Friday, February 24, 2012

Thoughts from a Drive - What keeps you company?

As I was driving back to headquarters from a distance, some thoughts came to me from this, and other drives. I was alone today in the squirrelmobile, non squirrels not being allowed to tag along. That brought me back to a previous job a lifetime ago, at International Sneaky Service, different work, but like any job, with its own set of rules. Several of us were out on a mission when, at the place we stopped on our drive, to eat lunch, the local animal shelter was having a "adopt a pet" for the locals in the parking lot next door. One of my work team wandered over to pat a pooch. He came back and said "there's a really cool lab I want to adopt, he's older, no one wants him, I have to give him a home". I'm in command here, he's looking at me for the OK. He's got no one, his girl leaving him after a long tour away. I haven't seen this look on his face for much too long.

I look at the rest of the group, one of them a combat vet who got shot down, his legs burned badly, he's missing some toes, but not his heart. Another is a former Marine, as tough as they come, but whom I've seen shed tears when a dog was lost in duty. The probie with us is quiet. I nod my head.

Twenty minutes later, he has custody of one very happy, well behaved and older, male labrador retreiver. But how to get the dog home? We'll just put him in the official Sneaky Service vehicle and bring him back to headquarters where he can get transferred to his new owne'rs truck stealthily in the parking lot out back. But probie says "we can't' take anyone on official business in the Sneaky car, we'll be up on charges".

I said, "that's people, no "civilians", contractors/ employees only, we know that, but there's nothing in the rules about a dog, he can't sue our boss of we have a fender bender?" So off we go, all the while, probie stewing and fretting in the back seat, treating the dog like a bomb getting ready to blow. Finally as we near our destination, he just loses it,his voice rising up an octave as he exclaims, "A dog in the Sneaky car, a DOG in the Sneaky CAR!! We might as well have a KILO of COCAINE in here!!"

Fortunately we had arrived. As we covertly left the vehicle for another team to soon use, and got ready to move Fido, we discovered the reason said dog may have needed a new home. From the back seat came a cloud of doggie gas that would gag a maggot. Retreat! We quickly got him out and closed the doors, moving him to the waiting truck of his new Dad. As we went back in the building, no even noticing we were back, we couldn't help but see the new guys open the door of the car we'd just evacuated with "WT . . . *)#(@. . .What's that SMELLL! OMG!!!!"

That's been a while ago. His remaining short years were good ones, happy and well loved, with his adopted Dad, who apparently had no sense of smell. Hopefully now, he is in doggie heaven, where everything smells like bacon.

There's other group trips, deer camp with Og and friends in my truck, so much laughter I have to really concentrate not to drive off the road at 4:30 in the morning. Then there are the long trips by myself. I'm not sure why I enjoy the car trips. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

St. Expurey said "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, based across the US, with a short stint as a contractor overseas. I remember those early years, I remember not just the travel, the airplanes themselves , but the feel of the starched uniform shirt I wore, the smell of a crewman's aftershave (which thank heavens wasn't Brut). It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but some thing things never changed. Days in an airplane traveling far. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, mountains formed of ice and fluid need, and rivers without borders, all blending into a bright diorama of life racing past. The world looks different from above, clouds massive and dark, looming up like a target in a gun sight, looking twice the size of ordinary man.

I have spent a quarter of my life it seems on the way somewhere. I have watched a hundred cumulus clouds erupt, mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny airport diner and the journey was only beginning.

Along with me came the music, classical, music from the 20's and 30's if there was a CD player in the vehicle. There are parts of the earth you can hear music of all types, there are areas where all you will find is country Western. Some of it is good, it certainly taught me a few things. .

(1) No matter where you are in the plains states, somewhere, on some station, someone is playing "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".

(2) If the singer is going on about taking you for a ride on his "big tractor", he's NOT talking about farm equipment.

3) there will be areas where all you can find is rap or Hispanic music. If that happens make up your own country songs - "If he hadn't been so good lookin I might have seen the train".

And finally, after many hours straight of broke down, done wrong, sad tears kind of songs I realized that -

4) At the gas station of love, sometime in your life you will get the self service pump.

Finally, though, I'm home where fortunately, I have someone of the four legged variety waiting eagerly for me, (with the two legged kind arriving back stateside soon) Life is good, worth singing about, even if my knee has gone to sleep.

Til then, I have Barkley. He's good company, at home or in the truck. He's a heartbeat at my feet on those nights I'm alone in the house and a draft of lonely wind taps at my soul. He's the uncomplicated creature I could be if I knew better. He challenges any threat with honor; to bark at a strange dog is the utmost of patriotism for him, and he quietly offers me an affection ignorant of my faults. He sleeps deeply yet watchfully and for his cunning seems to have no knowledge of death, and relies on me to do his worrying about that for him.

He's one of the best decisions I ever made along the way. He's a warm, brave and loving companion that's been part of this journey all along.

Even if he tries to get us all in trouble sometimes.


  1. Good doggie!! Dogs are our better nature.

  2. Radio is really bad when doing long distance driving. On Sundays, all I seem to get when on an interstate is a collection of funny-talking people trying to beat me over the head with a Bible on the radio. I carry CD's and an iPod these days.

