the fence, I saw the distinctive personalities of my sons on display. Caleb stood a safe distance from the fence and pointed out that I was leaving his ball to the mercies of the dog. Eli, meanwhile, had laid hold of the fence with both hands and was halfway up it.

I landed and peeled the brave little idiot boy off the fence as the dog reached the opposite side. I swear I could smell human flesh on his breath. Or maybe it was just squirrel. It was definitely something that had been a reluctant meal. I shepherded the boys away from the fence, to the sounds of Caleb's protests.

"But Daddy, you forgot my ball!"

"Dude, did you see the big dog?"

"Yeah, and he's gonna eat my ball!"

"Would you rather him eat your ball, or your Daddy?"

Not yet instinctive in his telling of little white lies, Caleb weighed the options.

"Listen," I said as I maneuvered to obstruct his line of sight, not wanting him to suffer the trauma of seeing his ball devoured, "we have other balls." Having just come close to providing a new chew toy to a waist-high carnivore, I was exquisitely aware of this fact, let me assure you.

He contorted his body to look around mine, equally determined to see. "But not another red one."

The dog sniffed the ball, harrumphed, and squatted down beside it to taunt us. Not wanting my sons to see their old man bested, I came up with a brilliant solution. "Hey boys, let's throw the Frisbee!"

"Oh, okay," said Caleb.

"Frisbee!" shouted his brother, no doubt thinking this would present another opportunity to climb into the mouth of danger.

"You know, the wind isn't very strong back here. Let's take it to the front yard."

I think I saw the dog smirking as we left him in possession of the red ball. Yes, fine, you're the bigger dog. But my sons still think I'm tougher than I really am, and for all your ability to intimidate, you still have to scratch yourself with your teeth. So bite me.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Posted by Woodlief on March 14, 2005 at 08:52 AM


Oh, my. I AM laughing. Though I'm sorry it's at your expense. My goodness, how amusing.

I'm tempted just to go and buy you a whole CASE of red balls.

And I ain't scared of dogs, though from the way you describe this one, I might just keep a respectful distance, like you did ;)

Posted by: MMM at March 14, 2005 9:09 AM

Ah yes. Of *course* daddy would rather play in the front yard. :P

Posted by: Anonymous at March 14, 2005 1:57 PM

That last post was me. I got all excited and pressed the "forget personal info" button. :/

Posted by: Michael at March 14, 2005 1:58 PM

Don't jump the fence if you can't run with the big dogs!

Maybe next time you could just try reasoning with the dog and agree to a non-violent solution to the WMB (wildly moved ball). Sanctions will probably be ineffective, but a Ball-for-Food program may be satisfactory.

Posted by: MarcV at March 14, 2005 2:20 PM

Tony--Thanks!!! You made my week.

Posted by: Susan Imrie at March 14, 2005 2:33 PM

You realize he could smell your fear, but you probably still smelled brave to your boys.

Posted by: Teem at March 14, 2005 2:46 PM

"So bite me.

Figuratively speaking, of course."

That summs it all up, Tony. Too funny!

Posted by: Danielle at March 14, 2005 9:05 PM

Too cute, Tony! Fortunately for us, our neighbor's dog is too dumb to hurt anyone, but he is awfully pretty & sweet.

Posted by: Monika at March 15, 2005 1:23 AM

Well told!

Excellent story.

; )

Posted by: Christina at March 15, 2005 2:46 PM

Great story! I was picturing it all the way and laughing!! It reminded me of the movie Sandlot, where some boys hit a baseball into a yard with a vicious, slimy, dog to get a precious ball signed by Babe Ruth, that the boy should never have borrowed from his step dad in the first place! Hmmmm, a lesson in there somewhere!

Posted by: Sunnysue at March 16, 2005 1:35 AM

Uncle Hulka?

Posted by: michael snyder at March 17, 2005 12:12 PM

Lighten up, Francis.

Posted by: Tony at March 18, 2005 7:58 AM