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That shiny steel flag-pole that spired skyward in our back yard:

It was too high; it was too slippery. 

I was too weak; I was too young. 

I was just a little boy, barely four years. 

It was too thick; I couldn’t do it. 

There was no way; it was utterly and finally impossible. 

I’d tried a thousand times and never got a foot off the ground. 

My dad had stayed behind in Portugal (why?). 

My mom and I lived alone in Kent (why?). 

And, I tried — tried to climb that pole, tried, and tried. 

But some things, some things, you see, are never meant to be. 

One day — I played in the yard alone (where was Mom?) 


I could smell, feel, before I saw It charging: –That dog of fangs, 

That terrible wolf of the wilderness — god of tooth and claw

Barking its horrible happy knell of death —

Its ruff raised, its snarling snipe, its gurgling growl,

Black lips baring back those snipping, chattering, yellow teeth — 

Close and closer. I clambered and climbed the impossible pole, 

Shinnied to the very top and held on for a minute, for a lifetime. 


Thank God for challenge; thank God for Life in all its fierce forms; 

Thank God for courage and — thank you God for vicious dogs. 







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