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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Boy would sooner walk than leave dog

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on July 2, 2020

No sooner had he learned there would be no Sooner, Ray Nutting made his decision.

“No, I got to have my dog. I’ll just walk,” the 14-year-old from Panhandle, Texas, declared.

Nutting passed up a free train ticket home, because he refused to leave his dog, Sooner, behind.

Nutting and Sooner had arrived in Harrison on a July day in 1939. He slept in the courthouse park that evening.

“I found the boy wandering around the streets with his dog and carrying a small handbag containing his clothes late yesterday,” said Boone County sheriff Dan Hale, “so I took him home with me last night.”

According to an account in the Harrison Daily Times, Nutting appeared before Boone County judge Garner Fraser. Upon seeing the boy affectionately pat his dog on the head, those at the courthouse were immediately won over. It was then that Fraser told Nutting he would be furnished with a ticket back to Texas, but unfortunately, Sooner would have to stay behind.

Nutting told the judge that he had been visiting his uncle, Tom Johnson, who lived between Marshall and Yellville. Uncle Tom had wanted to keep him, but Nutting refused.

“I wanted to see my mother,” he explained.

The boy told Loren Watkins, Boone County welfare director, that his parents were separated, and there were seven other children in the family. His mother was on relief, obtaining only groceries.

“I came to Arkansas with another fellow,” Nutting said, “but he got a job and isn’t going back.”

A group of attorneys then took it upon themselves to make sure that both the boy and his dog got back home. W.S. Walker assisted Nutting in securing a crate in which to ship Sooner. Other attorneys went about the business of making sure there were sufficient funds for a train ticket.

“I’d like to have that boy,” declared M.O. Penix. “A boy who likes his dog that well would get along fine with me.”

Everyone then saw to it that Nutting and Sooner got on a Missouri and Arkansas passenger train bound for home.