Taxi, the Fabulous Mutt, Page 2
by Judith Keller
Copyright © 1959
Pup grew bolder. He would plant his big feet by the turnstile, wag his
bushy tail and greet the passengers as they went by. The passengers, too,
were getting used to the puppy. When he wasn't there, they missed him and
would ask, "Where's the dog, Harry?" The reply would usually be, "He's
taken a taxi to lunch." In fact, he was seen so often riding around in the taxi,
that soon people were talking about the taxi dog. And it wasn't long
before he became just plain Taxi. Which, come to think of it, is much
more special than Rover or Fido or Spot. Taxi himself seemed to realize it.
The only problem was, people were puzzled when they yelled, "Taxi!" and
were confronted with something on four legs instead of four wheels.
Taxi was happy. He enjoyed his taxi rides, but even more he liked the excitement of ferry house life. Taxi never missed the lonely midnight run. Every night Captain Carroll would walk aboard with Taxi at his heels, into the cabin, up the long stairs to the upper deck and into the pilot house. There, Taxi would sit in the captain's very own chair and watch the big wheel turn in Captain Carroll's steady hands. You had the feeling that Taxi himself could have piloted the Dutchess across the river with no trouble at all.
Taxi had a busy schedule. After the midnight crossing with Captain Carroll, Taxi had to rush to meet Jake, the night watchman, for his nightly snack. Taxi was at the turnstile early in the morning to see the commuters off to work. Every lunch time he was at the taxi door, ready to drive home with Rudy. Sometimes Taxi would ride the ferry to visit a beagle girlfriend on the other shore. There they would hunt rats together at the garbage dump. But Taxi was on hand every evening to greet the crowds returning from work. Then there were always a few candy bars to be shared with him.
One evening, it seemed too many passengers had shared too many candy bars with Taxi. He had an awful belly ache and lay groaning by the radiator, looking quite sick and feeling very sorry for himself. Rudy taxied the patient to see Doc Thomas, the animal doctor, who had just returned from tending the cows on Danskammer Farm. Doc Thomas scolded Taxi for eating candy, cured him without charge and prescribed a diet of meat and bones.
Rudy decided it was high time to have a serious talk with Taxi. "This is no dog's life," he said, "You need a master, a real home and a dog's diet. You're coming home with me now, for good." Taxi must have understood every word Rudy said, because he was up on his feet in a jiffy and wagging his tail so hard it created a cold breeze in the ferry house.
Rudy's children were delighted. They made a bed for Taxi right by the kitchen stove. Taxi, too, seemed happy to play all afternoon. But that night, when everyone was asleep, Taxi was restless. When he heard the Dutchess whistle he became frantic. He knew it was time for the midnight run. Would Captain Carroll go without him? He squeezed through a partly open window into Rudy's yard, bolted over the fence, charged down South Street along Water Street, down Second Street to Front Street and onto the Dutchess just as she was pulling out.
Several more times Rudy tried to give Taxi a home, but every time Taxi found a way back to the ferry house. Taxi was his own master and the ferry house was Taxi's home. He had made it quite clear. He was no ordinary house dog, he was a ferry house dog!
Taxi went back to his old routine and the lunch dates went on as before. One day Rudy was driving a customer way across town, so Taxi had to walk to lunch. On the way, the dogcatcher spotted him, without a license. No one at the ferry house had thought about a dog tag for Taxi, since no one really owned him. The dogcatcher made a grab for the dog with his net and the chase was on. All over town they ran, the dogcatcher cussing Taxi under his breath... what little breath he had left. Taxi doubled back on his tracks and made for the ferry house. He shot under the turnstile and into Harry's cage where he sat panting and grinning at the enraged dog-catcher.
"You can't arrest him," Harry hollered, "That's Taxi, the ferry house dog."
Harry calmed the dogcatcher with a promise that was soon
made good. The next morning, right by the turnstile, the commuters
discovered a tobacco tin on which hung a large card saying "DONATIONS
FOR TAXI'S LICENSE." As the commuters dropped coins into the can,
Harry complained, "That mutt's made a beggar of me. I beg for broken
milk cartons from the milkman, bones from the butcher's truck and now the
tramp needs a license!" Very soon there was money enough to pay for two
years' licenses and enough left over to buy Taxi the handsomest dog collar
in Orange County.
Taxi felt pretty important as he strutted around the ferry house. It was his territory and he would share it with no other dog. Taxi could be a fearsome sight when he bared his big white teeth. If any passenger's dog put on airs, Taxi would put him in his place with a short, sharp bark or a deep down growl, whichever seemed more appropriate at the time.
Once, Harry patted a French poodle in a car that had stopped to pay the toll. As the car moved onto the ferry, Taxi leaped onto the hood, glaring into the windshield. Both dogs barked ferociously. There was such a ruckus that the driver nearly ran his car off the other end of the ferry. Since then, Harry has been careful to greet no other dogs.
Taxi's jealousy of other dogs came in mighty handy. You may have read the story in the newspaper, but in case you didn't, this is what happened.
It was the kind of foggy evening when you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. The Dutchess was nosing a slow and careful way across the river with an anxious Captain Carroll at the wheel. Taxi stood at the bow, braced on his sturdy sea legs. He enjoyed snapping at the spray and sniffing the fishy smells.
Suddenly, something out there caught Taxi's attention and he launched a mighty concert of fierce growling and barking. One of the deck hands tried to calm him down, but Taxi kept it up. A passenger patted him, "What's up, Taxi? Seen a ghost out there?" But the barking went on. Captain Carroll heard Taxi's rumpus. He opened the pilot house window and called down, but even he couldn't pacify Taxi. Captain Carroll sensed that something unusual was happening. He switched on the floodlight, but the beam just bounced off the wall of fog. Taxi's barking grew more frantic.
"Something's wrong," thought the disturbed Captain and he rang two bells, the signal to the engine room to stop. Then, dead ahead, the outline of a rowboat with a man and a dog loomed out of the fog. Captain Carroll rang the emergency cow bell, signal for the engineer to back up strong. The engines roared to life and the Dutchess groaned as she went into reverse... just in time. Taxi would not stop barking until the man and the dog were far from him, on the other shore. Gratefully, Captain Carroll added Taxi's bark to his collection of signals.
The news spread fast. Reporters arrived to get an on-the-spot story. Newspaper headlines read, MUTT SAVES MAN. The glowing accounts of Taxi's intelligence and heroism would have made his head swell if he could have read them. (Taxi knew any number of things, but he never did get around to learning to read.)
Rudy drove Taxi uptown to have his picture taken with the mayor of Newburgh. When they got back everyone was out to greet the fabulous dog. Jake was there with a big, juicy soup bone. Rudy's children were waiting with a bright, blue ribbon. Harry presented Taxi with a T-bone steak. Captain Carroll had a special silver medal made to hang on Taxi's collar. The medal was engraved with an anchor and the words HONORARY CREW MEMBER. Taxi grinned and barked his famous bark.
The ferry isn't running any more. A shiny Newburgh/Beacon bridge now spans the Hudson River. But if you don't believe in ferry tales just go on up to where the ferry house was and ask the folks there about Taxi, the fabulous mutt!
Taxi in the news: