Messina: A Day At Sea

The Straits of Messina

messinaAt dawn, on the second day, we are somewhere off from Naples, headed south toward the Straits of Messina. The toe of Italy, where we leave the  Tyrrhenian Sea and are out into the open Mediterranean. Sicily on the right, the Italian mainland, Calabria, on the left.

Right: Satellite Picture: The Straits

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rome in a Day


I was, we all were, dead tired. It had been a long night helping that 767 get safely across the Atlantic and the European continent. We couldn’t, however, go aboard ship until late in the afternoon. They, Norwegian Cruise Line, had to get 2500 people unloaded from the last cruise, do a thorough clean-up, etc. before on-boarding a new group. So, we all got onto busses and went into the city to do Rome in a day.

My first two impression were:  this looks really Italian! If I had been asleep and suddenly waked up, I would have known, this is Italy … Rome. The houses, the cars, the umbrella trees were everywhere.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  … and … the ruins are all mixed up with the day-to-day city. I checked it on Google Earth: there really are apartment building just across the street from the Coliseum. The Vatican is only a short walk from soccer fields and tennis courts! It was a little disconcerting to look out and see six-lane highways crowded with Vespas and Fiats running alongside two thousand year old aqueducts.

One of Many Churches

The thing in Rome that I most wanted to see was not the Vatican or the Coliseum. It was the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti: the Spanish Steps. The widest staircase in Europe, 138 steps between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. Built between 1723 – 1725, at the behest of Pope Clement XI.

The Keats-Shelly house is at the bottom, just off to the right. Where John Keats lived, and died in 1821. The movie Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, in 1953, and later The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone made The Steps famous to American audiences.

But: it is the Guy Clark song Dublin Blues that does it for me: 

I’ve been to Ft. Worth, hmm, I have been to Spain
And I have been too proud to come in out of the rain
I have seen the David, hmm, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play the Columbus Blues

Forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish Steps, the day you said goodbye

Well, I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are.

 Spanish Steps

I loved you on the Spanish Steps … I think I’ll write a story one day. How many plot lines do you think a writer could come up with?

That Saturday, 10 November, was perfect: sunny and warm. There was a wedding on the landing half-way up the step while we were there. A festive atmosphere prevailed. Catholics from the world over: the green and yellow of Brazil, shamrocks from Ireland. Nigerians and Indians ( as in India ) proudly displayed their colors.  The only negative was the crowd … and the street vendors.

With the fading sun, we left The Steps, found the bus and motored north along the coast up to the port at Civitavecchia. The Norwegian Jade was waiting. Boarding was flawless; they, the crew, had done this before. By just-dark we were away from the pier. If Tuttle and I had dinner, I don’t remember it. By plumb-dark we were in the open sea, sailing south parallel to the Italian coast. I was in stateroom 9652 sound asleep. It had been some thirty hours since I had been stretched out horizontal in Manning, South Carolina.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unexpected: Cyprus, Turkey and More

The call came out of the blue.

“When are you gonna be able to walk again, Honea?” It was my buddy Bob Tuttle.

We had had several discussions re: doing the El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. Northern Spain, from Bilbao along the Atlantic coast to Santiago de Compostela. One-hundred miles on foot.

“Can you be ready by November 9th?” he asked.

My first thought was, “S—! I’m having hip surgery a week from now.”

My response was a little more measured. “What ‘cha  you got in mind, Tuttle?”

It turns out he had a tour coming  up, needed an assistant; somebody to keep the stragglers rounded up. Twelve days in the eastern Mediterranean: Turkey, Cyprus, Israel,  and Egypt. The Greco-Roman ruins at Perge, the Wailing Wall, the Pyramids.  Every night on a Norwegian cruise liner. A big-ass ship. He does these treks all the time, leads tours to the Holy Land, Rome. Traces the steps of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, in Great Britain: those Methodist founder guys.

“You get to sleep every night on board ship,” he said. “… Even skip a day if you need to. Or, stay on the bus if you get tired.”

