A note from Emi, Sumida Farm 4th Generation Manager: The Sumida family is full of storytellers. My father, Stephen Sumida (also known as Jiji to my kids and Uncle Steve to the rest of the family), is one of those storytellers. Our family has always loved listening to his tales of adventure and fun from growing up on the farm with his three siblings. In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share one of my favorite stories he used to tell us, “Fire Eye Dog.”
Wishing my dad, father-in-law (also named Steve!) and husband, Kyle, a very happy day, we love you so much.
Follow our blog for more “Uncle Steve’s Talk Story Time.” We hope you enjoy these short stories and Happy Father’s Day, from our family to yours!
FIRE EYE DOG
By Stephen Sumida
The three of us, James Cortez, our only neighbor playmate, my brother David, and I spent summer afternoons in Mrs. Wong’s house neighboring our farm. We were still small enough to lie at ease in the twin-sized bed that was a punee, a day-bed, in front of her TV, a luxury that neither James nor David and I had at our homes back then in the late-1950s. Hiding out at Mrs. Wong’s from doing chores on the farm, we’d watch Flash Gordon, the Three Stooges, Our Gang and the Little Rascals, and the crowning glory of the Mickey Mouse Club starring Annette Funicello and whoever else whose names we forget, all but hers. Who remembers Spin and Marty, anyhow?
Why waste Mrs. Wong’s wisdom? One day we asked her if she knew of any ghosts on our farms. She answered as if she was waiting for us to ask. There were the unmarked graves up in the forest mauka of our farms, toward the mountains. Did we want to check them out? There was a coffin-sized depression in the crawl space under James’s house. It was a grave that had been dug up, never mind whose and why. And these were just for starters. The rest of the stories, she stopped short of telling. This is how Mrs. Wong taught us to go find out for ourselves.
One day soon James, David, and I suited up in our surplus Army helmet liners and small paper-shotguns that were the fad of the day for boys in ‘Aiea town. We loaded our cap guns with rolls of ammo. We marched up to the forest where Mrs. Wong said we’d find graves of the unknown. We entered the forest. Suddenly a white dog appeared in front of us. It turned its head, teeth bared, slowly and deliberately toward us. Its eyes glowed red. We freaked out and emptied our paper-shot pistols at it, our eyes bugged out, our jaws dropped to the ground, our tongues hanging out dry and screaming. David and I turned and fled. James remained behind. For two seconds he snapped his empty pistol at the dog, then ran after us. We plowed down into the Wongs’ taro patches. We fell on our bellies but churned our legs so that our gaping mouths scooped up the mud. We pumped our little legs until we reached our tin boat canoe on our river, jumped in, and paddled like crazy downstream to our mother’s house. We ran in and luckily Mom wasn’t around to ask what the hell had happened to us. We three were covered with mud, stinking, and looked like we’d just seen a ghost. We jumped back into the river to wash off, never saying a word to one another all the while.
The next day David and I told our farm workers about the dog. Florencio said, “And the dog was white and his eyes were red, yeah? The light was shining from the inside out?” That was exactly what we’d seen. He said, “That was your ghost dog.”