God of the Antelope

Our Cockapoo Ipolani, Hawaiian for Heavenly Sweetheart, was three years old when she met the God of the antelope.

I had decided to leave Montana to attend the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. Everything seemed to be falling into place, as if God wanted this all to happen. Iliff had awarded me a Presidential Scholarship in leadership, and I was grateful. The scholarship eased the financial end of our venture southward.

We had no trouble selling our wonderful home and we were now living in a townhouse down the street from the old place.

Joan was closing down her law practice. I had given notice that I was leaving my job with the state of Montana, and I was finishing up or passing on my projects and getting my files in order.

This was an exciting time for us, if a bit scary. We felt like Abraham and Sarah, no longer young and innocent, but heading off into the wilderness on a new adventure.

It was also a sad time for us, a time of many goodbyes. We grieved the loss of our home, jobs, friends and the community in which we had lived for fifteen years.

Finally, it was also a time of waiting. We were basically in a holding pattern, waiting for seminary to start, for the time we could load our U-haul truck and head down the road to Colorado.

During this summer of waiting Joan and I bought a couple of five speed bikes. We loved our bikes. In the morning on the weekends and in the evening after work, we’d visited all the places and things we would soon miss. Ipolani accompanied us, running along side our bikes.

In the summer time in Montana, the days are remarkably long.  There’s light as late as 10:30 or 11 p.m. In the evening after work, there was plenty of time to eat dinner, then head down hill on our bikes. We peddled past the bowling alley and onto a dirt road that ran parallel to I-15. We would soon take I-15 south to Butte, then I-90 to Billings. Eventually we’d take I-25 straight down to Denver.

The dirt road was our favorite place to bike. Sometimes trucks used the road, kids looking for a place to park. Sometimes dirt bikes tore up and down the hillside on the west side of the road. The bikes scarred the slopes with dirt trails. But mostly, when we used the road in the twilight we had it to ourselves.

Beside the road, so people driving the highway could see it, was a huge billboard with a translucent Jesus on it. His arms were outstretched, and if you looked carefully at his translucent body, you’d make out a smaller figure of Jesus on the cross. The quote on the billboard was from the gospel of John: “I am the light of the world.” I remember how my eyes were always drawn to this billboard.

Ipo loved our bike rides down the dirt road. Free of a leash, she ran beside us as we pedaled along. She loved to run. She was quite the runner.

Sometimes she veered off and chased the meadowlarks in the grass. Sometimes signs of deer and antelope made her pause as her nose had a field day with all the wonderful smells. And we’d call her name in annoyance, and even stop and wait for her to catch up.  One evening near the place we usually stopped and turned around and headed back home, Ipo saw an antelope. She lit out after it. We yelled at her, but it was too late. The antelope was headed up the knoll with Ipo hot after it.

The antelope went up the knoll and disappeared. Ipo went up the knoll and disappeared.

The dirt road continued around the knoll, so I said to Joan, “Let’s stay on our bikes and go around and intercept them.” So we tore around to the other side of the knoll and looked…just the road through the trees. No antelope, no Ipo. We listened in the twilight. Nothing.

I was worried. I headed back to the other side of the knoll, looking up slope. Nothing.

Then something black caught my eye. It was Ipo, down the road ahead of us, moving fast. I yelled her name: “Ipolani!” She paused briefly, looking back at us, her ears down and her tail tucked between her legs. I started pedaling fast. “Ipolani!” She turned and began running again, running from me, as if in terror.

The faster I pedaled, the faster she ran. Her ears floated out from her head like the wings of an airplane. I was amazed at how fast she ran. I worried at how fast she was going. I thought her little heart would give out, burst, if she didn’t stop.

It was over two miles home. I kept yelling her name. Once more she turned to look at me, but then she was off again, faster than ever.

I never caught up with her. She ran by the bowling alley, where some workers were smoking in the back of the building. She streaked by the workers, up the bowling alley hill, and disappeared over the rise.

Poor Ipolani! What had she seen on the other side of the knoll? What had the antelope said to her? Joan and I speculated that the God of the antelope must have stamped its hooves and spoken to Ipo, saying, “Halt! Tread lightly! I Am What I Am!” and Ipo skidded to a halt, looked, saw, and fled in terror.

As we pushed our bikes up the bowling alley hill and came over the rise to the street, we ran into our children in their car. They were coming to see us. They helped us look for Ipo, driving all the streets in the area. They even went up to the house we had just sold, the one on Humbolt Loop, to see if she had gone there. We hadn’t been living in the townhouse long, so it was reasonable to think that she might have found her way back to the old place.

She wasn’t there at Humbolt Loop, where things had been so perfect for us. We found her sitting in front of the townhouse door, waiting for our return. Our poor Ipi had come to the new place, our temporary home, and was safe!

We gave her lots of loves and kisses, and we said to her, “Hey, Ipi. You can tell us. Who did you meet on the other side of that knoll?  The God of the antelope? Please, please, tell us, what meeting God was like?” 

She cocked her head and looked at us with a smile on her pure black face. She told us nothing.