(Wizard Homepage)



Taken from The Wizard No. 1114 - October 26th 1946.

Your dog’s cleaver?

It can do a score of tricks?




There was great excitement in the small village of Lower Thatcham. Crowds of people were walking over the downs and the air was filled with the barking of dogs and the bleating of sheep. It was the important occasion of the Lower Thatcham annual Sheepdog Trials, and a radio commentator was giving a description of the proceedings.

“It is a marvellous day,” he was saying through the microphone that had been set up on the open stretch of downland. “All the local shepherds are here with their dogs. About a hundred yards from where I am standing, hurdles have been set up to form a pen, and it is really remarkable the way some of these dogs are able to get the sheep into the pen.” He paused for breath, then continued: “You should see the dog that is at work now—a very shaggy, bob-tailed sheepdog, trained by an old shepherd by the name of Ebenezer Bramble—and you would be astonished at the astute way in which this dog handles the sheep. He is racing away now to round up a stray. Yes, he has headed it off. He is bringing it back—” “Watch them, you hairy-faced old ruffian!” “I apologise for the interruption,” said the commentator coldly. “It came from a young lad standing amongst the spectators. Er—he was addressing the dog, not me. Ahem! I am clean-shaven. I understand that the lad is Mr Bramble’s grandson, Sammy, and I have requested him to be quiet. Now I will continue—” There was an outburst of cheering. “The people are cheering the clever way in which this dog is keeping the flock together. The sheep are all moving steadily towards the pen. The dog is now crouched down on the grass, watching them like a hawk. The sheep are still moving towards the pen. This dog has a good chance of winning if he can keep them going. Ah, what’s this? He has suddenly shot away to a small bush some distance from the pen.” The listeners waited tensely. “Ah, I see—evidently his instinct told him that one of the sheep was trying to break away again and he has taken up a position in readiness to stop it. Wonderful wisdom these sheepdogs have. Yes, the sheep has turned back. The dog is racing round to the rear of the flock now, keeping the sheep together and herding them towards the pen—” “Come on, you shaggy-eared rabbit-snatcher!” “That was young Bramble again,” announced the commentator sourly. “I have again requested him to be quiet. This is a very tense moment. The sheep are hanging back. But the dog is after them. He will not let them rest. Ah, there they go—yes, they are moving into the pen. They are all in, every one. The judges are consulting. I think—yes, there is no doubt about it, this dog has won the prize.” His words were drowned in a burst of cheering. “The cheering you can hear is for Mr Bramble’s sheepdog, which has just won the first prize. This is your commentator, Felix Fitzhugh, speaking from Lower Thatcham, where the annual Sheepdog Trials are now in progress. Before returning you to the studio I will give you my impressions of this remarkable spectacle.” He cleared his throat. “The way these sheepdogs go to work is truly amazing,” he went on impressively7. “I have never seen anything like it. The winning dog was naturally better than the others. The manner in which this dog stationed himself by that bush in readiness to head off the straying sheep had to be seen to be believed. It shows a wonderful instinct. The dog seems almost human. In fact, these dogs can do everything except talk.” “Who says dogs can’t talk?” growled a gruff voice. The commentator jerked back from the microphone and looked about him in astonishment. Nobody was near. All he could see was a big shaggy sheepdog, the one that had just won the prize, lying on the grass close by him, evidently resting after its recent efforts. “Strange,” muttered Mr Fitzhugh puzzled. “I must be getting too much sun. I could have sworn I heard somebody speak.” He addressed himself to the microphone once more. “Pardon the interruption. Ha! Ha! I thought somebody was speaking to me. As a matter of fact, all the people have moved off to the judges’ table, where the prizes are on view. As I was saying, if these dogs could speak—” “What makes you think they can’t?” A peculiar expression came over Mr Fitzhugh’s dignified features. He looked each way and opened them again quickly. Still nobody about. Only the sheepdog lying there, cocking its shaggy head at him in a comical sort of way.

