Friday, March 4, 2011


This story, by Ron McEwan has everything—humor, pathos, and a wonderful lesson about little dogs! Ron hails from the great state of Missouri.

Ron McEwan


I'd love to know what you think of the "Relentless Pursuit" series.  Please leave a comment below or email me with your suggestions on what you'd like to see on this blog.  Also, contact me if you have a story to post here.  And be sure to take a look at my photography site.  I'd love to hear from you!

  Michelle Alton


Wisdom of Oscar

It was a beautiful fall morning in October 2009. The sky was clear after a stunning sunrise; the air crisp enough to sting the nostrils. Your breath would hang in the air for moments, before dissipating.  Oscar, our loyal four-legged sidekick was anxious to be out of the truck and hiking down a trail in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. He loves to sniff and poke his nose into every hole and crack that comes along.

Oscar (Photo by Ron McEwan)

We love these hikes because we get our well needed exercise and the photo opportunities are invariably more numerous than those along the Interstate.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Arriving at the trail head, I got myself loaded up with all the camera gear (that I won’t use 99 percent of the time). Fellow photographers will chuckle here. I have been down too many trails, caught without the right lens. It’s the familiar sad story of the shot that got away!

By now Oscar was pulling on the leash to get going. We have to keep him on a leash because he will be out of sight before you know it, most likely never to be seen again. Because he is a dachshund and hunting is bred into him, his 18 pounds of small stature becomes 500 pounds of bad attitude when something catches his eye! Dachshunds will not back off; they will stay focused until they win or die trying!

At last we were heading off down the trail, looking for a natural bridge in the Red River Gorge. We knew that it would be difficult to find because photos of it are rarely found in most photographers’ archives.

It was a fun hike, rubber necking along, shooting photos everywhere I looked. Beautiful fall colors, vistas from overlooks and all of God’s creations appeared around every bend.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Arriving at a point on the trail about two miles in that should have been close to the natural bridge, I was standing on top of the ridge. But I wanted to get a better view from a lower point of view.

Photo by Ron McEwan

Then the adventure started to unfold. We stepped off the trail onto a path that was barely visible and arrived at a “T” intersection. My wife, Shirley, thought we should go left. I said that we should go right. After 26 years in the Army with night compass training, I know “which way is up!”  So we took the path on the right.

Things began to change rapidly. With Oscar on a leash, I was strapped with cameras and other equipment. The trail became so narrow that we were sliding along the cliff with our feet pointing 180 degrees from each other. Oscar adamantly refused to take another step forward. So I picked him up and carried him.

This was getting to be too much. Protecting the camera, carrying a dog that does not want to go further and also trying to push mountain laurel away from my face, we concentrated on trying to keep our feet from slipping off the ledge, a hundred feet or more above the valley floor. At last we found the end of the trail, but we did NOT find the natural bridge. And for lack of a better description, we were standing on a giant rock peninsula.

Photo by Ron McEwan

So we turned back with Shirley now leading the way, muttering something like “We should’ve went left,” and I was embarrassed to realize, and to be told that I really don’t know everything.

By now Shirley was carrying Oscar. He was terrified of being so high up with barely enough room on the trail for him to walk. A dog can often be smarter than humans; they know their limits and learn to live with them.

As fast as a blink of an eye, actually faster because I saw it happen, the ledge gave way. Shirley and Oscar were gone. My first thought was that I lost the love of my life and my best friend all at the same time. There was no sound of any kind. Shirley and Oscar had disappeared in a flash!

Photo by Ron McEwan

Shirley fell perhaps 11 or 12 feet straight down. She had fallen onto another ledge into a pile of leaves and pine needles-- a blessing! She landed on her rump, still holding Oscar. If she had not held onto him, he would have fallen another hundred feet or so down.

It took some careful maneuvering to get down to them without falling myself. It had rained a lot that month, and everything was soft, so grabbing onto small brush was dangerous, because it might pull out from the water-soaked soil. Eventually, we made it.

Besides our prides being wounded, Shirley had pain spiking in her hip for a week or two afterward. But all seems well now.  She missed the hikes we were planning with a couple of photographers that I know from posting on, Randy Dinkins and Carol Fowler. We hiked for a couple of days down into Cumberland Falls. Shirley read a book while sitting by herself in the truck.

We did not get a picture of the Natural Bridge, but we learned a lot from that hike. Do not “push the envelope on a hike. If you have a dog with you, don’t ignore his signals! Pay attention to his wisdom because it just might save your life one day!

Shirley, Ron, and Oscar  (Photo by Ron McEwan)

 Ron's Bio:

I’m a retired soldier, with 26 years of service, living again in my home town halfway between Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri.

Also, I am an avid amateur photographer, that applies very little editorial enhancements. I have learned that a bad shot is a bad shot!  I have loved photography ever since the eighth grade when I purchased my first little 8-dollar brownie camera. I thought I had paid a fortune, and even to
keep film going through it was a financial struggle.

Today I enjoy just about any photo op. I am drawn to high overlooks and vistas and wild flowers as I go along the trails. And am always looking for the out of the way places that are not often photographed. I do travel as much as I can as long as the money holds out.

Ron McEwan



Karen said...

Ron, You are a terrific storyteller! I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I'm also thankful it had a happy ending for all of you!

Michelle, I love your idea for this blogspot & am bookmarking it to check back often!


Mukesh Srivastava said...

Wonderful story, Ron....and many thanx dear Michelle for such efforts!!!!

Peaches said...

AWESOME story Ron, I laughed then was worried, so happy everyone was ok
I should have you write mine over when I try mine LOL!
WTG Michelle!

Debby said...

Great story with excellent photos, Ron! Very well written, holds your interest, engages the reader with its suspense and moral. I am glad you all returned to share this story!

Wonderful idea, Michelle!

Sandy Powers said...

Ron, what a great story! My hubby and I are also hikers and have had a couple of misadventures on the trails, so I really related to your story as if I was there! Your pictures are so BEAUTIFUL! My favorite growing up years were lived in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, so I loved getting another glimpse at that beautiful state! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

Jack said...

Ron, Great story! Glad everyone is safe. I lived in Ky for many years and have hiked the Red River Gorge area. The trails are not maintained or well marked and very remote. I once thought i was going to spend an unplanned night in the forest because I had lost the main trail after taking some great shots of the double arch. I went down a very similar trail but decided to turn back before I fell. It was about this time of year and a lot of snow remained on the ground. I was lucky that after searching for 30 minutes and 10 minutes before dark I found the main trail. I was very lucky that day also. Wishing you the best.


Michelle Alton said...

Dear Reader,

If you were having trouble leaving a comment on this blog, I believe the problem is resolved now. Please give it another try! I have changed a setting and the blog will now allow "anyone" to comment.
Thanks for reading, and following the blog! I'm hoping to make it even more fun!

Joe DiGilio said...

Very interesting story Ron & great pictures too. Really held my interest and makes me think about going solo so often. Hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron, Shirley and Oscar. I LOVED the story and the wonderful images. And I'm so glad that Shirley and Oscar are okay.
I know how smart and intelligent dogs are and I'm so glad your story tells it too.
Love, Kiki