Weimaraner

^ A Weimaraner

We’re a family of military brats. My dad was born in New Jersey on account of his father was (briefly) stationed at Camp Dix. I was born in California on account of my dad was (briefly) stationed at Long Beach Naval Ship Yard. But our paternal roots had a long time grounding in the ‘Old West’ badmen, cattle rustlers and train robbers, as well, these men would often marry their favorite prostitutes and madams. When we weren’t outlaws, we were soldiers. As time passed, we gradually focused more on becoming soldiers, as the Old West and its outlaw opportunities came to an end. My dad once stated to me he was the first male in our line to live to be fifty and not die of gunshot wounds, in family memory.

I was born geographically closer to these dubious roots on account of my great grandmother having run a bordello in Los Angeles area during the oil boom era of 1890 to 1910.

The Old West, and associated life in the rural country side, was in our blood, and when my dad retired from military, he began looking for a suitable location in the Rocky Mountains, to relocate to. Thus it happened, when I was 12 years of age, in 1963, I found myself in the cab of a 1954 Ford 2-1/2 ton truck, with stock racks, stacked & packed, tarped & tied with our household belongings underneath, on a journey into the unknown.

In the cab of that truck, which never exceed 45 miles per hour over a distance of about 1,400 miles driving from near the very south of Southern California, to near the very north of Northwest Montana, were my dad (driving), my older brother (16 years old) and Brownie, a Weimaraner hound. And there is no way Brownie considered himself as anything lesser than a peer, to my brother and myself.

Now, let me explain this; the cab of a 1954 2-1/2 ton truck is not exactly comfortable to begin with. And its’ single bench seat is a size to seat three, not four. And Brownie, a large, STRONG male in his prime, weighing about eighty pounds, was not about to sit on the floor.

Headed up what is these days Inter-State 15, but in those days was practically a two lane cow path, by the time we’d reached Las Vegas, the hierarchy had been sorted between Brownie, my brother and myself and Brownie had won. He owned the coveted window. Now when I say ‘coveted’ window, it’s not about view, it’s entirely about fresh air. My brother, a step up in the hierarchy from myself, had the 2nd preferred seat, that is next to my dad. I was wedged between my brother and Brownie, at the absolute bottom of the hierarchy.

When Brownie shifted his footing without concern for where he might step, and his toes with claws stepped on a crotch, that crotch was mine. When Brownie pulled his head back into the cab from out the window, and shook it, the majority of his dog slobber was into my face. So much of his hair had rubbed off, while wedged up against the dog, I was involuntarily eating it, not only covered in it. By the time we’d reached Salt Lake City, Brownie had become seriously irritated with the never ending ride, when I’d grab his foot to move it off my crotch (I lost count of how many times), he’d snarl and snap. By the time we’d approached the north end of the Flathead Valley in Montana and my dad had pointed to a gap in the mountains and stated “Our homestead is located not far inside that gap” … it had to have been the best news of my life:

Gap

Needless to say, I subsequently had a certain ambivalence of feeling towards Brownie.

Our ‘homestead’ was 135 acres, about forty acres of it was meadow for our horses, surrounded by (mostly) Lodge Pole Pine forest. At the one end was a spring fed pond with a small creek flowing out .. and close by, our ‘house’ was a turn of the century (1900, give or take a few years, no one seemed to know its exact construction date) large log cabin to which three rooms had been added, with various constructions over the years.

One thing the dog and I held in common was, Brownie and I, both, saw our new life as located in a sort of paradise.

It was Summer and there was much work to be done. The old barbed wire fence separating the pasture from the surrounding forest was in a severe state of decay and I was tasked with rebuilding the worst section. Brownie liked hanging out with me because this took him away from the house, and into more interesting territory. Brownie was a forgiving sort, at least more so than myself. Lifting and dropping a fifty pound, pointed steel bar, endlessly, was the worst part of my job. It was an 1880s vintage railroad tool, originally tasked with track maintenance. I lifted the bar and let it drop into the stony soil, with each drop, it would go deeper into the ground. Then it had to be worked, back and forth, to widen the hole. I named that steel bar ‘Satan’s cock.’ Obviously I hated it. After a certain depth had been achieved, a pointed wooden fence post was placed in the top of the hole but then had to be driven into the ground with a hand held ‘post driver’, a steel cylinder, closed at one end, with handles. I placed the cylinder over the top of the post, now inserted into the cylinder and again, lifting and dropping, but now the driver over the post, until the post was firmly in the ground. What I named the post driver is not fit to print in any decent story, suffice it to say it was a good ‘fit’ with what I’d named the heavy steel bar. Meanwhile, Brownie mostly interested himself in ground squirrels and their holes.

At the homestead, Brownie fancied himself a combatant in that particular way that dogs are inclined to do, and never lost a fight, until that day came when he had to learn about screen doors. My dad, although a hard working man, had a laid back personality, that is until someone either crossed him or simply did not listen. Brownie had done both.

One of the additions to the old homestead cabin was a large sort of ‘lean to’ construction that served as both; an enclosed porch and utility room. It was also the most frequently used entry to the house. Coming indoors, one would enter an exterior door on this porch and then enter a second door into the kitchen. In summer season, the solid porch door was kept open and a lighter wood frame door that was mostly metal screen, was what allowed fresh air in, and kept the flies and mosquitoes out. Brownie had no respect for this screen door, he simply would push his way through it, tearing the screen out of the wooden frame, repeatedly. And he simply refused to be convinced he hadn’t ought to be doing this. This is how I know I’d not forgiven Brownie for his attitude on our journey to Montana, I was viscerally pleased with the outcome of this circumstance.

This was before the days when PETA would crucify a man, for coming up with an unorthodox means to modify a dog’s behavior.

It was about the time the 3rd screen door was reaching that point of no further possible repairs and would have to be replaced AGAIN. My dad took a drill and some copper wire and stitched the screen to the wooden frame in such a way as to insure Brownie would have a bit more work than usual, to break through the screen. It was ugly but effective. Effective because, then he’d run a wire, securely attached to the metal screen, out to the car parked in the yard. This wire, he then proceeded to connect to the car’s positive or ‘hot’ alternator terminal, started the car and left it idling .. after which in went into the house, careful not to touch the metal screen, and making it a point to leave Brownie outdoors. Brownie promptly attempted to follow my dad into the house and what happened next was priceless revenge, from my point of view.

Brownie came up to push his way through the screen and let out a yelp that was mixed surprise and pain. Not really certain what had happened, Brownie collected himself and attempted to push his way through the screen again. Again he yelped in shock and surprise. And that is when the proverbial ‘all hell had broke loose’ came to pass.

Brownie, having come to the conclusion the screen had BIT him, he attacked the screen with a rage and vengeance! But the screen door beat him off, again and again. The dog went from incendiary attack to murderous rage at the screen, vicious snarls repeatedly turning to pained yelps, all to no avail, the screen refused to be defeated. The dog at one point laid down and cried in his frustration, only to get up and attack again, only to be turned back by an enemy that knew how to inflict, but not feel, pain. And finally, after an epic battle that had lasted at least 20 minutes, Brownie was beaten. He subsequently decided he would bark, to let us know to let him in.

Ever after, when we’d open the screen door for Brownie, to come inside, he would snarl at door, when he passed it, every time.

*

Ron Drawing

A true story from my youth