Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

November 21, 2016

From “Never Met a Stranger,” due out soon-ish

 

Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

Everybody has a secret soup bone.

Murphy had his Laws, Dr. Peter had his Peter Principle, and Pooch had The Great Soup bone.

Allow me to explain.

Years ago, I had this great dog named Pooch. I have not always been clever in the naming of my animal companions. In my own defense, I can tell you that he already had the name when I got him from a couple who couldn’t keep him anymore.

Pooch was friendly, happy without any good reason, and generally useless in a cheerful sort of way. He was a lot like most of my friends back in the day.

He was about one-third German Shepherd, one-third Weimaraner, and one-third marshmallow.

Like any other dog, Pooch’s ancestry went all the way back to the wolf. I think that’s pretty cool. I haven’t looked too far back on my own family tree for fear of what sort of termites and miscreants I might find.

Down inside, you see, Pooch saw himself as a Fearless Beast, a veritable Call-of-The-Wild wolf creature with fangs that would freeze the blood of a grizzly and a howl that would make a saint sweat.

Never mind that Pooch was a neurotic wreck. Never mind that he could let loose a marrow-curdling roar, but only if he knew the person at whom he was roaring.

I started thinking about Pooch today while talking with a friend about hunters. We were laughing about the not-really-very-funny fact that most of the deer hunters who die pursuing their sport do so from falling out of trees or from heart attacks.

Obviously, a person who spends 362 days of the year watching television or flying a desk is going have problems the other three days of the year when he tries to transform himself into Daniel Boone and go ridge-running after The Big One.

A friend and I were wondering why they do it, and I thought about Pooch.

I used to stop off on my way home from work and pick up a soup bone from a butcher I had befriended. Pooch loved to gnaw on the things and growl, and the cats looked at him with respect.

I guess I forgot to mention the cats. My wife and I had sixteen of them. We could not bear to give the kittens away and the females couldn’t bear to say “no,” and we had no money to have them spayed, so we had a lot. By the time the number got up to 24, I had left, but that’s another story, and it had nothing to do with the cats.

Anyway, Pooch would curl up in front of the fireplace and immediately six or eight kittens would curl up all over him. He would look at me as if to say “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, is it?”

One day, my butcher friend gave me a real treat; most of a cow’s backbone, with one rack of ribs still attached. The doggone thing was about four feet long.

Pooch was cross-eyed with delight.

He carried the gory thing around with him, neck muscles bulging, eyes popping with the effort, now and then uttering fierce little growls. I think he was trying to convince the cats and maybe himself that he’d killed this monstrous, ferocious beast.

The fantasy was pretty easy to put up with for the first few days. But after a while the hapless backbone began to take on a nasty greenish look, and the smell was astounding.

Still, Pooch would pick it up four or five times a day and strut past us, reeking to high heaven, bragging to us in dog-talk about what a fight this thing had put up.

Finally, one day when he was off scaring the wits out of a chipmunk, I took the backbone, which now resembled a prop out of the movie Night of The Living Dead, and dumped it in the Oconee River, which flowed by my back yard.

Pooch searched the woods for that disgusting thing for days. I think he suspected me. He probably thought I was jealous of his hunting prowess.

So, I sit around and shoot the breeze and tell hunting stories, though I can’t even remember the last time I shot a gun. I still like to walk in the woods, but I confess that the hills are steeper than they used to be, and the wind colder.

But sometimes, when the air turns crisp, I find myself staring wistfully at the gun racks in the sporting goods stores, and fight down a desire to go slogging through some of the world’s untamed places. But then I remember Pooch, who carried his fantasy around until it stank, and became a pain in the neck.

Still, I wonder if I could find a coonskin cap in my size.

 

By T.W. Burger

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.” 
― Aldous HuxleyBrave New World

 

 

 

Huxley may be correct. I don’t know. Some remorse is easier to shed than others.

 

There is the secret son.

 

This is more painful than most of what I write.

 

It speaks more of personal failures; failed relationships, lack of responsibility, of not caring about consequences.

 

I am in full support of a woman’s choice when it comes to pregnancy. On the other hand, I won’t take any of the philosophical shortcuts that make the consequences easier to bear.

 

Just as I support scientifically based thinking on evolution, I must believe that an embryo is a human at the point of conception, or at least a human-in-the-making, a biological process that, if uninterrupted, will produce…one of us.

 

The whole business of choosing when it is no longer OK to terminate a pregnancy is more semantics than reality; at any point in that process, a human life ends. I support choice, but pretending that a human life is not interrupted in process is dishonest, I believe.

 

It is what it is.

 

All the same, I believe that is the choice to be made by the female human, the one who must do all the hard work of carrying, birthing, and, very likely, raising that child.

 

But enough philosophy.

 

I found out when my partner decades ago had a miscarriage that it was her second. I was stunned. We were supposed to be on birth-control. Our relationship was falling apart and she thought having a child would keep us together.

 

Her doctor gave me hell, until he realized that I had no idea that she had even been pregnant, had stopped taking The Pill, and didn’t know about the first miscarriage.

 

My emotions were complex. Worry for her, sadness for both of us, not a little anger as well.

 

The relationship did not survive much longer.

 

There were two abortions with two different women. I was not careful, did not use protection. Not something to be proud of, and not a case of pretending the actions were of no consequence. One of the two women, raised in a very religious household, named the dead embryo after the procedure, and often said that “they took my baby.”

 

I don’t remember the name that she gave the child.

 

I went with her to the clinic. The waiting room was full. Several of the women joked that having the procedure done gave them a “vacation” from having to have sex with their men.

 

That turned my stomach. For me, it was a very solemn event. Like an execution without a prior crime. Not a thing to be taken lightly. I became a lot more cynical about humanity that day. And about myself.

 

I was the only man there. I don’t understand that, either.

 

Around the same time, a woman with whom I had become involved became pregnant. She was married and intended to stay that way. It was the 1970s, and sex was still a playground. No thought for consequences.

 

I went by once to meet my son. He had my eyes, my ears. He had a club foot.

 

I held him and talked to him and, drawing a strange look from his mother, apologized and told him that I was happy that he had made it so far. After all, in those days the odds had been stacked against him.

 

I try to keep track of him. The last I knew, he had settled in Asheville, North Carolina. I found his house on Google Earth, a little brick bungalow at the corner of two streets in a modest neighborhood. From the satellite photos, I saw toys in the yard, a swing set in the back. I have grandchildren.

 

I have grandchildren.

 

No issue, as the Bible calls it, but a son and grandchildren and probably great-grandchildren who do not bear my name, do not know my face, or even that I exist. Yes, I have been tempted to contact him, spill the beans, because I have a selfish desire to connect.

 

But that would mean telling him that the life he has had for nearly 40 years has been a fiction in part, that the man he called Dad for all those years was not, at least biologically. I know, I am assuming some things, but any other assumptions I make would only be to make myself feel better. I don’t deserve that.

 

So, yeah, I lived through the sexual revolution, firing wildly from the hip.

 

I’m still standing. But there are bodies in my wake, and wounds I cannot heal.

 

Brave new world, indeed.