Mr Fitzhugh took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow nervously. “I—I am not feeling quite myself this morning. I—I keep hearing—imagining—but never mind. As I was saying—” “Dogs are not dumb as you seem to think,” put in the gruff voice argumentatively. Mr Fitzhugh turned very pale. His startled eyes became fixed on the sheepdog, and he ran his fingers under his collar. The shaggy dog blinked at him. Mr Fitzhugh watched it with eyes that were growing bigger and bigger. “No, no, it couldn’t be,” he muttered hoarsely. Then he remembered his microphone again. “Oh yes, pardon me, this is Little Hatcham—Lower Thatcham, I mean—” “Just because dogs are not always shooting off their mouths like some blokes I know,” went on the gruff voice, “it doesn’t mean to say that they can’t talk.” Mr Fitzhugh jumped about a foot in the air and clutched at the microphone. The truth had dawned on him at last. “It’s the dog,” he babbled. “It’s the dog that’s talking! Yet it can’t be—it’s impossible! Dogs can’t talk! Everybody knows dogs can’t talk—” “Oh, do they?” said the sheepdog, rising lazily to its feet. “Well, what the dickens do you think I’m doing now?” Mr Fitzhugh let out a low moan and staggered back. The bob-tailed sheepdog ambled across. Rising on its rear legs it hooked one forepaw round the microphone. Mr Fitzhugh was too taken aback to do anything but gape. The sheepdog gave a short low bark as if to clear its throat, then remarked cheerfully: “Howdo folks, this is Charlie Bramble talking. I’ve just won the Lower Thatcham Sheepdog Trials, and I’m gonna tell you how I did it. Before I go on I’d like to ask you not to take too much notice of what that gasbag has been putting across. He knows as much about sheepdogs as my Aunt Annie knows about algebra. You heard what he said about my amazing instinct when I scooted across to that bush. Don’t believe a word of it. I’ve got a bone buried under that bush. I just wanted to make sure it was still there, that’s all. And don’t get the idea that dogs can’t talk. They can. And this is Charlie, Lower Thatcham’s champion sheepdog, closing his broadcast. I would like to repeat, folks, dogs can talk.” And the sheepdog trotted away across the downs.


Pausing here and there to sniff at rabbit holes and explore interesting patches of undergrowth, Charlie was ambling cheerfully through the woods on his way home. A farmer with a gun was walking very cautiously through the trees. The sheepdog stopped and blinked at him.

“You won’t find any rabbits round here, mister,” said Charlie. “I’ve looked.” And he trotted on, wagging his stump of tail. The farmer gaped vacantly after him, then tripped over his gun in his astonishment and nearly shot himself. Charlie trotted on. Old Ebenezer Bramble, the shepherd was coming away from the judges’ table hugging a silver cup and beaming all over his leathery brown face when the sheepdog ambled up to him. With the shepherd was his young grandson Sammy who worked on the same farm now that he had left school. Sammy lived with his grandad in a lonely cottage on the downs. At the moment Sammy was looking very upset. “I’m telling you, grandad,” Sam was saying. “Charlie has been chinwagging over the wireless. One of my pals was listening-in and told me. Everybody will know about it now.” “About what?” “About the dog being able to talk.” “Well, what about it?” “Charlie’s a wonderful dog to be able to talk,” declared Sammy. “Bust me, what’s so wonderful about it?” grumbled old Bramble. “I ain’t never been able to get him to sound his R’s properly yet. And danged slow he is at reciting poetry.” “You never heard of any other kind of dog that could talk.” “That’s because nobody ever takes the trouble to teach ‘em,” said grandad. “It takes a powerful lot of patience, so it do. But a shepherd’s got to have somebody to talk to. It’s a lonely job and I ain’t sorry I’m retiring this week.” Nursing his silver cup he continued on his way to the cottage, leaving Sammy to bring along the sheepdog which was following them. The dog’s eyes peered through their shaggy fringe at young Sam. “I thought myself I put up a pretty good show,” remarked the dog gruffly. “You hairy old ruffian!” roared Sam. “Didn’t I tell you to keep your mouth shut when you were on your own?” Charlie paused to sniff at a rabbit hole, decided there was nobody at home and trotted on, blinking up at Sam in an apologetic sort of way. “I couldn’t stand the smug way that bloke was shooting his mouth off,” said the sheepdog. “Seeing that I won the prize I thought I was entitled to my say.” “You’ve got far too much cheek for a dog,” said young Sam. “You’ll come to a bad end, my lad. Thousands of people must have listened to that broadcast. We’ll have reporters here if we’re not careful. You know dogs are not supposed to talk. You’ve probably landed yourself in a whole heap of trouble.” Sammy wasn’t far wrong.