Not exactly my style.

Off Alyana, Turkey

Off Alyana, Turkey

“Let me make a phone call,” I said. “I’ll get right back to you.”

“I have to know before the day is over,” he said. “Got to let ’em know you ‘re coming.”

The next call was to Southern  Orthopedic & Sports Medicine, Mt. Pleasant. “Can I take a seven hour plane ride, go on a ten day cruise in nine weeks?” I asked. “… Eight weeks after surgery?”

The lady laughed. “Of course,” she said. “Have at it.”  They even sent me a card certifying that I have a stainless steel hip joint, to show security when I set off the alarm at airports!

So we set the wheels in motion.  Get a new hip in place. Recovery: the first week was a bit tough. Rehab: the therapist fired me after four weeks. “You don’t need me anymore,” she said. I did a lot of walking on the flat, level streets in the neighborhood in the weeks leading up to embarkation. Then it was a drive down to Charleston on 9 November, catch a flight to Washington Dulles International.

It always amazing me re: the people we encounter day to day as we make our way through this life. The lady in the aisle seat next to me from Charleston to Dulles was a pilot: on her way to pick up a FedEx plane bound to Frankfort, Germany! She does this three time a month. Then, on the long flight from DC to Rome my seat-mate turned out to be a person who lives less than two miles from my daughter in Garner. She and her husband were scheduled to be on the same cruise that my group was on.  We bumped into each  a couple of time in Alyana, Turkey or maybe Alexandria, Egypt.

Flights from the US to Europe are LONG ! … It is dark the whole way. I have learned that, if possible, to sit in an ‘A’ seat. For the first several hours you can see the lights of Boston and Portland. Then the fishing villages along the New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces coast line. I, however, was in a ‘G’ seat, didn’t even get to see those scattered lights in the late autumn night. I was on the open ocean side.

After that it is just long and dark until dawn, or pre-dawn, begins to break over Europe. We flew over counties Kerry and Cork in southern Ireland, then Land’s End, Cornwell, England in the dark. There were occasional lights: Schull and Clonakilty in County Kerry, and Truro and Falmouth in Cornwell. We crossed the European mainland coast at Normandy: socked in, couldn’t see a damned thing.

It was that way across the European continent; across the Alps and on to the Mediterranean coast line near Nice and Monaco. Somewhere between the coast line and a point east of Siena the skies cleared. Off the right wing, to the west, was Elba and Corsica.

Then, finally, we moved in over the Italian peninsula, looking out toward the  Tyrrhenian Sea. There was the coast road. Miles and miles of green houses. Italy looked, to me, as it is suppose to look ( whatever to hell that means ) … the architecture, the umbrella trees, the green hills rolling down to the sea. Rome lay just ahead.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

Look for a day-to-day account of the trip over the next several days, weeks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Dangerous Man

A couple of pages from  the work I am doing now. … This is the kind of thing that makes writing a lot of fun ! … TEH

A Dangerous Man

Newport News                                                                                                                  June 1942

 The establishment was a holdover from Prohibition days, a speakeasy. The bar ran along one wall. Half-a-dozen or eight stools and three tables. There were two pool tables. Poker was upstairs.

“Any place a fellow can find a game?” Celo asked the bar keep.

The man pointed to the two pool tables just past the half-wall. A couple of twenty year olds had a game going. Neither of them was very good. They were just bouncing the balls around.

“Cards,” Celo told him. “Something with a deck ‘a cards.”

“You a high roller?”

“Just a fellow likes a friendly game.” Then: “Maybe enough money to make it interesting.”


“Ha,” the bar keep snorted. “You don’t exactly look like the friendly type.”

Celo laughed to show he wasn’t offended. He was not as big as people remembered him, thought he was. What they really recalled later was his eyes and his hands. The eyes were dark without being either brown or black. They never looked away.

