Sunday, January 23, 2011

Big dog

In the middle of one summer, John and I drove the corvette up the California coast, just south of the Oregon border, to a place called Usal Trail. We’d seen an article in National Geographic: “Here is Where?” or maybe: “Where is there?” Or… Anyway, I’m sure about the question mark. Backpackers call it The Lost Coast.

John’s friend Dave came with us and drove a jeep. John loved Dave, maybe as much as John loved me. Dave had many things I didn’t – oh, I don’t mean balls. Dave had a doctorate from Stanford, a famous father, powerful friends. Most of all Dave never questioned Dave; his Dave-words, his Dave-thoughts, his Daveness.

Beautiful as John was, he had trouble slipping into his own skin. He’d do this thing where he’d twist his head from the right shoulder to the left, as though everything pulled too hard. John was older than Dave, but that didn’t lessen the hero worship. When they sparred, verbally, Dave always won. It wasn’t much of a fight; John bruised easily. And yet, they never seemed to tire of the sport. It was more of an exhibition match, anyway; and Dave was spending a lot of time in our company.

The first third of Usal Trail was overgrown, but drivable. Eventually we had to ditch the vette, and then ditch the jeep and finish up on foot.

We came to a deserted monastery, and found old farming equipment, fermenting in the sun and fog. When we reached the grassy cliffs we stood about 50 feet above the ocean. Sheep were grazing near the edge and my dog Bru, big bad Bru, took off at a dead run. I called him back.

“Don’t bother,” said Dave. “He doesn't hear you.”

We watched as way, way off, Bru cornered a sheep to the edge of a cliff. We couldn’t see much, just enough to know that fur does fly. After a bit – 1 minute? 5 minutes? Half an hour? The sheep collapsed and fell off the cliff. Bru stood at the very edge and barked and barked and barked. At the sky, not the ocean.

When he loped back to us, his mouth full of blood and wool.

John said, “We’d better get out of here, someone might own those sheep.”

Dave took off his shirt and helped me wipe the blood off Bru’s fur. That’s when I could feel Bru tremble a little, tremble and then sigh.

“Really, let’s go.” said John, turning to leave. “Unless you two relish the sight of some farmer running up the hill with a shotgun. Because if you do, Looocie, you got some splainin to do.”

After awhile, Dave took my hand and helped me up.

"Where is John?" I said. Or maybe, "Is John there?" Anyway, I remember the question mark.

And we left the Lost Coast to go find him.


  1. But this was the same John who handled the Mexican authorities so well. Now you have some 'splainin' to do.

  2. Mr.'s NEVER the same John.
    I love this - it's a gem of a piece. I crawled right in there -- you didn't know there was enought space in the lil' ol' vette for a tag-along. =)

  3. Bru had an experience. He needed to take a moment.

  4. I enjoyed being lost in your story, KB.

  5. You're a great storyteller. I want more of this John guy!

  6. Wow, I don't know who to like/hate.
    But that is the quandary, isn't it?

  7. I've known those who never question their "ness." You tend to love-hate them.

  8. Did this really happen? Why didn't anyone try and stop Bru from tormenting that sheep? This troubles me.

  9. Did you go home with John or Dave? Was this the final straw for John? What about Bru? Not only would the farmer be angry, but PETA would put up on their enemies list if they knew you had a mutton-eating dog.

    Good story. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  10. I hope this story is to be continued....I suspect there's more to this than meets the eye and I'm willing to bet Bru is more involved in the story than it appears.

  11. This was a very entertaining blog short story! It's left to just my imagination to come up with the pic that wood go with this.

  12. Oh, that took a dark twist I wasn't expecting.

  13. I can't wait for the next instalment - this is writing at its best.
    But I do hope no sheep was hurt in the telling of the story? I expect it was on a ledge just below the top and you went back and rescued it. John was right to get away, though, as farmers don't have any mercy for dogs that worry sheep. If Abby ever saw sheep, she'd be after them like a flash, so I'm glad we don't live in sheep country.