That afternoon Mr Fitzhugh, the commentator, still looking rather pale, was in London, in the office of Mr Alf Rumstein, a plump, flashy-looking theatrical agent. “Well, what do you want?” grunted Mr Rumstein, chewing a long cigar and eyeing the radio man with no great favour. “I heard your broadcast this morning. Horrible mess you made of it. And what was that stunt you tried to put over about a dog talking?” “Listen, Alf,” said Mr Fitzhugh hoarsely. “When you come to think about it, what is talk? It’s just a lot of different noises strung together, isn’t it?” Mr Rumstein considered this remark in silence. He squinted suspiciously at Mr Fitzhugh. “You still nuts?” he snorted. “Parrots make noises,” went on Mr Fitzhugh. “Anybody with a lot of patience can teach a parrot to talk. Well, dogs make noises, too. Supposing—” “Look,” said Mr Rumstein, “I’m a busy man. I just haven’t got the time to hold half-witted conversations with candidates for the looney bin.” Supposing,” repeated the commentator determinedly, “there was an old shepherd, lonely patient, with plenty of time on his hands. Supposing he spent his days making noises to his dog and getting the dog to repeat them. In time that dog might learn to talk.” “Are you kidding?” “I’m saying supposing there was such a dog. How much would it be worth?” “A talking dog?” Mr Rumstein whistled. “It would be a sensation! Worth thousands. You could make a fortune.” “Well, that’s what we’re going to make,” said Mr Fitzhugh comfortably, “because I’ve found a talking dog.” “You’re crazy!” “Oh, no I’m not. That dog you heard talking over the air was not a hoax. It was a real dog talking. Nobody believes it—I could hardly believe it myself—but it’s true. The dog can really talk and it belongs to an old shepherd named Ebenezer Bramble who lives at Lower Thatcham. Mr Rumstein chewed his cigar thoughtfully. “You’re positive about this dog?” “Absolutely,” declared the commentator. Mr Rumstein put on his hat. “Where are you going?” “We’re going to Lower Thatcham,” said Mr Rumstein, “to see a man about a dog.”


Sammy Bramble was loading hay the next morning. He wasn’t keen on the job. Sammy’s ambition was to get out and see the world. He was pausing for a rest, when suddenly he saw Charlie, the sheepdog, come galloping along. The dog flopped down at Sam’s feet breathlessly his tongue hanging out.

“Coo, skin a rabbit,” barked Charlie. “I’m in a proper mess now. Your two-timing old grandad has just about fixed me.” “What have you been up to?” “Nothing,” said the sheepdog in his gruff voice. “But I’ve just overheard your grandad selling me for a couple of quid!” “Grandad’s sold you!” gasped Sam, staggered. “They didn’t notice I was listening,” said the sheepdog. “I bolted. The two blokes who bought me are out searching for me now. One of them is that wireless gasbag. You’re my pal so I came over to see what you’re going to do about it.” Sam forgot all about the hay. “Let’s go and see grandad,” he snorted. Grandad Bramble was looking quite pleased with himself when Sam and the dog reached the cottage. “Ay, I sold Charlie,” he agreed. “It was the best thing I could do. Now I’m retiring I shan’t need a dog, but I don’t want Charlie to be moping about doing nothing. The two gents who bought him have promised me he’ll be well looked after. Very nice gents they were.” “A couple of twisters, you mean, grandad,” said Sam. “All they want Charlie for is to put on show because he can talk. They think they’ll make a lot of money. Charlie will be cooped up in a cage most of the time.” Grandad Bramble’s face fell. “Dang me, is that what they’re after?” he muttered. “I wouldn’t want Charlie to be cooped up. I thought I was acting for the best. But I can’t go back on the deal now. I’ve taken the money.” He sighed. “They’ll have to take Charlie now.” “Like fun they will,” growled the sheepdog. “Not while I’ve got four legs. Good morning.” “Here, come back, Charlie!” shouted Sam. “You can’t be a runaway all your life. We’ve got to figure this out. There must be some way of saving you.” “Sammy,” said grandad. “If you can get the two fellers to call off the deal you can have Charlie for yourself.” “Gosh, thanks, grandad,” exclaimed Sam in delight. “Come on, Charlie, let’s take a walk and do a bit of hard thinking.” With the sheepdog trotting beside him, Sam walked out of the cottage and down the country lane, his brow furrowed in thought. Every few yards Charlie cocked his shaggy head up at him to see if he had a brainwave yet, but it wasn’t until they had gone about half a mile that Sam began to grin. “I’ve got it! The only reason this radio bloke is after you, Charlie, is because you can talk, and if you couldn’t talk he wouldn’t want you. All you’ve got to do is keep your trap shut for a bit and leave the rest to me.” He explained his idea as they walked back towards the cottage, and Charlie cocked his shaggy ears and wagged his stump of a tail understandingly.

