Bob Johnson and I went down the road to look at the horses. Bob Johnson and I have a lot in common. We both have grooming issues, and our IQs are about the same. I told my dad this, and he thought about it for a minute.

“Well,” he said. “Bob Johnson IS a pretty smart dog.”

The horses thought we were bringing food or something, I guess. But we were fresh out of carrots and sugar lumps and that kind of junk.

They were all good-looking horses. One horse seemed to be the alpha horse. The alpha horse didn’t seem think too much of me and Bob Johnson.

We didn’t hang around there too long. Horses are okay, but I always have the feeling they’re up to something.

Bob Johnson and I have been walking in the afternoons. It’s blazing hot, but it’s also a very quiet time of day.

If you go back in the woods, you have to watch out for rattlesnakes. You must watch where you put your foot down, and you have to stop and listen for that shivery sound every so often. But as long as you don’t step on one, you’re okay.

I just finished reading a book by a 17th century Japanese poet named Matsuo Basho. The book is a translation, of course. It’s called Oku no Hosomichi. (The Narrow Road to the Interior. Or The Narrow Road to a Far Province. They’re both pretty great titles, I think.)

In 1689, when he was 45, Basho decided to go wandering around Japan, which was a pretty dangerous thing to do in those days.

“Here am I, in the Second Year of Genroku, suddenly taking it into my head to make a long journey to far, northern provinces. I might as well be going to the ends of the earth! There will be hardships enough to make my hair white, but I shall see with my own eyes places about which I have only heard! I shall be fortunate if I but return alive, I thought, staking my future on that uncertain hope.”

Basho and his friends had lots of big adventures and made it home okay. They didn’t get robbed or beaten, and whenever they got lost a friendly person gave them directions.

These woods aren’t really big enough to get lost in for more than a few minutes. My people have been stomping around here for a good century or more, and the roads and paths are easy to follow, even in July, when everything’s growing like crazy.

Basho passed away in 1694. He was 50 years old. These were his final lines of poetry:

falling sick on a journey

my dream goes wandering

over a field of dried grass

His dream kept going, that’s for sure. By the 20th century, Basho was influencing poets and writers all around the world.

His dream stayed on the road, one far province after another.


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John Hicks lives on yonder mountain.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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