Published: December 31, 2019

By Jim Lichtman
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On the last day of 2019, I thought I’d offer one more Christmas story submitted by Steve Plone of La Quinta, California.

“This is a true story about my mom, her family and her dog, Sandy. I’m not sure what the exact time of year it was, but if it wasn’t around Christmas time, it should have been.

“In 1935, her family consisted of my mother Jackie, her brother ‘Walt,’ her mother India, and her stepfather Clary White. India had divorced her first husband, Jesse Walton Hester in 1931 when our mother was about 8 years old and Walt Jr. was 10 years old. In those years, divorce was fairly uncommon.

“Jesse Hester was not an affectionate man. He did take Jackie and Walt places, but my mom doesn’t remember getting any hugs. Like a lot of men in those days, he didn’t think that he had to consult with anyone about his actions. With that attitude, one day he brought a dog for Jackie and Walt without asking. India was a red headed, spirited woman, and was not happy that she wasn’t consulted. Even so, the kids got to keep Sandy.

“Sandy was a wonderful companion and friend to my mother. When Jackie left for school, Sandy would wait on the porch until Jackie was out of sight and then follow after her. Sandy stayed outside the school fence all day until my mother got out of school and then would walk home with her.

“In those days, dogs didn’t sleep with their owners. Sandy slept in a box under the stove. Stoves were on legs at this time, and it must have been a cozy place for a dog.

“About three times a year, Jackie and Walt would visit with their father Jesse Hester and his wife Jewel. Their father worked as an auditor for a commercial farm outside of Shafter, just north of Bakersfield California.

“One time, when Jackie was 12-years old and Walt was 14, Sandy got to come, but unfortunately, she got into trouble for digging in the flowerbed. Evidently this was not her first offense. Without saying anything, Jesse Hester took Sandy away and gave her to the commercial farmer he worked for. My mother, Jackie was devastated.

“After Jackie and Walt returned home from their father’s home, fourteen-year-old Walt hatched a plan to make a doggy rescue. Armed with a few sandwiches and the full support of Jackie, he climbed out of his bedroom window about 10:00 at night, hopped on his bike, and headed out for Bakersfield and Shafter, 140 miles away!

“Three hours later, there was a knock on the front door, and India opened it to find a Hollywood division policeman standing there. ‘Where is your son?’ he asked. ‘He’s sleeping in his bed right now,’ India answered. We know that wasn’t true, and not only that, the police didn’t believe his story about making a doggy rescue. The police thought Walt was a runaway and had him and his bike in the police car.

“The next morning, Clary scored big points with Jackie and Walt when he promised to complete the doggy rescue on his next day off. The next day, India packed the whole family a lunch, and they loaded into Clary’s Model A with Jackie and Walt in the rumble seat.

“They traveled to Bakersfield and Shafter to find the commercial farm where they thought Sandy was being kept. Mind you, they had to go over the Grapevine, which was considered a really dangerous stretch of road between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Walt had a pretty good idea where Sandy was being held at the farm outside of Shafter.

“As Walt directed him, Clary pulled his model A up to the commercial farm, and there was Sandy, in plain view, with no one around. Walt darted over to Sandy, untied her and jumped into the rumble sear with her. Clary took off like something out of Bonnie and Clyde and hurried back to Los Angeles.

“The strange part is that their father Jesse Hester never said one word about their doggy rescue, but we do know that the whole family was smiling all the way home… even Sandy.


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