Collie Dog Saved Corn Crop on Illinois Homestead

A collie dog gets relief from burned feet and repays his new owners by saving the corn crop.

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This story about a collie dog took place on our several-hundred-acre farm where I was born in 1882. The place was known as the Yakle Estate and was located near Louden City, Illinois which is now called Old Post Oak.

The inland highway to St. Louis passed our farm, and covered wagons came by daily, usually going west. Down the road a piece we had a wooded area where the travelers would stop for the night. My father gave them permission to water their horses and to carry buckets of water to their campsites. He offered fruits and vegetables to families who wanted them, and even milk for the small children. Some wagons had "Missouri or Bust" blazened on their white canvas sides; they might have coops of chickens wired to the end gates, and sometimes cows were tied there, too.

One morning in early spring, after several of the wagons had moved on, we heard a scratching at the back door and there we found a footsore young collie dog. He was a pathetic sight, with paws worn so raw from the endless miles of travel that he could barely stand.

My father showed my brother and me how to fashion boots from the leather tops of Mother's worn-out buttoned shoes. We smeared tallow on the dog's feet to soothe his wounds, then we tied on the boots. At first he would try to work the boots off, but I patiently put them back again until he seemed to sense that I was trying to help, and he let them alone.

When his feet were well, he followed me everywhere. He even slept beneath my window.

One night in late fall after the crops were harvested but before the rains came, he really repaid us for our kindness to him.

To the east of the house, about a quarter mile away, was an area covered with a thick growth of white oaks, intertwined with hazelnut bushes, sumac, and berry vines. It was a fire hazard, to be sure. It bordered on a 60-acre field of corn crop, which had been harvested only the day before this incident occurred. The corn shocks were left leaning against the fence line, and the field had been planted in winter wheat.

I was awakened that night by the dog which was barking and racing back and forth from my window to the front of the house. I ran to the front door and opened it. The collie bounded in and ran to my parents’ room, still barking. My father knew something was wrong for the dog was usually quiet. He called my brothers, and they came tumbling down the stairs, dressing as they ran, and shouting that from their window they could see fire in the timber near the cornfield.

With a team of horses, my father and brothers worked the rest of the night to move all the corn shocks to the middle of the seeded wheat field and run a drag around the fence line. The crop was saved.

Spring came, and we watched a few wagons come from the west. Their owners had given up and were going back to their former homes. The signs on their wagons were altered to read "Busted."

In early summer we had some such wagons in our grove for the night. When the men came to the well for water, the collie dog leaped for joy. His master had come back. My father tried to buy the dog, offering the man much needed supplies. He would not sell.

In the morning the wagons left and so did the collie. He did not even say goodbye. I cried over the loss of my companion. Actually he had thanked us in many ways for his keep, particularly in saving 60 acres of corn.

Mrs. Luella R. Morris
Lakeside, California

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.