Start a conversation about dogs in my family and we will eventually steer it towards Frosty.
My dad has always been partial to English Setters. They're great bird dogs. More importantly, they know when when it's time to work and when it's time to let some pesky kid climb on you and pull on your long, floppy ears.
We had a string of English Setters when I was growing up. Frosty was before my time. By the time I was hearing about him, his adventures and attributes had grown to legend.
"I could tell that dog to sit when I was mowing the back lawn," my dad recalls. "Twenty minutes later, in the front lawn, I'd realize I'd completely forgotten about him. Sure enough, Frosty would be stuck like a rock to the place where I told him to sit."
"I'd let him get a good sniff of a stone before I threw it deep into the cornfield," remembers Dad. "You could tell he was just itching to go get it, but he wouldn't move a muscle until I told him to. Finally, I'd say 'okay,' and that dog was off like a shot. He'd be back in a minute with the stone in his mouth."
"I swear he could tell time. I was working at Jackson's then, and came home every night at twenty to six. At twenty-two minutes to six, he'd be on the front porch waiting for me."
One Saturday afternoon in early summer, Dad was hoeing weeds in the tomato field behind the house. Frosty was with him and had wandered into the woods that bordered on the field. Dad had been working a few hours when he heard the repeat of a .22 rifle from the woods.
Not all of the neighbours in that area were above shooting at a dog if they thought it had strayed where it didn't belong. Dad stood up in the field and darted for the woods.
He found nothing. No shooter. No gun. No dog. Frosty was gone.
Two months later, my dad's little brother Jim--who was still a teenager at the time--was riding the bus to his first day of school after summer break. As the bus got closer to town, the two boys sitting behind him started talking about their summers.
"Oh, we got a new dog," one boy exclaimed.
"What kind?" asked the other boy.
"English Setter," he replied. "You should see him. If you tell him to stay, he sits there, like, forever."
"If he gets the scent of a stone, he can find it again, even if you throw it into a cornfield."
"That's amazing," said the second boy. "Where did you get him?"
"It's the weirdest thing. One day, we were out in the yard, and he just was suddenly there running like a bat out of hell. We stopped him and calmed him down. Something scared him bad."
At this point, my uncle Jim turned around. "Does that Setter have one black ear and one white with black freckles?"
The more they talked, the more Jim was convinced it was Frosty. He didn't tell my dad, but he arranged to go to the farm to get a closer look at the dog.
There was no question. Frosty recognized Jim right away. The people who had cared for him were sorry to see him go, but understood: a dog that good had a home that loved him very much.
Dad got home that night from Jackson's at twenty to six...