Caleb’s always wanted a hound of his own. He can just imagine its sleek beauty and beautiful bay as it tails coons through the forest and over the mountain. He’ll be able to brag with the men about his dog’s magnificent catches. They’ll be a real team.
But when Caleb goes to the stock sales, he winds up at the booth of old Billy Flint, as crooked a dealer as ever you laid eyes on. Somehow, he returns not with the beautiful little hound pup, but with an ugly old Airedale.
Can Caleb reconcile himself to his purchase of old Useless? Will they ever run the hills together?
I started out loving this story. Caleb’s purchase of Useless and subsequent relationship with him was adorable. Caleb’s relationship with Hyford Ringer, an old mountain man, and his squirrel dog, Rufus, was also amazing. The story had some seriously comical moments, especially when Useless mistakes Rufus for a squirrel and trees him several times.
I had high hopes – I’d read two of Billy Clark’s other books and the dogs didn’t die, so I thought that the same would be the case with this one. Of course, once I’d got my mind set that old Useless wouldn’t die, he did and in very sad circumstances. I was honestly devastated that this had happened – the story had started out so lightheartedly that it was a jolt. It was almost out of line with the rest of the story. My enjoyment took a nose dive. There’s no way he can pull himself out of this one I thought.
And Clark didn’t pull himself out completely. But the resolution to Useless Dog was one of the best I’ve read to a story in which the pet dies. When Caleb has the chance to revenge himself upon the person who killed Outlaw, he is sorely tempted to take it – especially since all he has to do is do nothing. But as he sits and thinks he realizes that he can’t, though his inaction, be guilty of as bad a thing as his enemy. So he acts on his conscience.
I appreciated this, and although it doesn’t remove the pain of Useless’s death, it helped to see that Caleb had learned from it.
There are three scenes that involve blood – one involves a fight between a ram and a cow, another a ram stuck in a barb wire fence, and the third is the one in which Useless is shot.
Conclusion. A good dog story – not as satisfying as A Nose for Trouble, but still good.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret