Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Dogs No Mark of Wealth/Pioneers Talked of Hans Smid

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 3 December 1961

An old saying of the early pioneers was “the poorer the pioneer, the more dogs he possessed.” This was quite true — it seemed the least there was to protect the more protection it took. In the Tri-City area dogs were seldom harnessed worked. Horses were too plentiful and could live on grass. Dogs were kept to notify the pioneers of approaching people, animals, storms and unusual events. His primary duty was to guard his master’s holdings and notify him by barking when trespassers or strangers approached. He was always faithful to his master. He even licked his hand no matter how unjustly it had chastised him.

One of the most famous, and well known and liked dogs of the pioneer Tri-City region was Captain W.B. Gray’s large Newfoundland dog which was sent to him by a sea captain from Newfoundland. This huge, black dog with white-collar markings lived with Captain Gray and his family for many years. He would never cross the Columbia on board of either the Frederick K. Billings or “Richard M. Nixon” which ferried the N.P. trains across the Columbia between Pasco and Kennewick prior to the construction of the N.P. Railroad bridge. This dog always swam the Columbia, even when the ice was running. He twice saved children, who had fallen overboard, from drowning.

This huge dog had a very illustrious son who resembled him in color and markings, but was much smaller in size. His name was Ceasar; and his mother’s name was Jody—Captain Charles E. Lum’s hunting dog. Caesar saved several pioneer children from drowning and many more from rattlesnake bites. He would tease the snake, forcing it to coil strike and quick as a flash before it could recoil, Caesar’s teeth had broken its neck. Once or twice he was bitten in the engagement and would soak his swollen mouth in the river mud until the swelling went down. The bites were never fatal.

A favorite story of the pioneers, concerning Hans Smid and his dog Schneider was as follows: Hans had had a very busy day. He had gotten up early, fed the horses, swilled the pigs, fed the chickens and milked the cows. After breakfast he tried to get some plowing done on the south forty in the cool of the morning. Schneider, his dog, followed him to the furrows to catch field mice, until it got warm, then Schneider went to the shade of a tree and took a nap.

Hans finished his plowing and then hitched up his driving team to the light hack and drove to town to do some shopping for his wife, Catrina. This done, he returned home, put up the team and his evening chores. He ate supper with Catrina and while she did the evening dishes he lighted his pipe and went to the living room and sat down in his rocking chair before the fire to enjoy a smoke. His old dog Schneider was stretched out on the floor in front of the fire, sound asleep. Hans took his thumb. Pressed down on the filling of his pipe and drew hard on its stem, got comfortable in his chair and talked to Schneider who was asleep.

“Schneider, dey talk of a tog’s life; but I don’t tink it’s’ so bad. You follow me while I plow and when it gets hot you schleep in the shade. I go me to town and shop for Catnina—you schleep ~ I come home and have to hear Catrina yaw me about the calico I forgot—you schleep some more; and Schneider, when you die, youst die When I die Schneider, I have to go me to [bed yet?]

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