The Magic Bone (Part 1)
By Mrs J (Capt. Savage’s Mum)
The old mother sheep dog looked fondly at her small family of pups as they scrambled eagerly for her milk. The smallest one of the litter was always pushed aside and never able to drink until his bigger and stronger brothers had drunk their fill. He would then have to suckle from all of her nipples until his hunger was appeased, which was not very often. Then he would curl up into a tight ball and try to sleep with a very hungry tummy.
Time pass and the puppies grew into bigger dogs except one, the little one of the litter. The farmer, not unkindly, decided to call him the “runt”, a term given to most animals that don’t seem to thrive like the others. Each day the farmer would go down to the dog yard and throw in a big heap of meaty bones. The dogs would fall on them, snarling and biting, fighting among themselves for the choicest bits. In the animal kingdom of the wild only the strongest survive and even domestic animals inherit this instinct.
Poor little Runt, he would find himself with bits and pieces after the others departed from their feeding frenzy and would often go out to work learning how to work the sheep still hungry. He was an intelligent little dog and was quick to learn how to round-up the sheep and respond to various commands and was always anxious to please. The farmer watch him one day and thought to himself, he will make a grand working dog but unless he gets bigger and stronger he will have no staying power.
Way up in dog heaven the king of dogs looked down and hoped that the Runt would prove to the farmer that small as he was he was still the brightest and smartest of the litter. He didn’t often go down to the earth, content to keep a watchful eye on what was happening from above. He believed in letting events run their course but this time there seemed to be a good reason for him to take action. The other dogs were really brutal in their treatment of the Runt. The only time the poor little dog was happy was when he was working the sheep. Sadly, he was in such poor condition from lack of food he would have to sneak out of sight to have a rest.
One day the farmer had boiled his billy for his usual cuppa, he lit a cig (cigarette), the rest of the pack were panting in the shade of the dray (a low, heavy cart without sides) and the little Runt was resting alone in the shade of a bushy shrub. Suddenly he sensed a presence and looked up straight into the eyes of a big black dog. The dog’s lips were drawn back but he wasn’t snarling, in fact it was a doggie smile he was giving the little dog. “Now who is this” the Runt thought “and what does he want”. He soon found out. There must have been magic in the air because everything was still. The farmer, the dogs, the birds in the air, even the leaves and grasses were motionless and not a sound could be heard. Suddenly the stranger spoke, “I am the King of Dogs and I come from the planet Sirius and you are one of my subjects. Now I have seen from on high how unkindly your brothers are treating you. Unless something is done to help you grow bigger and stronger there will be no future for you”.
With that he lifted one of his huge front legs and drew out a bare white bone. It wasn’t very large but had a big knob on either end. “Tale this bone” the big dog said “and whenever you are hungry just think to yourself (I am hungry) then he immediately vanished right before the little dog’s eyes. The dog blinked in amazement. I must have been dreaming he thought. But then right in front of him was the bare white knobbly bone.
He decided to see if it was a dream and thought to himself if it had some meat on it that would be great because I am hungry. Imagine his astonishment when the bone began to dance about and change in colour and shape right before his eyes. When it sopped he saw it had changed into the meatiest and nicest bone he had ever seen. He fell upon it ravenously before it disappeared. It wasn’t long before it was bare again and Runt licked his lips in satisfaction, for once he was completely satisfied as he curled up to finish his nap.
Then the farmer whistled and all the dogs came running. When the Runt arrived looking so pleased with himself, they all queried why he looked so contented and happy. With a knowing look on his face he replied, “That is for me to know and you to find out”. He worked so well that day that the farmer allowed him to ride beside him in the dray on the way home. The other dogs slunk off to their kennels vowing to keep a watch on the Runt and try to discover what was causing him to be so happy. As the Runt curled up to sleep he wondered if he would have to go back to where he first saw the bone to get another meal. That night he had a good night’s sleep on a very contented tummy.
End of Part 1… What will happen to the Runt next?
My Mum used to tell this story to me when I was a kid, and eventually she got around to writing it down and then a friend published it. Since then the local library has been using this and other stories from mum to tell to school kids when then come and visit the library. I’m not sure if they still do, but a lot of kids in my home town know all about the little Runt.
BTW, all of the illustrations in the book were done by mum in watercolours, and then scanned and put into her little books.
(Proud of the humble efforts of his sweet little mum)