  14. I hope that when Bru found John-the-coward, he treated him better than the poor little lamb. I also hope it wasn't Mary's little lamb. That thought sort of changes the whole nursery rhyme.

  15. My uncle shot his beloved black shepherd Adolph for killing a neighbors chicken. Part of the Ozark code of honor.

    I'm with (except I would have grabbed Bru)

  16. I've got a friend who's a cattle rancher in Colorado. He's always had cattle dogs. Some don't work out, meaning they chase or bite the calfs or can't be trained to herd as required. They sometimes had to "go to Montana." That's what he'd tell his sons when they were small and they came home and asked where Fred was. "Oh, Fred went to Montana." The sons are now in their thirties and ranchers themselves, and I'm sure the next generation is learning about going to Montana.

  17. Driving off-road is well, driving off-road. So much can happen - or not happen, especially if you get stuck. And then a lot can happen, most of it manly. Also, dogs react strangely when they're given wide open spaces that think they want to run through forever. I think people do too if they're not used to leaving the beaten track. Lot's to envision here.

    wv remisto

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  19. Mister Earl: Splaining, always splaining.

    Tash: Who would know better than one who tagged along?

    P: Bru recovered quickly.

    Shell, Jean, Carolynn, and Sara: Thank you. I think I will.

    Brenda: That's always been a problem for me, too.

    Margaret: Read Paula.

    Db: I just know whose side you're on.

    CP and Bellis: Thank you very much. I know you appreciate a strict edit.

    Susan, I never expect it, either.

    PA and DB, you have that other tangent to discuss.

    Paula, see Margaret. Because you're right, sometimes things are elemental. Is that the right word? How about, unstoppable.

  20. Sooner or later we find that every dog wants to see their job description and then, find a suitable job.

  21. Unfortunately, sometimes that job requires them to move to Montana.

  22. Down here dbdubya, dogs go off to live on a farm. My Lucy did.

    As usual I"m blown away. Alls I can say Sistah is, "Dayum that's a good one."

  23. all I can say is, having had a shotgun pointed at me by a landowner who was LESS than thrilled I and my companion were on his property, it's over rated. Looking back a few dozen years, I'd get out BEFORE the shotgun was cocked in my and my date's direction. And we had nothing to do with sheep, well, THAT time! ;-)

    sometimes, animals do what is natural to them. sometimes, that means going after prey or things that run. sucks, but it is life. Bru probably didn't know what got into him!

    good story! keep it up!

    wv: confru...I'd bet Bru was confru'd at wth happened between when he left your side and when he came back more furry than when he left!

  24. And during, or end, question mark


  25. It reminds me of a story J. tells of a cat he once had who caught a bird, then ran back and forth across the lawn in a panic, with the bird in her jaws.
    J. says the cat was thinking, "I'm killing! I'm killing!" and it simultaneously thrilled and terrified her.

  26. Man or beast, we're all just on the edges of civility.

  27. Wow, what a story. And it started in a Vette, and ended up with mutton. You never know.

  28. Great looking dogs. When you're task-mastering do you ever get flustered and call them Albe and Phoebert?

  29. I don't know how I missed seeing this till now, but I did. My loss. This is good stuff, plenty of conflict and the beginnings of characterization. It's smart to make us care as much (perhaps) about the John-Dave situation as the John-Narrator romance. And as always, you really keep things moving.

    I think it's paragraph 3 where I wondered about some dialogue to illustrate the dominance issue between John and Dave. But it might slow the movement, so I really am just wondering . . .

  30. Thanks for the input, Banjo. I was wondering whether I hadn't played the cards too close to the vest -- not in terms of events, but emotions. I originally had the word "thrill" in there, but it struck the wrong note. I don't think more dialogue, but it's missing a line, somewhere.

  31. Oooooooooh, what an ending that is clearly not an ending!

    Oh Bru, you're larger than life.

  32. Wait. You have balls. We've all seen them hanging out here.