Billy and Captain took to Vis pup at once. The two men walked into Billys backyard to discuss the merits of each of the pups in Captains litter and after a while one came bumbling over and that decided things. John Sawtelle put the spare collar on the pup and they spent the afternoon parked by a lake, shore fishing. Gus ate bits of sunfish roasted on a stick and they slept there in front of a fire, tethered collar to belt by a length of string.
The next day, before heading home, Edgars grandfather thought hed drive around a bit. The area was an interesting mix: the logged-off parts were ugly as sin, but the pretty parts were especially pretty. Like the falls. And some of the farm country to the west. Most especially, the hilly woods north of town. Besides, there were few things he liked better than steering the Kissel along those old back roads.
Late in the morning he found himself navigating along a heavily washboarded dirt road. The limbs of the trees meshed overhead. Left and right, thick underbrush obscured everything farther than twenty yards into the woods. When the road finally topped out at a clearing, he was presented with a view of the Penokee range rolling out to the west, and an unbroken emerald forest stretching to the north - all the way, it seemed, to the granite rim of Lake Superior. At the bottom of the hill stood a little white farmhouse and a gigantic red barn. A milk house was huddled up near the front of the barn. An untopped stone silo stood behind. By the road, a crudely lettered sign read, For Sale.
He pulled into the rutted drive. He parked and got out and peered through the living room windows. No one was home. The house looked barely finished inside. He stomped through the fields with Gus in his arms and when he got back he plunked himself down on the running board of the Kissel and watched the autumn clouds soar above.
John Sawtelle was a tremendous reader and letter writer. He especially loved newspapers from faraway cities. Hed recently happened across an article describing a man named Gregor Mendel - a Czechoslovakian monk, of all things - who had done some very interesting experiments with peas. Had demonstrated, for starters, that he could predict how the offspring of his plants would look - the colors of their flowers and so on. Mendelism, this was being called: the scientific study of heredity. The article had dwelt upon the stupendous implications for the breeding of livestock. Edgars grandfather had been so fascinated that hed gone to the library and located a book on Mendel and read it cover to cover. What hed learned occupied his mind in odd moments. He thought back on the vision (if he could call it that) that had descended upon him as he shook Captains paw at The Hollow. It was one of those rare days when everything in a persons life feels connected. He was twenty-five years old, but over the course of the last year his hair had turned steely gray. The same thing had happened to his grandfather, yet his father was edging up on seventy with a jet black mane. Nothing of the kind had happened to either of his elder brothers, though one was bald as an egg. Nowadays when John Sawtelle looked into the mirror he felt a little like a Mendelian pea himself.
He sat in the sun and watched Gus, thick-legged and clumsy, pin a grasshopper to the ground, mouth it, then shake his head with disgust and lick his chops. Hed begun smothering the hopper with the side of his neck when he suddenly noticed Edgars grandfather looking on, heels set in the dirt driveway, toes pointed skyward. The pup bucked in mock surprise, as if hed never seen this man before. He scrambled forward to investigate, twice going tail over teakettle as he closed the gap.
It was, John Sawtelle thought, a lovely little place.
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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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