  3. What keeps me company? My iTouch naturally.

  4. This post made me smile, and then made me laugh. Then it made me smile again.

    Thank you for that, Brigid.

  5. Borepatch beat me to it. Smiles and chuckles have been somewhat rare of late, and I thank you, too.

  6. That right there. That was a ramblin' wreck of perfection. "Sit down boys, here's a longneck. Be quiet cuz' I got a story to tell." :-) :-)

  7. Ah, thanks for that! I do love the introspection of long car trips (I seem to be taking more of them lately).

    Great story!

  8. BobG - Amen to that! I got XM radio out of self defense. Then I got an iPod. Talk radio gets tiresome after awhile...

  9. Dogs are often the best kind of people...

    "He never says I need a new attitude, Him and my sister ain't always in a feud, When I leave the seat up he don't think that it's rude, I want you to love me like my dog does Baby..."

    "When I come home, I want you to just go crazy, He never looks at me like he might hate me, I want you to love me like my dog..."

    Dann in Ohio

  10. Awwww, Barkley. Hereboy, hereboy! 4) is truly an awesome quote.

    You reminded me of a trip to the Texas Coast as a boy of 10 or 12 with my boyhood friend. We were in the back seat of a truck and his dogs were in the bed as the rain started to come down. We opened the sliding window in the back window to let them in, just in time as the rain slammed us in buckets. Just in time for his dog to release a cloud of suffocation only accentuated by the warm and humid cab full of wet dog. We had no ability to roll windows down in the torrential downpour. My brain was obviously branded with that memory. Thanks for bringing it back. :)

  11. DirtCrashr - they are. He's the third lab I've had, and the one with the most personality.

    BobG - I try and take tapes for the car, but then I forget them, and have coworkers come to my office with the car log and a grin METTALICA???

    Borepatch - as someone who gave a good dog a place to enjoy those remaining days. . bless you.

    Gods and Gals - I've only known one person who looked at me like Barkley does when I came home, with love without expectation, with the look that says I'm the center of his life, without words, without a document, without fuss, nothing but gladness for the moment.

    If you find that kind of friend, hold on tight. But you know that.

  12. LOL, yep, dogs CAN clear a vehicle/room or larger space! :-) And road trips are what you make em... Now that TR-6 would be fun for a little 'jaunt'!

  13. Awww, I know that toxic cloud. It's called Why Miss Cinnamon Is Banned From Eating Pig Ears.

    Barkley is an awesome dog, even when he's stealing slippers and hearts. We both agree that you're awesome, but I'll never be able to master the utter lack of sarcasm and pure joy he has.

    As said before, Lord help me become the person my dog thinks I am.

  14. 4) At the gas station of love, sometime in your life you will get the self service pump.


    And I liked the sat radio in the 'stang so much I got one for the Subaru, too. You never lose your station and there's always something on.

  15. Stephen - thank you my friend. Hope the little one is with you for a bit this weekend!

    Old NFO - Madeline (the Triumph) is just a dandy. Not so much this time of year though. :-)

    Rev Paul - hope things are all smiling soon.

    TangoJuliet - people laugh at my old boat anchor of a cell phone. "What does it do?" they ask. It rings.

    On a Wing - Yes, Mr. TSA dog is all ready to snoot through your overnight bag and steal your slippers and undies again.

    Larry - I had sat. radio in my Jetta, I liked it, but didn't want to spend the money to put it in the old pick up.

  16. Last one was VA to TX.

    I like flipping through the radio stations, almost constantly.

    Makes it a pleasant surprise when you come across a song you really like.

    I also like to stop at least once in every state, even if it's just to grab a soda or something. I like hearing the accents change as I travel.

  17. Songs about big green tractors and such are the reason I listen to so much heavy metal anymore. I still love Haggard and Jones and all those other old guys, though.

  18. On more than a few cross-country drives in recent years I've heard the same song on multiple stations at the same time, lending credence (though, alas, not Creedence) to the rumor that they're all getting the same corporate feed from somewhere. As Patty Larkin put it:

    "When I spin that radio dial around and hear nothin' but "We've Only Just Begun"/I swear some guy in a suit somewhere is laughin'; he's havin' fun."

    (And then there was the time a friend gave me a sweet deal on a nice used Subaru whose Achilles heel was a nearly nonfunctioning radio. Specifically, it sounded okay but only picked up signals from about as far away as you could see the clearance lights on the antenna tower. Thus for quite some time the only music that I could find was the midnight free-form-eclecticism show at a college station.

    All well and good except that that was the day Captain Beefheart died, and the DJ commemorated this by playing something that started with a blind man teaching himself nunchaku in a cowbell factory, then went into the official longest and most figuratively and literally monotonous synthesizer solo in art-rock history.

    I spun that radio dial around and heard nothin' but that and some talk radio loon and his guest going on about how our society is conspiring against Christianity, apparently by failure to make it official and compulsory.

    After a few minutes of that I rolled down the windows and just listened to the road go by.

    I'm too much of a cheapskate for satellite radio (and have bet the wrong horse on too many immature technologies to decide between Sirius and XM anyway), but you'd better believe I pounced on the next good deal on a AM-FM-CD deck.


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly, kid safe, and open to discussion, not criticism. This is my home. You can live in yours as you wish, but this is my place.