- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Rockvale, TN, June 2007 - -
I took a ride a couple of days ago and picked
up some cement blocks from a nice old man
I'd met at the VA. There were a lot of them,
well over one hundred,  and it took me two
trips over two days, so I kinda got to know
my block benefactor a little bit.

The guy I got them from, a fellow VA
client, went in the Army when he was 19, in
1967.  He was a sniper, and he says that
being a sniper kinda distances you from
your comrades, what with you hiding up in
trees for days at a time and, sniping being
kind of unsavory and sneaky and just plain
not honest, hell, it's murder plain and
simple, so you don't develop many close
buddies in the service.

In 1967 I was 22.  So I got just a few
years on him.  This poor f*cker looks about
twice my age, has had five heart attacks
and after the last one tried to commit
suicide, which they saved him from and put
him in the nuthouse out at VA, which the
denizens often call Club Meds.

His name is James.  James is, like a lot of
those we refer to as "lacking in social
skills", somewhat of a misanthrope.  That
much contact with first the Viet Cong and
now the Veterans' Administration will do
that to you.

His social outlet, the thing that keeps his
groove thing going the little bit that it
does, is that he keeps a bunch of animals,
mostly dogs but a few goats and turkeys and
the odd interloping wild thing, upon whom
he lavishes all the overflowing goodness of
his f*cked up and failing heart that the
world wants nothing to do with.

He told me a dog story, and that, finally,
is the subject of this note.

A coupla years back, there appeared on
James's land a pit bulldog who would hide
at the edge of the woods and watch all that
was going on in the yard, but when James
tried to approach him he would run away.
James ultimately did become his trusted
friend, though, and got him to the vet and
he was full of scars.  The vet said he
thought the dog had been used as a
"training dog" for bringing out the beast,
which they call "blooding" around here, in
fighting pit bulldogs.  Thus he had gotten
all physically f*cked up, as well as
developing a deep and keen mistrust of
anything on two or even four legs.  I'm
jumping ahead in this part here as a set up
to the story, so you can get some idea of
the total desperation, desolation and
sadness of this critter before he found his
way to James's.

Around here we got a lotta goats.  In some
places the ground is rocky and you can't
run cows there, so goats is it.  Some folks
keep sheep as well.  Which brings us to the
Great Pyrenees breed of dog.  What a noble
creature!  The complete opposite of the pit
bull prototype, the Pyrenees is innately
nurturing and caring for all around him.
They live with their charges, adopt the
herd as their pack and, looking pretty much
the same as the creatures they care for,
provide total protection forsheep and the
famous Tennessee fainting goats.

Around the time the pit bull showed up and
was hiding at the edge of the woods, James
had just acquired a couple of Pyrenees pups
to run with his goats and turkeys.  He kept
the pups in a cage in his yard; wanting
them to stay outdoor dogs he didn't bring
them into his house.

Each day he'd look out at the sad pit bull
at the edge of the woods and wonder if
maybe he shouldn't put some food out for
him.  But he decided against doing that,
because then the dog would have no
incentive to come closer, would simply
continue to hang out, fed but unloved and
unsocialized, at the edge of the woods.  So
he hoped hunger would bring the dog to him.

But he began to notice a strange
occurrence.  Every morning, the Pyrenees
pups' dish would be outside their cage.  He
couldn't figure it out.  Meantime the pit
showed no sign of being hungry, was gaining
weight in fact.

And then accidentally James got up early
one morning and was looking out the window
of his doublewide, and he saw the pups
pushing the dish under the mesh of their
cage to the pitbull waiting outside.  So
they were sharing their food with this
strange sad little guy.  Well, it nearly
broke James's heart of course, this display
of altruistic behavior on the part of these
little pups, no more than three months old.
"Just part of the way Pyrenees is, I
guess," he said to me.

So of course there was no point now to
withholding food from the pit so James
started feeding him, first at the edge of
the woods, then bringing the food dish ever
a little closer to the house, until he
finally won him over.

Now the Pyrenees pups are grown and watch
over his goats and ducks and turkeys.
Their names are Rocket and Comet.

The pit bulldog is still there, too.
James named him Pretty Boy.

In Peace and Love