A Man’s Best Friend

Although nothing can take the place of human friendship, we are fortunate in that the good Lord gave us even more than that in this earthly life if we wish to pursue it. 


If you happen to take a trip to Warrensburg, Mo., you will see a statue erected on the courthouse lawn.  No, it isn’t a statue to commemorate a war hero or a famous statesman.  It just happens that it is a statue of a dog by the name of “Old Drum”. 


It might seem a little strange and you might ask, “Why is there a statue of a dog in downtown Warrensburg?”  The explanation is that in 1870, there was a court case called Burden vs. Hornsby.   The case was about a dog by the name of Old Drum. 


The story is told that Old Drum was a hound and the prized hunting dog of Charles Burden who loved his dog.  Charles Burden sued Leonidas Hornsby, who was his brother-in-law, because Leonidas Hornsby’s nephew and ward, Samuel “Dick” Ferguson, shot and killed Old Drum.  Mr. Hornsby was familiar with Old Drum and even recognized that he was the best hunting dog around but he had sworn to kill any dog that came on his property because he thought there was a dog that was killing his sheep.  One night Old Drum showed up on Mr. Hornsby’s property and the rest is history.


The trial was one of the most unusual trials in the country at that time and after many appeals, the case actually ended up in the Supreme Court of Missouri. 


Charles Burden hired an attorney by the name of George Graham, Vest who later became a senator, to represent him in court that was held in Warrensburg.  Charles Burden won his case and was awarded $50 in damages. 


The man who reportedly shot Old Drum later moved to Oklahoma where he died in the town of Anadarko.  It seems somehow ironic that it was gunshot wounds that caused this man’s own death.  


It is said that what won the case for Mr. Burden was when his attorney, George Graham Vest, made his final appeal to the jury where he eulogized the dog.  It is said that his words brought the jury to tears.  His words were as follows:


“Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog."

"Gentleman of the Jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that encounters the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens."

"If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. When the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death."

In case you have ever wondered where the idea came from that “A man’s best friend is his dog”, just travel over to Warrensburg, Missouri, and look up the history in the town that uses the motto, “Home of man’s best friend”.  You will be able to see this for yourself as you approach the Johnson County Courthouse, for right there on the courthouse lawn is a statue of Charles Burden’s beloved best friend… “Old Drum”.


By Pamela R. Blaine

© 2004, August