His hands and fingers never stopped moving. It wasn’t a quick, nervous movement. It just never stopped: finger tips across the tabletop, brushing across the buttons of his shirt. If he had a beef with you he didn’t think about was he gonna hit you in the mouth. Other men thought about it first. Celo didn’t think about it, he just hit you in the mouth. The fact that you might strike back wasn’t a part of it. If you did, that was okay too. Most men didn’t. Strike back.

 He followed  two shipyard workers up the set of inside stairs, the poker game. Twenty minutes later he took the first available chair. He laid a stack of bills on the table, covered them with his elbow.

Somewhere around midnight he realized there ain’t been a queen-‘a-hearts played all night. Somebody’s holdin’ a queen. His blood pressure went up a notch. He breathed deep.

“Bring me a Scotch whisky,” he told the cigarette girl.

The dealer and another player folded early. Three men pushed money onto the table. “Hit me,” they said, asked for another card. The man to Celo’s left doled out cards, one at a time. The pot grew. The only sound was from the jukebox in the bar below and the occasional scrape of a chair leg.

It’s gonna happen now, Celo thought. And it did.

Which one of ‘em ‘s got that queen?

Across the table the uniformed soldier laid his cards down on the table, took out a railroad bandanna, wiped his face.

“I don’t know why I play with you fellows,” he said. He folded the handkerchief, put it back in his pocket. “If I wasn’t shippin’ out I’d just take my money and go home. … Wake mama up and fool around a little.”

He wiped his face again. “I’ll raise you one,” he said. Pushed more money onto the table.

That army dude’s got it. I know a Dago in Ponchatoula can pull this off, Celo thought. This hillbilly asshole ain’t got a clue.

Celo checked his hand, knew he didn’t have the cards to see it through. He added bills to the pot. “Raise you one,” he said.

The third player matched.

The sergeant threw a five onto the pile of money. He had not looked again at the cards he held.

“Shit,” the third player cursed. Threw his cards down.

“What you got?” Celo asked. Looked straight at the soldier. “I wantta see what you got.” He matched the five. Laid his cards on the green felt. Kings over eights.

“Maybe I can play with you fellers,” the sergeant said. He laughed.

He reached out to rake in the pile of money in the middle of the table. The ice pick flashed out like the strike of a snake. Drove through the sergeant’s hand between the index and middle metacarpal bones, through the assorted bills, and into the cheap wooden table.

“Don’t touch that money, soldier boy,” Celo said.

The sergeant stared wide-eyed at the still quivering pick penning his hand down to the table. The blood beginning to flow from underneath his palm onto the money, the green felt. The pain had not yet registered.

Celo turned over the soldier’s cards. Three queens and a pair of fives. “Looks like you got a extra queen there,” he said. “Been savin’ it all night.”

He pulled the pick from the man’s hand, wiped it twice across the sergeant’s uniform blouse, wiped the blood away.

“”You might want to pour some whiskey on that hand,” Celo said. “I ain’t sure where that pick’s been lately.”

He swept the pile of money from the table, left the loose change, stuffed the bills into his pocket. He walked down the stairs, through the bar and out onto the late night street. The lights reflecting off the rain-wet pavement. Celo lite a cigarette, blew smoke into the damp night air.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Pig Pickin’ …

Word just came in last night, via email, that Belle Bridge Books wants to use one of my short stories in their upcoming Sweet Tea Anthology, May 2012!

The only guide lines were:  twenty or so pages, Southern, and food oriented. Easy enough, right? I  pulled out an old unfinished piece, Funeral Food, which is good … the story, the concept. But I couldn’t get the humor to work right.

I wound up going back to one of the early chapters in A Confluence of Rivers, my finished novel.  It needed editing to make it work as a stand-alone short story, and to build up the food aspect. Three day later, lord help us all, we are having a pig-picking!

Here is a sample:  


By noon there was a crowd. All of Cut Bank came. The cooked boar hog was moved to just off the veranda at the store, set on a hastily built plank table. The keg of beer on the shaded end of the veranda.

“Has this food been blessed?” the young preacher asked.

“No,” Papa Thomas said. “Would you do the honors, reverend.”

