Hiney Scrabble must have stood there in the middle of the Blue River pulling on that rope for close to half an hour. By the time, Sheriff Mac and Uncle Bill got down to the same stairway Rome Kowski had rolled down, Hiney was huffing and puffing like a forge billow. It was his brawn against the powerful pull of the river. And he was determined to win.
Mac and Bill borrowed a canoe from Les McAdams who owned the bait shop a block upriver. On such short notice, it was the best they could get to rescue us. A boat with a motor would have served the pur-pose better, but with the situation getting beyond desperate, the canoe would have to do.
“Hold on!” Mac called, as he paddled to get out to the middle of the river. “We’ll get you out of the drink in a mad minute!”
Hiney gave a loud laugh, his guffaws echoing across the water. “Speaking of drink,” he chuckled, “a shot and a pint be a good reward for saving these hooligans!”
The first thing to go into the canoe as Mac and Uncle Bill pulled alongside Hiney was the burlap bag he’d been holding onto all this time. He’d slung it around his thick neck as he fought the suck of the river, and he looked mighty relieved as he flung it aboard the canoe and it landed at Mac’s feet.
Dec took that old saying that a captain goes down with his ship literally because as Mac latched onto the side of the boat, he tossed Baxster over into Uncle Bill’s arms. Once his beagle was settled at Bill’s feet, he sent Cooper over the side and flying into the middle of the canoe. Turning to me, Dec said, “You’re next, Hawk. Don’t fall in the river!”
Thirty seconds after I launched myself over the side of Mose Hadley’s boat and landed in the canoe, Dec was safe beside me. Mac, in the stern of the canoe, paddled with firm and even strokes, turning us around and heading us back to the bank. “Hiney?” Mac called over one shoulder. “Hold on just a little longer! We’ll be back to get you!”
Looking all lonely like in the middle of those dark waters, Hiney called back, “Sheriff Mac, you better hurry! I’m getting awful tired!”
When we pulled up alongside the dock at the end of that stairway, Uncle Bill tossed me to Roman Kowski standing on the dock waiting for our arrival. Bill then flung Dec into Rome’s outstretched hands. Cooper leaped onto the dock and Uncle Bill gently handed Baxster over to us waiting to catch the smaller beagle.
It was just as Mac and Uncle Bill got that canoe turned around that we heard a mighty roar from the middle of the river. Unfortunately, the boat finally won out. Hiney lost his footing, and being attached to the boat by the rope wrapped so tightly around his one arm, he was drug behind the craft as it careened toward the dam thirty feet downstream. That current was too strong. The last we saw of Hiney before he went floundering and flailing over the dam, was him coming untangled from the rope and that rushing water carried him on over and dumping him in the madly churning waters six-feet below.
A second later, Mose Hadley’s boat shattered on the rocks below. Tears sprang to Dec’s eyes as he whispered, “We killed Hiney!”
Mac and Uncle Bill desperately searched for any sign of Hiney in that churning white water at the bottom of the dam. They only lasted for a minute or two, before they had to paddle backwards to keep from being swept over the dam, too. They then turned the canoe toward the far bank, so they could abandon it and search along the river for the giant man who had saved our lives. I was just standing on my tiptoes so I could see over the dam from the dock nearly sixty feet away, when Dec bumped into me as he tried to get away from the burlap sack that was moving at his feet. Cooper and Baxster growled at the sack.
“Here,” Roman Kowski said, reaching down to grab the burlap sack. “I’ll take care of that. They’re going in the river where they belong.”
Cooper suddenly took a protective stance, his hackles raised and a serious growl contorting the features of his face. My dog did not want Roman to touch that sack for some reason, and I had to step up to the plate and back him. Even if it meant slapping Roman’s big hands away as he reached out to snatch it up from the dock.
Roman’s look of surprise quickly turned into an ugly sneer. Snorting in disgust, his eyes strayed past us to the burlap sack now on the other side of Cooper. “Maybe you peckerwoods,” Roman snarled in a wicked whisper, “should have been drowned when you were little, too!”
But Cooper stopped the irate man dead in his tracks as he lunged at him. One part of me wished that my dog would bite Roman. The other part of me, however, knew that once a dog in our town bit someone they were considered vicious and needed to be put down. Fortunately, Cooper merely grazed the fly of Roman’s overalls with his teeth. Baxster tore into Roman’s booted feet, nipping and snarling and carrying on like he was a wild Bengal tiger. Dec and I had a hard time holding back our laughter as the big man literally danced a jig there on the dock. Rome cursed at us in some strange jabbering, then darted up the stairway and disappeared when he got to the top of the bank. Dropping to one knee to calm a still growling Baxster, Dec said, “He sure wanted that sack to go into the river.”
Kneeling down beside the burlap sack, I slowly opened it and looked down at three tiny furry faces peering back up at me. “Puppies?” I said. “Rome was trying to drown them! And Hiney was trying to save them!”
Dec said, “And we killed poor Hiney stealing that boat, Hawk.”
On the far bank, Mac shouted, “Bill, he’s coming to the surface!”
Uncle Bill’s words came across the water to us, “Is he dead or alive?”
“Haruff!” exploded into the air at the bottom of the dam. “Arrrrr!” came next, and finally, “Holy Jesus, this water is cold!”
And there, risen from the dead, was Hiney Scrabble, the hero of the day, truly still amongst the living.