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My son, the Irish Setter

During my early childhood years in Denver, we had a next-door neighbor named Phil. He had an Irish Setter named Sean. I’d throw the t-bones from our Saturday steak dinners over the fence for Sean to gnaw. Good doggie.

One weekend, Phil took Sean pheasant hunting in Nebraska.

He didn’t bring Sean home.

Apparently, Irish Setters are known for their love of running. They take off at top speed and don’t always heed calls to return. Phil watched Sean run across a cornfield. The group chased Sean, but he was long-gone. A few months later, a new Irish Setter moved in next door. His name was Hans and he was never taken hunting as far as I know. Hans’ claim to fame was eating an entire box of frozen beef out of a freezer he pried open in the garage.

I have an Irish Setter son—Tommy (also known as Boo-Boo, which he prefers to be called). He is tall, lean, and fast. He loves to run. When Tommy sees an open field, he simply cannot help what happens next. The horizon needs to be touched. His feet must itch, his shoulder blades must feel like wings. It’s a pleasure to watch him run, until it’s time for him to turn around.

One of the places we stopped on our vacation was the Bonneville salt flats, about an hour and a half west of Salt Lake City. The area is bewitching, almost. There is an unreal quality about the air, the earth, the sky. You feel like you must whisper, an intruder-alien in a beguiling land. Stretching to distant mountains in the north was a white expanse comprised entirely of wet, hard-packed salt, left behind by the receding Great Salt Lake.


The salt is six feet deep. As you walk, it packs on the bottoms of your shoes until your feet are heavy. This didn’t stop Tommy from taking off across the land until he was a small dot on the horizon. We had to cup our hands as we yelled a relay, from child to child to child in an attempt to get him to stop.

Tommy! Tommy! TommEE! Boo-Boo!


I don’t know whose voice got his attention.

He stopped. Turned. Put his hands in the air.

By the time he got back to the van, he was limping. The bottom of his left foot was slashed by sharp salt in two perfectly parallel lines. Green crocs aren’t running shoes. I cleaned his foot, put cream on the wound, and bandaged it well.

I must take care of his fast little feet for the next time expansive land sings the song Boo hears.


(the first photo features the four oldest boys…the second shows Tommy, in the center, taking off on his run…the third is the six big kids)

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