“Let’s read some verses from the gospel of St. Matthew,” the preacher said, opened his bible.

There was an uneasy silence.

 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

he read …

 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.  When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.”

 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

 And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

He said, “Bring them here to Me.”  Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children

The roasted pig were carved up. Francis sliced off slabs of ham and  shoulder. A ring of people three deep circled the table. Food seemed to materialize from wagons and buggies, from canvas sacks hooked over saddle horns. Roasted potatoes, pots of cooked greens, corn bread, whole bake yams … a cauldron of baked beans.

“I’ve had beef jerky was easier to chew,” Otis Butterbaugh announced to the gathered crowd. He held a carrot sized chunk of pork shoulder in his left hand, filled his mug from the keg. He glanced to be sure the young preacher wasn’t watching too closely.

There were pies, a pound cake with the requisite pound each of butter and sugar, and a dozen fresh eggs. The four cups of flour seemed almost superfluous.

“We better cook us up another batch ‘a these peanuts,” Mr. Otis told JJ in the deepening afternoon. There was a steady line of takers for boiled peanuts. When the second round was dumped onto the plank floor, Torie, standing in the doorway, straw broom in hand, asked, “All right, now, who’s gonna sweep up these hulls?” There was no shortage of volunteers.

Earl Dupree’s seventy-seven year old mama, down on the Row, said, “Toughest meat I ever eit.” She stripped another thumb sized piece off the hanging hind quarter, worked it into her nearly toothless mouth. They would ate pit roasted pork for the better part of a week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chicken Wire Juke Joint

Hello, all …

haven’t posted anything in a bit. … this is the first couple of pages of a short story i’m working on. i like it so far …

A Chicken Wire Juke Joint

It was a chicken  wire junk joint alright.

“You  furnish the towels?” Leonard asked the man, looking at the chicken wire,  knowing we was gonna need ’em. “We gotta have our own?”

“Folks  don’t throw bottles much they still got beer in ’em,” the man said.  “Mostly it’s just empty bottles.”

“Anybody  messes up my guitar I’m gonna bust ‘im,” I said.

The man looked  at me. “We heard you was a real bad ass,” he said.

He looked at  Leonard. “How come you put up with a man’s gonna bust payin’ customers?”

Leonard laughed. “Ain’t nobody else picks like Jimmy,” he said. Then: “I recon we
got to have our own towels?”

“I’ll round you up some bar towels,” the man told Leonard. “Park around back. Close  up against the door. We git a crowd, we ain’t got enough spaces.”

We watched the crown start gathering. Pick-ups with rifle racks. Arkansas plates, come over from West Memphis. Some from Mississippi, Olive Branch and Senatobia. Red
necks, all of ’em. But that was okay, we was too: red necks.

“Goddamn, it’s gonna be a show tonight,” I said. Took a deep drag on a Chesterfield.
“Look at all them farmers, them truck drivers.”

“Long as they got real money,” Leonard said.

The man had sent out for some burgers. Real burgers, not that Daisy Queen shit. I’ll say that  for him. Real burger with fries, washed it all down with some Dixie Beer he had in the back.

“And it’s some lookers too. … That redhead yonder.” I pointed the Chesterfield  toward a Crown Vic convertible just pulled up, hadn’t even parked yet. “I might try her on for size.”

The dance floor was built up a step higher than where the tables were. Would hold, I figured, thirty couples. Thirty-five, thirty-eight for a slow dance. We didn’t plan on  playin’ much slow stuff, just one at the end of each set. Maybe two some time around one-thirty.

The little stage for the band was another step higher, the chicken wire stretched between the front of the stage and the dance floor.

Leonard started plinking on the piano around 8:45, just dark. Two guys all the way in the back corner threw a couple of Miller bottles against the wire, laughed. Hell, they weren’t even drunk, pissed yet. Just part of the goings-on, getting in the mood.

