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The boy at the river..
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Cindi    Posted 06-18-2003 at 06:23:11       [Reply]  [Send Email]
My kids asked me to take them down to the river to swim. It was a hot day, and in a rural area like ours, it's one of the few pleasurable activities that we can afford. My immediate reaction was a flat 'no'.

The Peace River flows smack through the middle of our small town, with the occasional park or boat ramp punctuating it’s banks at convenient intervals. It’s taken me awhile to get used to the concept of using this river for recreation, as it is not unusual to see the occasional alligator, sunning itself along the bank.

This day, though, my thoughts were not on the gators. Over time we have learned how to function around the gators, learned what to watch for. The river is full of people all the time, it's just a way of life in Florida, so far as I know, no one in this area has ever been attacked. The reason I didn't want to take them was something that happened last summer. Something that I still haven't gotten over.

On the particular day in question, the day that I still think of with a mixture of pity, fear, and dreadful sadness, the dangerous beast was not in the water or even an alligator. It was a boy. If I live forever, I'll never forget this boy.

I saw him when he came out of the woods, picking his way carefully through clumps of ferns and stepping over palmettos with practiced ease. His clothes were dirty and worn, and he was small in stature, dark headed. The only thing really alarming about his sudden appearance was the emaciated pit bull dog that he had tied to a short length of rope. It wasn't until I engaged him in conversation that he began to scare me.

"Nice dog." I said, even though it was an outright lie. The dog was practically starved to death, had runny eyes and assorted scrapes and cuts. The boy, probably in his late teens said...

"Thanks, but I'm trying to get rid of him." He replied with a slight hispanic accent.

"Why's that?" I asked, shielding my eyes from the sun with one hand.

"He's dangerous. Tries to bite."

I eyed the dog nervously and calculated the distance between us, did a quick inventory of the length of the rope and the distance between the three of us and my kids, who swam at the river’s edge and had as of yet, not noticed our visitor. The boy went on, providing the following information like he was relating a weather report.

"I tried drowning him in the river, but he swims too good, he wouldn’t stay under. I haven't fed him in days, but he just won't die. A couple friends of mine tied him to a tree in the woods and threw stuff at him but he just went behind the tree." He shrugged suddenly, the abrupt action yanking the slack out of the rope, and the dog flinched.

It occurred to me that I was not dealing with someone who was right in the head. My immediate reaction was to set about putting as much space between him and his dog, and me and my kids as quickly as possible.

I took a step back. I didn’t want to let on how frightened I was of this boy and his dog. The kids, by now, had noticed the boy and were one by one moving toward the bank. Their intent was clear, they were coming out to meet our visitor.

"You kids, get your shoes and walk along the bank to the ramp and get in the truck. We're gonna be late, Your dad is waiting for us."

"What about the cooler? You can't carry it alone." My son called up.

"Never mind the cooler, I'll get it, just do as I said!" I snapped. The boy hadn't taken his eyes off my face. Despite my fear, I had to tell him what I thought. I got the feeling that he wanted to hear what I thought.

"You know what you're doing is wrong.” I said gently. “You know you can take that animal to the pound and they'll find him a home. Why torture him?"

I bent down to gather up the blanket, and the empty soda cans and stuff them in the cooler. The boy took a step forward, I saw his feet move toward me as I was bent over involved in my task. It dawned on me suddenly that I had nothing to use for protection, and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The boy was almost in as bad a shape as the dog, but if he wanted to try something I had not only him, but the dog to deal with.

"Because he's mean.” The boy said simply. “Always has been. He'll bite you as quick as look at you."

I had all my bits and pieces crammed into the cooler, and now only had to figure out how to get it to the truck alone. I stood and gazed down at the dog.

"Did it occur to you that maybe he's mean because he's been mistreated?"

I felt a lump come up in my throat and was dangerously close to tears. I had a strong suspicion that the boy had been mistreated too, there was something about it in his eyes. Something like jealously, and hatred, and the loss of hope. Someone, somewhere, had neglected or abused this boy, and the result of that mistreatment was standing before me today, his dark eyes challenging me, his mouth set in a grim line.

"I treat him the way I do because he's mean!" The boy shouted, and I flinched involuntarily. The dog's head swung around and it pinned it’s eyes on me, it’s upper lip curled to reveal an amazingly white set of teeth, and he let out a soft, rumbling growl. Even after the he11 of his life at the hands of this boy, the dog was prepared to protect him.

"Well, I guess you do what you have to do." I said, and grabbed the handle of the cooler and started dragging it in the direction of the truck, my heart pounding like a bass drum.

I managed to get the cooler loaded and jumped into the truck, and made a bee line to the nearest pay phone.

"Sheriff's office, this line is being recorded, state your emergency."

I related what I had seen. I stressed the fact that I thought the dog was dangerous and not well restrained. They gave me the standard rigmarole that a crime had not been committed and there was nothing they could do.

"If I told you that he was walking around down there waving a loaded machine gun, would that make a difference?" I asked incredulously. I had visions of the dog breaking loose from his meager tether, attacking an innocent family out of revenge, or hunger or desperation.

Yes, that would have made a difference. That would have been something they could have reacted to. They didn't want to hear about what I thought, or what I felt, or what I suspected could happen.

"Try animal control."

At animal control there was a recording. I left my message and drove my kids home, to safety. A better person than me would have maybe taken the dog, but I couldn't, I was afraid. When an animal has been so mistreated it's like handling a grenade with no pin. You never know when it's going to go off and how bad it's going to be. I felt like I had failed the boy, or at the very least failed the dog. My husband has a saying when faced with situations like these..

"You can't raise everybody.."

True. This boy had been failed long ago. When it would have mattered most, and now with his dog he was continuing the tradition.

When my kids asked me to take them to the river and I said no, it was out of sheer reflex. I'll admit it, I'm still afraid. I have no doubt that the boy succeeded and the dog is dead by now, which can only be a good thing. That animal was ruined beyond any repair. It is my sad observation that the case may be the same with the boy.

Randy    Posted 06-18-2003 at 14:08:08       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Always makes me wonder if we ever find out if we passed or failed a certain test. Maybe if we even wonder if we passed then we answered the question.

Jimbob    Posted 06-18-2003 at 13:46:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
That story is why I live in a quite sparce part of Michigan. The winter is tough enough up here that most transients can not stay here- they simply do not have the resources to survive.

Kevin    Posted 06-18-2003 at 07:43:28       [Reply]  [No Email]
so sad for your kids, sad story, to bad that one instance ruined a lot of future pleasure, I'd go check out the area again without the kids, weirdos are everywhere you go you can't let them ruin your life or your kids, just use common sense, protect yourself don't let let them force you under a rock.

Cindi    Posted 06-18-2003 at 07:54:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
Oh I'm sure it was a fluke that we happened to be there at the same time, but the older I get the more nervous I get, and I am easily frightened off by things I can't comprehend. I understand snakes and alligators and other things like that but I don't understand heartless waste and meanness. That boy will grow into a man one day and perhaps have kids of his own and what is he going to teach them. The more I think about this kid the more I feel compelled to do something, but what? We have a lot of migrant workers in this area and he may be long gone by now. But what can one do to try and help the God knows how many others that are out there that are just like him?

Kevin    Posted 06-18-2003 at 08:31:10       [Reply]  [No Email]
You can start by continuing to raise children to be proper, wise to the world and god revering, not nec. in that order. I'm trying to make that my matter of priority. Be strong! Good Luck!

Mike D.    Posted 06-18-2003 at 07:29:58       [Reply]  [No Email]
Whew. Hard to tell what may have been, or what even is. Glad to read that you followed your instincts.

Cindi    Posted 06-18-2003 at 07:49:45       [Reply]  [No Email]
That's the second time in my life that I feel like a failed someone. The first time I was in a laundromat in Florida. There was a small family there using the facilities and one of the children, probably a boy of five, was pushing around one of those carts with the bar across the top to hang clothes on.

It caught on the edge of a table and tipped and the bar came down and hit the 'father' on the head. His reaction was to haul off and kick the kid. I was afraid to react although I did give him a mean stare but I doubt that had any real impact. He knew he was wrong, it was written all over his face, along with a dare, go ahead and say something. I should have called the law.

