A dog is a man’s best friend. A dog is more faithful than most other animals—and more faithful than many people. -- The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.
We have from J.D. Tuccille at the Civil Liberties Eaminer here the all-too-common tale of law enforcement raid parties killing dogs. As his headline reads:
Police shootings of dogs may reveal their attitudes toward the public.
The apparent police vendetta against dogs continues. This time, officers in Buffalo, New York, stormed into a home during the course of a search for drugs, gunned the dogs down in front of the family, and then left without making any arrests.
Tuccille then quotes Randall Lockwood of the Humane Society of the United States:
"Most instances in which police shoot dogs are avoidable. These incidents often underscore other problems, whether in policies, procedures, communication or training."
You know, I don't think this is about communication or training. I'm with Tuccille, this is attitudinal, ingrained. This is what predatory raiders do. The first shots at Waco, you may recall, were those fired by the ATF killing the Davidians' dogs, which led in typical ill-trained ATF fashion to a fusillade while Koresh was still standing in the open doorway. The agents of the ATF have always been hell on dogs, when they're not stomping kittens to death as in the Harry Lamplugh raid.
You see, Tuccille's story struck a deeper chord with me, for I have been studying for some months the question of what John Robb's "resilient communities" might look like in the wake of an economic collapse. I have come to the conclusion that they could very much look like the pioneer "stations" of our early frontier. Take Freeland's Station, for example.
The site of Freeland's Station is marked today by a historical marker stuck in the median of Nashville's on 8th Avenue North (U.S. 41). It reads:
On this site stood one of the principal stations of the Cumberland Settlements. Felix Robertson, son of Col. James Robertson and the first white child born in the Settlement, was born here, Jan. 11, 1781. On Jan. 15 the fort was heavily attacked by Indians, who were repulsed and driven westward.
One of the buck-apiece library discard sale books I picked up the other day is a first edition copy of Harriette Simpson Arnow's marvelously well documented history of Middle Tennessee's early years entitled Seedtime on the Cumberland (MacMillan, 1960). She presents a vivid picture of the men and women of pioneer Tennessee and their struggles. Dogs, Arnow notes, were an integral part of frontier life.
The man of the west was not much given to jewelry of any form. Whatever love of ornamment he had was reserved for "her," meaning his gun, not his wife, for by 1775 there were a few rifle stocks inlaid with silver or even gold. Dieverbaugh's feat in the Illinois of seven years before would have been considered but "indifferent marksmanship": and a proffered target of a barrelhead at one hundred paces an insult. A seven-inch target at 250 paces was not uncommon in the Revolution.
Following the custom of the border, "all male inhabitants carried their rifle-barreled firelocks wherever they went." She was still much like the earlier rifle with full stock amd hexagonal barrel, though some by now had set- or double-trigger guns, as these began to be used about 1770.
Seen through today's eyes many of the . . . white men would look small and scrawny. . . Many were no more than an inch or so above five feet, most were less than five six, and rare indeed were the six-footers. Small, many no doubt were, but tough, the way groundhog hide or hickory is tough, and not in the present meaning of the word.
At the heels of many were from one to half a dozen dogs of all shapes and sizes and varieties, feists and coon dogs and big rough bear dogs, but all able to do in a pinch most any thing any other dog could do, and mongrels all. -- p.187
Here is Arnow's description, compressed, of the fight at Freeland's Station:
In the bright moonlight and to the Indians creeping through the shadows, the place, small and unfinished, with no blockhouse, only cabins at the corners, looked peaceful and defenseless as any farm. So did all the forts in the nackwoods look, for they had "neither ramparts, nor ditch, nor parapet, no outpost, nor out sentry." Freeland's Station had even less of a warlike air than most. . . -- p. 284
There is no record of what tribe or tribes -- for by now many Indian towns held mixtures, not only of Indians but of white men -- were represented by the braves who ringed Freeland's Station. The barking of the dogs, sounding first here and then there as they ran round and round (inside) the walls, must have reached a wild crescendo as one Indian, standing on the shoulders of another, sprang over the high gate, swiftly unbarred it, so that more Indians, soundless and swift as water over a smooth rock, could rush in and sieze horses. Charlotte once again asked James to go see why the dogs barked so. This time he got out of bed, opened the nearby door, looked into the fort enclosure, and in the moonlight saw Imdians trying to get horses through the gate. His yell of "Indians" rang through all the cabins. -- p. 289
The Cumberlander always yelled in battle; his war whoop was his drum, fife, uniform and flag; it not only gave him heart but it sometimes tricked the Indian, for many yells betokened many men, and so they must have yelled that night, at least the men; women and children would have kept silent as quail in cover. . . the women would have had little time or mind for anything save the loading of the guns; working quick and certain in the dark, a timid one maybe wondering if the heat of the gun, almost too hot to handle, would explode the powder as she rammed the bullet down, but most concerned only with making certain the pinch of priming hit the pan and the touchable was open and the flint sharp. . .
