/Time for a different trip

Time for a different trip

By Jim Polling Sr.

The world is on the move again after two and a half years of COVID. I’m itching to do some travelling but can’t decide where to go.

I’ve considered Tasmania to see the ancient Huon Pine trees, some of which were growing at the time of Julius Caesar. 

I’ve also considered visiting Newfoundland’s quaint coastal towns to see the icebergs moving down the coast. The province’s television ads are spectacular.

And, it would be fun to visit Italy’s Tuscany region to take in the beautiful scenery and sample the great Italian foods.

There are many choices, but I think I’ll go to Missouri. 


Missouri indeed. There’s a neat little town in Missouri called Marshall, roughly 300 kilometres (180 miles) west of St. Louis. It is an unimportant place with a population of only 13,000, but it does have two things of special interest for me.

First, one of my grandsons is going to school there. He is in his first year of college, playing baseball for the Missouri Valley College Vikings. (Vikings? In Missouri, the absolute heartland of the US?)

Secondly, Marshall is the home of Jim the Wonder Dog, whose bronze statue stands in the memorial park named after him a short walk from the college.

Jim the Wonder Dog was an English setter said to possess remarkable powers of prediction. He reportedly could predict the sex of unborn children and picked the winners of the Kentucky Derby seven years in a row. He also predicted the New York Yankee victory in the 1936 World Series.

In 1930, Van Arsdale wrote on pieces of paper the names of horses expected to run in the Kentucky Derby. He spread the papers in front of Jim, who sniffed them, then placed a paw on one. The piece Jim selected was sealed in an envelope and opened after the race was run.

Seven years in a row, the papers Jim selected bore the name of the winning horse.

Jim was born in 1925 of pureblood champion stock and was given as a gift to hunter Sam Van Arsdale. Jim was the runt of the litter and Van Arsdale’s hunting friends bought him for less than one-half the price of his litter mates and gave Sam the dog as a joke.

Van Arsdale and Jim did a lot of hunting, with the hunter boasting he shot 5,000 birds over Jim, then stopped counting.

On one hunt, Van Arsdale said to Jim: “Let’s go over and rest under that hickory tree.” Jim immediately went to a hickory tree and sat.

Surprised, Van Arsdale then told Jim to go to a walnut tree, then a cedar, then a tin can lying on the ground. Jim went to each quickly and accurately.

Van Arsdale discovered that Jim could locate a car by colour, or licence number. He also could select people from a crowd after being told to find the man who sells hardware, or find the one who takes care of sick people.

Jim even followed commands given to him in foreign languages, Morse Code or shorthand.

News of Jim’s unique talents spread, and he was invited to demonstrate them in other towns and other states. Magazines, including Outdoor Life, wrote articles about him.

Some folks suspected Jim was a scam so Van Arsdale brought him to Dr. A. J. Durant, a well-known veterinarian and head of the University of Missouri veterinary school.

Jim was examined and other vets, two psychiatrists and vet students watched as the dog was given commands to locate or identify things. He passed the tests with flying colours.

Dr. Durant, who expected to uncover a scam, concluded that Jim “possessed an occult power that might never come again to a dog in many generations.”

One day, in the spring of 1937, when Jim was 12, Van Arsdale took the dog out in a wooded area near a lake. Jim jumped out of the car, ran a short distance, then collapsed. Van Arsdale rushed him to an animal hospital where he died.

Jim’s headstone is the most visited site in Marshall’s Ridge Park Cemetery. 

I think I’ll pass on Tasmania’s tall trees, and Tuscany’s delicious foods, and head on down to Missouri.