Moaning and groaning, the sixteen penny spikes resisted their pulling
from the aging lumber. They had been hammered into place 80 years ago
and refused to release their grip. Crowbars and hammer claws twisted and
yanked in their effort to bring the walls down.
 Sliding the last of the sixteen foot rough cut 2 x 12’s into the back of a
horse trailer. I signaled to my partner that I was finished for the day and it
was time to head home. Seven miles of river bottom road led to my house
nestled on a small acreage at the edge of town.
 Once there, we backed in between the budding of Silver Leaf Poplars and
scented cedars. My dog wagged her happiness at my return. With the sun
descending upon snow capped mountains, the chore of unloading began.
My back was complaining as muscles strained when out of blood shot eyes I
noticed a freak set of elk antlers propped up against the paint flaked lap
siding of an old shed. I blinked back my tiredness and halted my unloading
efforts. Refreshed with curiosity I looked among the stacked lumber and
trampled down noxious weeds. I found another elk set with the skull plate
broken in half and then another.
 With a little hesitation I circled around to the front of the shed and the
open lean-to propping up its north side. The dog followed in a crouch and
growled as if to attack. Shock and disbelief were soon over taken by anger.
Elk antlers were strewn about as if an old bull had battled them for
supremacy. I could tell immediately that many were missing. Two huge
Boon and Crocket sets were gone.
 I scrambled among the leftovers noticing that some of the shed sets were
also missing. The forty four pound set that once graced the top of the
eighteen foot high stack of antlers in my parents back yard was also gone.
Anything that was freak or identifiable was left.
  I ran to the house, leaving my partner to unload the lumber, and started
making phone calls. I ask antler buyers and collectors that I know to be on
the look out for a load of elk antlers that might be coming their way. I was
well aware that some of these people dealt in gray areas that were only
clearer with the amount of profit margin. Some offered to let me go through
their inventory, others dismissed my badgering as my bad luck.
 As the hopefulness of ever recovering them tugged at my core, the anger
was swallowed by emptiness. I sunk to my knees in the dust of the
aftermath and tried to focus on when the theft accrued. The panting dog
tried to console me with a nudge. This was the first load of lumber I had
brought home in the past four days.
 Before I was consumed by the mutterings of revenge to find the guilty,
the fog of frustration lifted briefly to remember the barking dog. I slammed
my fist into the wall of the shed letting the pain of the out burst help refresh
my memory, sending the dog scurrying for cover.
 Three days previous, I had gotten off graveyard shift at 8:00 a.m. With
Pop Tart in hand, I headed out to the old hotel we were tearing down. I had
spent the day clawing at lath and plaster mixed with wind sifted dust. The
old building fought us all the way from ten layers of roofing through two
stories of narrow hallways and numbered rooms, to well nailed flooring that
had anchored itself to 2 x 12 floor joice. Beside’s salvaged lumber;slivers,
blistersand skinned knuckles were part of the reward at the end of the day.
 This routine had gone on for a month with the weekends only leaving us
a chance to work longer hours. After working from midnight to eight a.m. at
my regular job, I spent six, eight or ten hours working on the demolition and
then came home to an understanding wife, a shower and hot meal. Many
days, I barely remember my head hitting the pillow, before the alarm startled
me into the reality that I would be starting the process all over again and
reminding myself that it’s “hell to be poor.”
 That day my dog’s barking had woke me from a dead sleep before the
sun had gone down. Pretending it wasn’t happening, I buried my head
blankets and pillows, but the dog was relentless in her efforts. I was
the onlyone home so I went to the back door and shouted into the coming
eveningfor the dog to shut up. The dog ran the fifty yards to the house and
her insistence at my bare feet. I kicked at her in disgust and yelled a string
of profanities that would make a bartender blush. The dog whimpered and
lay on the steps. I went back to bed and slipped into much needed sleep.
The dog barking resumed as the last days light mingled with the rising of a
full moon. I rose from the dead. Groggy and blinking my way to reality,
I fumbling for the door handle. For a brief moment my thoughts focused
on using my 22 pistol to bring some peace and quiet to the evening.
 I yelled the dog’s name interlaced with more profanities. With tail
tucked between her legs, she had slithered up to the door. I jerked her into
the house by a choker collar I could have strangled her with and shut her in
the bedroom. She curled up on the floor as I glanced at the alarm clock,
realizing that in a couple of hours I would be starting my day.
 Now, while picking up one of the elk sheds that was left behind, I called
the dog back to my side but she refused to obey. The thought mushroomed
till I spoke it aloud, “That had to be when the theft took place.” My faithful
companion tried to warn me but I had refused to listen. She now lay at a
distance, with her head between her paws. Her stare made me feel smaller
and dumber than years of teasing by grade school bullies during my
 The police came to investigate and asked me for more antlers, so they
could set up a sting. Nothing of their efforts brought any results. A month
went by and then another. I kept pestering the buyers I had contacted with
no luck.
 My younger brother returned from a three month stay in California. That
very day, he went up town and was back in a couple of hours with the
of the guilty and the buyer they had used.
 It was far too late to recover the antlers. They were on their way across
the Pacific. It wasn’t too late for some batting practice, so we loaded up the
dog for a second opinion and drove off into the night.