Robertson, Zachariah White, George Freeland, Jonathan, and Mark at last got the Indians out of the station and the gate latched; but this was only the first round. The battle went on for four or five hours, the tumult unabating; the Indians "howled like wolves," and tried to fire the station. They never succeeded. Many accounts are given of women putting out fires on blazing roofs while their men manned portholes below. . . They were happy when dawn came, just looking at each other and finding all but two alive. . . Up the hill at French Lick there must have been a deal of unrest during the night with men by portholes and women fingering powder chargers in the dark, for next morning as soon as it was light, and in spite of lurking Indians, men came from there. It was decided to abandon Freeland's, at least temporarily. -- p 291-292
The survivors of Freeland's Station fled up the hill to the better-defended, yet still unfinished stockade at French Lick and over the next couple of months tried to pull their lives back together, haunted always by the prospect of starvation attendant to the destruction of crops and livestock that the Indian raids always brought. Arnow continues,
Fighting the Indian was never on the Cumberland an end in itself. The supreme goal of all endeavor was to get on with the business of living, and this in the summer of 1781 was not easy. The first job was to strengthen the stations. George Freeland and a few other men held Freeland's. while Robertson and his family continued at Buchanan's (Station) at French Lick. . .
It is doubtful if many of the settlers at French Lick had, at sunrise on April 1, 1781, eaten breakfast, but all were busy; men out hunting, women at the milking, and Zachariah White in the schoolhouse hearing his scholars recite their lessons . . . when the Indians attacked. . . The battle was brief. The Indians appeared to have contented themselves with the usual stealing of what horses were outside the fort walls. . . It looked as if the whites had won a victory. -- p. 293-294
All the men save the mortally wounded schoolteacher, Zachariah White, went in pursuit of the small party on horseback. However, Arnow writes,
The quick disappearance of the Indians had been a decoy, not a retreat; the creek bluff swarmed with Indians; some say as many as five hundred. They were roughly divided into two parties; one up near the fort walls waiting to seize the station, the other hidden in the brush and cedars "down by the branch." It was these who first attacked the little army. At the first scalp cry of the Indians, the white men sprang from their saddles, "took tree," fired, and then tried to reload with Indians firing at them from every direction. Up at the fort the watching women and the whining dogs, shut up when the men rode away, could only listen to the shots, the white man's yell, and the Indian's whoop. Some may have reloaded the swivel, and some may have stood by the portholes with loaded guns. . .
The battle down by the branch in the cedars and cane was . . . the bloody hand to hand encounters of men too hard pressed to reload, and so forced to fight with hatchets, clubbed guns, and nmore rarely knives. Unlike the British soldier, the American never whittled the handle of his big sheath knife to fit his gun barrel so it could be used as a bayonet. A hatchet was better; a bayonet wouldn't split a skull; if it went through bone at all it was inclined to stick; the stuck man might run away, the knife going with him, or worse yet he might use his own knife or hatchet while the other was trying to free his. A man with string teeth and long thumbs with fingernails hardened in candle flames was not helpless, even without any weapon. He could in an instant gouge out a man's eyeballs with his thumnails, meanwhile ripping off ears with his forefingers and taking off the nose with his teeth.
The white men down by the branch got help from unexpected quarters; the dogs, "hearing the shouting made their way to it, being trained to fight Indians." Tradition credits Mrs. Robertson with having turned them loose; they are honored with the credit for having saved the fort and possibly Middle Tennessee. The Indians, once their guns were empty, were hard put to reload with dogs chewing them to pieces. These dogs were the fierce general-purpose, bear-baiting, Indian-trailing-hunting dogs kept by most settlers. some families, even as late as 1800, had between twelve and fifteen. . . The white men were, with the help of the dogs, able in a few minutes to begin a gradual movement back to the fort. -- pp. 294-296
So you see, raiders, whether cops or Indians, have always hated dogs. It comes with the job description. As our law enforcement agencies get further down the path of serving the predatory governments of man, not law, the more like Indian raiders they will appear. Unlike the Chickasaws and Cherokees of Middle Tennesse however, today's and tomorrow's raiding parties, especially those of the federal police, do not have the excuse of fighting for ancestral lands. They'll just be dog killing for a paycheck.
A prudent man, living in an era and a territory prone to raiders, would get a dog. Several dogs, in fact. As for myself, I have three. Two outside and one inside.
How about you?