How old am I going to be before I'm not afraid to react anymore. It's no wonder we hear all these horror stories about kids abusing animals and other people. Lord help us.

lord help us?    Posted 06-18-2003 at 09:14:57       [Reply]  [No Email]
Lord help them, and continue counting your blessings- name them one by one. Why some suffer, and others don't? That is the question I want answered.
Mike D.

p.s. Don't beat yourself up Cindi. You did right by your own in that situation. Anything else is a bonus. Blood comes first.

Cindi    Posted 06-18-2003 at 09:32:50       [Reply]  [No Email]
I really do feel for those kids though. I was thinking really seriously about getting involved in maybe working as a volunteer with troubled kids, but I can't quite yet, I have a somewhat troubled boy of my own and two more to raise, but the time is coming when they will move on and I may go for it then.

As far as I'm concerned, not trying to help a kid like that is about the same as knowing he needs food and not offering any. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's just the way I feel.

understood.    Posted 06-18-2003 at 10:53:13       [Reply]  [No Email]
In some regards I feel the same way. Still Cindi, you did the right thing. Nobody knows how it could have played out. One thing for certain- start at home and work outward
Mike D.

Cindi    Posted 06-18-2003 at 11:12:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
Very true. I think the kids got a clue when I bawled half the way home. I told them, every gritty detail. The reacted appropriatley.

Linda    Posted 06-18-2003 at 23:58:16       [Reply]  [No Email]
A couple of comments, Cindi. First of all, thanks for sharing the story. You told it well and from the heart. But, you're right, you can't raise all the worlds' kids, as much as we mothers would like to help.

I would caution you that if you are ever in the same type of situation again, please don't worry about the cooler or other "things." Just get the heck out of there as quietly and efficiently as possible. You and I both know what's important is that the kids are safe and you are able to continue to take care of them. That might have been part of the boy's plan, but so what?

The police should have been informed that the boy used the dog to threaten your life. He really did, you know. And, maybe you did make that clear to them & you just have a lousy police department. But, he was threatening you with a deadly weapon. And in most places that's highly illegal.

We all have to make our own personal decisions, but I do legally carry a concealed firearm & have for several years. I was attacked in broad daylight in a very nice, and apparently safe, public park at a family reunion about 12 years ago. The man who attacked me did so with a modified meat hook he was using to pick up aluminum cans. It was several minutes before my husband realized what was happening and came to my rescue. The man beat him with the meat hook until I grabbed it and held on, and the man did break my husband's glasses deliberatly. But the police came and he was arrested and my husband went to the ER. We were both ok, just bruised. We filed charges and one police officer told us this fellow and his brother had been beating up other people since they were kids, but since it was a small town and most folks knew them, no one would press charges all those years. We did, and he was found guilty, got some jail time, and had to pay restitution.

So, I learned to handle guns in a safe manner, and practiced my shooting, and took a concealed carry class put on by my local police department, and there have been a couple of times since that I was very glad I had that protection with me, although I didn't have to show or use it.

Cindi    Posted 06-19-2003 at 03:31:25       [Reply]  [No Email]
Fred keeps nagging me (my husband) to do that. He has one, although he rarely carries a firearm unless he's traveling. Today he's going to Georgia to do a training course with two other men, work related, but I suspect there will be no less than three sidearms in that vehicle. Woe to the carjacker or mugger that chooses them as victims.

What's really ironic is that I could probably carry my shotgun to the river without having any problems or getting in trouble for having it there, because of the gators. I just never thought I would need it.

Linda    Posted 06-19-2003 at 12:21:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
So, tell me why you haven't learned more about firearms and/or aren't carrying a concealed weapon? I know most of us don't carry on a daily basis, but I'm just curious to know what's holding you back, if you don't mind sharing that information.

Cindi    Posted 06-19-2003 at 15:35:52       [Reply]  [No Email]
No, I don't mind. Time mostly, and I'm a little uncomfortable with the thought of walking around with a loaded weapon on my person as a matter of course. I would be afraid the temptation might be there to use it when I might could have got by without it. I guess what I mean to say is I may feel the need to justify the carrying. My husband has been carrying for ten years and has never used his.

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