Excerpt of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
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25 1/4 + 3 1/4 = 28 1/2
On another beam, a scribbled list:
tar 5 gal
2 lb nails
Edgar was shocked to find words inside the walls of his house, scrawled
by a man no one had ever seen. It made him want to peel open every wall,
see what might be written along the roofline, under the stairs, above the
doors. In time, by thought alone, Edgar constructed an image of Schultz
so detailed he neednt even squint his eyes to call it up. Most important
of all, he understood why Schultz had so mysteriously abandoned the
farm: hed grown lonely. After the fourth winter, Schultz couldnt stand
it anymore, alone with the ponies and the cows and no one to talk to, no
one to see what he had done or listen to what had happened - no one to
witness his life at all. In Schultzs time, as in Edgars, no neighbors lived
within sight. The nights must have been eerie.
And so Schultz moved away, maybe south to Milwaukee or west to
St. Paul, hoping to find a wife to return with him, help clear the rest of
the land, start a family. Yet something kept him away. Perhaps his bride
abhorred farm life. Perhaps someone fell sick. Impossible to know any of
it, yet Edgar felt sure Schultz had accepted his grandfathers offer with
misgivings. And that, he imagined, was the real reason the words kept
falling off the telegram.
Of course, there was no reason to worry, and Edgar knew that, too. All
that had happened forty years before he was born. His grandfather and
grandmother moved to the farm without incident, and by Edgars time
it had been the Sawtelle place for as long as anyone could remember.
John Sawtelle got work at the veneer mill in town and rented out the
fields Schultz had cleared. Whenever he came across a dog he admired, he
made a point to get down and look it in the eye. Sometimes he cut a deal
with the owner. He converted the giant barn into a kennel, and there
Edgars grandfather honed his gift for breeding dogs, dogs so unlike the
shepherds and hounds and retrievers and sled dogs he used as foundation
stock they became known simply as Sawtelle dogs.
And John and Mary Sawtelle raised two boys as different from one
another as night and day. One son stayed on the land after Edgars grand-
father retired to town a widower, and the other son left, they thought,
The one that stayed was Edgars father, Gar Sawtelle.
His parents married late in life. Gar was over thirty, Trudy, a few
years younger, and the story of how they met changed depending on
whom Edgar asked and who was within earshot.
It was love at first sight, his mother would tell him, loudly. He
couldnt take his eyes off me. It was embarrassing, really. I married him
out of a sense of mercy.
Dont you believe it, his father would shout from another room.
She chased me like a madwoman! She threw herself at my feet every
chance she got. Her doctors said she could be a danger to herself unless I
agreed to take her in.
On this topic, Edgar never got the same story twice. Once, theyd met
at a dance in Park Falls. Another time, shed stopped to help him fix a
flat on his truck.
No, really, Edgar had pleaded.
The truth was, they were longtime pen pals. Theyd met in a doctors
office, both of them dotted with measles. Theyd met in a department
store at Christmas, grabbing for the last toy on the shelf. Theyd met
while Gar was placing a dog in Wausau. Always, they played off each
other, building the story into some fantastic adventure in which they
shot their way out of danger, on the run to Dillingers hideout in the
north woods. Edgar knew his mother had grown up across the Minnesota
border from Superior, handed from one foster family to another, but that
was about all. She had no sisters or brothers, and no one from her side of
the family came to visit. Letters addressed to her sometimes arrived, but
she didnt hurry to open them.
Excerpted from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski Copyright © 2008 by David Wroblewski. Excerpted by
permission of Ecco, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.