(Excerpted from The Pultenham County Sketchbook, by Tom Andrews)
“Leavin' as I was, I saw that I had better get some food put together 'fore I left. I was gonna' be goin' away from Putnam County for the first time ever, and I didn't think I'd ever be comin' back. I done been wooed by a crystal vendor on the west coast – a man I done met through an ad in one of them magazines – and I was gonna' go out and marry him. It all seemed a little odd, I know, but I loved the idea of bein' a mommy to a couple of chihuahuas.
I never even knew, really, that there was much out in the world aside from these pea fields and the cotton. I been up to Cotton City once with my aunt Della, but that was just for an afternoon. We had phosphates or sodas or something she called 'em. It was next to an ad for some kind of soda phosphate or something like that where I done seen the advertisement for meeting your dream and I done bit like a catfish on a tickler's thumb. Little did I know that there was a strange chapter awaitin'.
As time wore on and I was s'posed to head out west, I got a letter from the orphan who used to live near Blancher's but had moved up in the world and was doin' OK. Peter Switchback it was, but it was not so much a letter as it was a clipping. A newspaper clipping about the fellah' I was goin' to marry. Peter Switchback ain't never been someone to hurt another person, let alone speak bad of another human being. Like my daddy had said about him, Peter Switchback is so clean he wouldn't say crap if'n he had a mouth full of it. That's pretty clean in my book.
Anyway, Peter sent me a clipping of the crystal vendor and how he was running a charade and the whole of his supposed crystal therapy clinic was nothin' more than a front for a puppy mill. That's right. A puppy mill. He was raisin' little baby chihuahuas and sellin' em for profit. The mommy chihuahuas had their teeth all taken out so's they wouldn't fight with each other – you done heard of this, I know you have. I read it somewhere. Well, Peter found out about it and just dropped a friendly clipping in an envelope through my screen door just a couple of days 'afore I was gonna get goin'. I saw the envelope when I was packin' some potted meat and stuff for makin' frybread – I didn't know if they had potted meat on the west coast. I read the clipping and I felt like all the blood drained outta' my face and I just hadda' sit down.
I hate people who run puppy mills. Don't you? I hate it when people hafta' have those damn pure-bred dogs. My black dog is damn good, pardon my French, and he is the best dog you can imagine. What with all the strays and shelter dogs out there I don't see why anyone has to have a pure-bred. 'Specially not from a puppy mill.
I had all that money spent on a plane ticket, and I lost it all, but about a month later I got another envelope with the full amount of the plane fare in it. It was anonymous, but I done learned through the grapevine that Peter Switchback's lodge done raised the money over coffee one night after one of their Masonic meetings. I hear they're always doing things like that for people and churches and charities and such. They think no one knows who it is, but this is a small town.
But I know Pastor Williams says the Masons are an evil bunch, though, even though they helped me out of a tight pinch and I guess they got a soft spot for puppies and old folk and the poor and the hungry. 'Least some do, anyway. And some know how to do the right thing, as some do anywhere, but I want to shout it from the rooftops about the dogs and the dark that is in some people's hearts – the some who lie and the some who got greed comin' out their pores.
I was glad I had the potted meat on hand, anyway. My black dog, Barker, he and I sat down on the porch and shared that can of potted meat and I said a prayer of thanksgiving for Peter Switchback and those friends of his that he calls brothers.