We once had a dog we called Freddie. I can’t remember why we gave him that name… in fact Freddie wasn’t a him at all. Come to think of it Freddie was adopted from some neighbors who moved away. She looked a little like a squat German Shepherd.
Freddie wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. She was affectionate but lacking in intelligence. The most vivid example of Freddie’s ignorance occurred one winter day when we were celebrating a heavy snowfall. As the snow thickened the children were jubilant. We lived at the base of a steep hill and we were waiting for the first snow heavy enough to cover the stubble on the hill so we could try out an old toboggan we found stored in an outbuilding. It was a fine old wooden toboggan. When I see things like that I wish they could empty out their memory to me in speech.
At lunch I tendered my plan to the children over grilled cheese and tomato soup. They all shouted with delight. Leaving their lunch half-eaten they began to pull on sweaters and sweatshirts and coats and mittens and caps. We went out to the shed and brought forth the wonderful old toboggan. It was wooded and weathered. It may have been an antique. We pulled it to the very top of the hill. I stood in front of the toboggan to keep it from taking off prematurely and began to give direction to each of the children… I got on last right up front and put Heidi in my lap for the ride. The moment I lifted my legs and put them in the toboggan it shot off down the hill. It immediately occurred to me for the first time that there was no way to steer a toboggan and there is no way to slow it down.
The snow was flying up in our faces and we were going lots faster than we planned to go. There was no way to steer or stop or slow the huge sled now. My life flashed before my eyes. I wondered if Lois would be able to find the life insurance papers. I wondered if my body would be recognizable after the crash.
Suddenly strait ahead of us was our dog Freddie… the Dumb One. Freddie just didn’t plan to move. She never did, not one inch in either direction. She just stood there and stared blankly at us. Unable to avoid her we ran right over the top of her.
Running over Freddie didn’t even slow us down. We were still careening wildly down the hill. For the first time that day I began to think ahead. There was a ditch at the bottom of the hill. I wondered if we could ramp the ditch and how fast we would still be going approaching a huge pine in front of the house. Ramp the ditch we did in a second, picking up speed. We were headed for the tree. I shouted, “bail out” just before the toboggan hit the tree. We all leaned off the sled and buried ourselves in snow. We were shaken but unhurt.
When we stood up and began dusting off snow Heidi’s face was covered with snow, her eyes frozen shut. I looked around and Freddie came walking up looking curious and unharmed. We took a quick vote and decided by consensus to go inside and drink hot cocoa by the fire for a while. Maybe we could forget what had just happened.
We put the toboggan away for another day and made a mental note to have Freddie’s IQ checked before we let her out in public again. We were all pretty sure she was too dumb to be allowed to roam around without supervision.
The sad fact is we are all vulnerable to areas of ignorance or lapses of good sense. Like when I put the whole family on the toboggan or like when Freddie didn’t have the good sense to get out of the way. There is a proverb about that… it has to do with people that are just too stupid. I’m glad God makes allowances for stupid people.
So here is a bit of advice to you from a guy who has been up and down the hill a few times…. Before you get your whole family on a toboggan you might want to figure out how to steer and stop first. And you might want to put away your dumb dog so you don’t run over him.
Kenneth L. Pierpont
Riverfront Character Inn
January 5, 2004