Before they reached the cottage, however, they were intercepted. Mr Fitzhugh and Alf Rumstein came bounding towards them. “That’s the dog!” yelled Mr Fitzhugh. “That’s the dog that talks!” Sammy could look very simple when he liked. He put on his most vacant grin and stuck a straw in his mouth. “What’s that you’re saying, sir?” he inquired. “That dog you have,” snapped Mr Fitzhugh. “It’s the one we have just bought—the one that talks.” “Do you be takin’ me for a fool, mister?” grinned Sammy. “Dogs don’t talk.” “Ordinary dogs don’t,” agreed Mr Fitzhugh coldly, “but this one does. I know you—you’re Sam Bramble, the boy who kept shouting during my broadcast, and this dog was your grandfather’s so you know it talks.” “Did grandad say it talks? He’s a rare ‘un for a joke.” “He didn’t say so, but I know. I heard it myself.” “You must have wunnerful ears, sir,” said Sam, his eyes round with awe. “I ain’t never heard a dog talk, have you, mister?” And he gazed vacantly at Alf Rumstein. Mr Rumstein was now showing signs of suspicion and uncertainty, and he drew Mr Fitzhugh aside. “Here, are you sure you’re not making a fool of yourself?” he muttered. “I’ve parted with two quid for this dog and I want my money’s worth. You absolutely certain this dog can talk? It looks an ordinary enough animal to me.” “I’ve told you. I heard it myself.” “Yes, but I haven’t,” snapped Mr Rumstein, “and I want some proof of it very soon.” Mr Rumstein bent down and patted Charlie’s head. In smooth, coaxing tones, as if encouraging a parrot to talk, the commentator spoke to Charlie. “Nice boy! Come on now, say something! Good morning. Good afternoon. How do you do! Speak!” Charlie sat up and begged. With a knowing twinkle in his eyes, he wagged his stump of tail. He turned a somersault. He rolled over and pretended to be dead. He performed all kinds of cute doggy tricks. But he didn’t talk. Mr Fitzhugh began to sweat. “A talking dog!” sneered Alf Rumstein in disgust. “I might have known. I must have been crazy to listen to a tall yarn like that.” “But I heard him talk,” muttered Mr Fitzhugh desperately. “I could swear it. Perhaps he’s shy with strangers. Perhaps if we keep him a few weeks—” Charlie didn’t like the sound of that. He decided it was time that he changed his tactics. He cocked his head up at Sam and Sam gave him a broad wink, so Charlie looked at Alf Rumstein and bared his big teeth. “Wouf!” barked Charlie. He leapt and before his new owners had time to relies what was happening  he had the seat of Mr Rumstein’s pants ripped out as clean as a whistle. “Help!” shrieked Alf, clasping his seat and bounding for the nearest tree, up which he shinned with extraordinary speed. Mr Fitzhugh did not pause to make any comment on the situation, for Charlie had now dropped the section of gent’s trousering from his teeth and was making a low growling noise in his throat and watching Mr Fitzhugh intently. The commentator gave one shrill howl of alarm and joined his comrade in the tree. Sam beamed up at them affably. “They do say, sirs, that there’s a chap in the village who can make dogs talk,” remarked Sam in a simple way. “He be one of these here ventriloquist chaps.”

An odd expression came over Mr Fitzhugh’s face. He was so shaken by Sammy’s remark that he nearly fell out of the tree. “A v-v-ventriloquist!” he croaked. “So that’s how it was done! There must have been a ventriloquist somewhere! I’ve been fooled!” “You’ve been fooled!” hooted Alf. “What about my two quid!” Sammy was just going to offer to get their money back for them when, to his consternation, he saw a stout, red faced man in gaiters coming down the lane. The man was Farmer Huckberry, Sam’s boss, and he was snorting with rage. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, young Bramble!” roared Farmer Huckberry. Then he stopped and blinked in astonishment at the sight of Mr Fitzhugh and Alf Rumstein in the tree. “If you’re the owner of this farm,” snarled Alf, “we’ve got a complaint to make about old Bramble. He has tricked us into buying a taking dog. Only it don’t talk!” “A talking dog!” echoed Farmer Huckberry, amazed. “That sounds like one of Sammy’s tricks.” “I don’t care whose trick it is, but I’ve parted with two quid and I want my money back!” “I’ll see that you get it,” promised Farmer Huckberry, grimly. “I’m not having tricks like that played on my farm. You’re fired, Sam Bramble! I can’t fire your Grandad because he’s retiring, but I’ll see that he pays back the money. Come along to the cottage, gents.” Grandad Bramble was very happy to return the money and get Charlie back. But he was a bit upset when he heard that Sam had been fired. “Don’t you worry about me, Grandad,” grinned Sam. “I was fed up with the farm anyway. I’m going out into the world to look for another job, and Charlie’s coming with me.” “You’re welcome to the brute,” snapped Alf. “Talking dog, indeed! Pah!” “Sheer nonsense!” growled Farmer Huckberry. “I didn’t really believe it my self,” added Mr Fitzhugh. And then Charlie solemnly got up from the floor, where he had been lying, and cocked his shaggy head up at them, his little eyes twinkling. “Suckers!” said Charlie, very slowly and distinctly, and he trotted out of the doorway at Sam’s heels. As Sam and Charlie ambled down the lane, they heard the sound of three heavy bumps from the cottage, as Farmer Huckberry, Alf Rumstein, and Mr Fitzhugh hit the floor one after the other.

The Talking Dog Series 10 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1114 – 1118, 1120, 1122 - 1125 (1946)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd

Vic Whittle 2007