Ann McKenna Fromm
WRITER: Books, Essays, Ghostwriting
Fear in Texas
We could almost smell the fear. Bill and I walked our dog, Dozier, up a street near LaQuinta Inn on the east side of Houston, where we had stopped for the night en route from California to Florida. It was 5:06 p.m. Early January dusk made the evening foggy, full of shadows. A large German Shepherd barked at us as we passed a house. Another dog, a pit bull-mix, charged out to join the shepherd. Bark, bark, bark, loud and fierce. The dogs ran up and down behind their chain-link fence. Dozier walked steadily beside us. I held his leash loosely in my hands, but it was a short leash.
We kept walking. A chain link fence separated us from the next property, as one did from the house on the opposite side of the street. On both sides of us, dogs lunged against their fences. German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans. None of the dogs were small, and they all looked mean, as if they meant business. Stay out! The houses crouched dark and hidden inside their yards. The houses were wood and clapboard, unpainted; one had boarded up second floor windows and a dented ’96 Ford parked in front.
By the time we passed snarling dogs behind the third chain link fence, Dozier was becoming agitated. He is a calm, stable adult male, a Malinois working dog, about a hundred pounds; he does not have trouble with other dogs. So we let Dozier sniff the dogs through the fence. That only served to rile the dogs to greater fury. We sensed eyes watching us from inside the crouching houses. We backed away from the fence. Were we trespassing? Would someone shoot us?
We turned around, seeking a more peaceful walk. We headed up a different road, and it was strewn with garbage: old tires, McDonalds wrappers, pieces of paper, one glove, bunched up toilet tissue, a child’s tattered doll. Dozier strained at his leash, smelling food. I told him to ‘heel’. From one of the yards, a man approached us, walking towards us at an angle, as if to intercept us. He carried a chain saw. Bill later reminded me of the movie, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I did not feel threatened by the man.
We met him by the side of the road.
“You might not want to walk up this way,” he said. He had a receding hairline, brown eyes, and he held the chain saw blade down. He nodded in the direction we were walking. “There’s a pack of dogs up there. There used to be two dogs but they had a litter, with ten pups. Two already got killed in the road. They’re running loose.”
He paused. We tried to absorb the idea of more guard dogs.
“I’ve lived here for 35 years and it’s never been so bad. They come at you in a pack. I don’t go up there if I don’t have to. If I do have to, I carry a paint ball gun for the dogs.”
“We’ll heed your words,” I said, grateful to him. We waved and turned and went back to our La Quinta. Dozier would have a truncated walk that evening.
For a long time, Bill and I talked about what those dog owners were so afraid of. The government? It seemed to us that they could use some government, if only for trash collection. But why were they afraid of us, and possibly their own neighbors? Did they think we would photograph them, or rob them, rape them, shoot them?
If you know, please tell me. I’m a writer and I like to understand.