The fellow with the Crown Vic and the red head pushed his way up front, dropped a couple ‘a  twenties on an occupied table against the wall. Suggested to the early arrivers
already sitting there that they consider giving up their spot. The guy at the table suggested that the fellow with the twenties go fuck himself, stood up, took off his Razorback cap.

His wife, however, grabbed the Andrew Jackson’s, grabbed the Razorback’s arm. “This
is four football tickets,” she said. “A week’s groceries.”

“Goddammit, Rose. You the one wanted to git here early. A seat up front.”

“I know,” Rose said. “I know …” She pulled him through the growing crowd.

I played the first line of Move It On Over … Hank Williams. Move over little
dog, the big dog’s moving in
. The red head winked at me. Sat down, touched
her hair, swayed her shoulders side to side. Set of nice boobs moving underneath a buttoned up white blouse.

“This is  gonna be fun,” I told Leonard. “What you wantta play first?”

We gave them a twelve minute version of What’d I Say. Heavy on music, light on lyrics.
Ray Charles would have been proud. I could smell the sweat. It was gonna be a hot night, more ways than one.

At about minute number 10 into What’d I Say the red head caught my eye. She was dancing, facing the bandstand, looking across the Crown Vic guy’s shoulder. Looking
straight at me. I gave  her a look, held that Martin guitar out at arms length, pointed the neck straight at her, played a riff. She licked the sweat off her upper lip. That set ‘a boobs was lookin’ nicer all the time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Conversation with Bob: Mormons

This is a bit different from my normal post. .. an exchange of emails with my friend \Bob Tuttle.

    bob is my friend, my neighbor, my running buddy. he has spent the past couple of decades teaching world evangalical religions and world comparative religions.  he is professor emeritus at Asbury Methodist Semenary, Louisville, KY and Orlando, FL.

tuttle …                   ( 1:25 PM monday … 10 october ) 

                what is your take on the debate re: is mormonism christanity or a cult ? … my phone is not working … you can call me, but i can’t call you.  they are sending me a new one, but it may be next monday before it gets here.           TEH

2:54 PM  Monday   10 october …                          I’m just off another airplane.  Delta (probably stands for: Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport).   My flight was late going to Pittsburgh and arriving from Pittsburgh so I missed my connection last night and had to spend another night in Atlanta.  I’m tired. … …  As for your Mormon question, if I am correct (and I believe I am with all my heart but there is still no guarantee.  Ultimately we will let God be the Judge) Mormonism is a cult as they deny that which I consider most critical to my understanding of the Christian faith.  Our Mormon friends have Jesus Christ as the brother of Adam and not the incarnate Son of God (which, of course, he claims to be and all those who knew him best claimed him to be).  The Book of Mormon is an interpretation of the Old Testament as our New Testament is an interpretation of the Old Testament (as is the Qur’an for that matter).  They simply disagree as to the person of Jesus.  By the way, Mormonism is closer to Islam than Christianity or Judaism (I gave you that for nothing because it is probably worth nothing). 
Dianne’s mom is now on hospice as she has a new case of pneumonia.  We will be driving down in the next day or two so I may not be there on Thursday.  Run on pal.  You are looking great.  I wish I could get back at it now that my gardens have been put to bed.    Bob

3:08 PM     Monday    10 october           thanks …   try to get a day’s rest before you head   off-down-east. … i wanted to be able to tell an online “friend”  ( christian conservative …  pro-life, young earth creationist, presbyterian ) that Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney are as “christian” as is she. … that Robert Jeffries, Dallas, is way out of bounds. .. but maybe not. )                                TEH

3:22 PM … Monday … 10 October        Christian is not simply what we believe.  It is who we are.  If you have accessed the power of the Holy Spirit by virtue of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God then that should manifest itself in love and forgiveness.  Romney may be more Christian in his actions than your on line friend.  In my opinion Jesus would be heart broken by what the right wing is doing.  They do NOT manifest the mind nor character nor spirit of Christ.  God help us all.                    BT

This post is in no way intended to offend or to force my point of view on anyone. It does, I think, point out the need for all of us to take an honest look at and to respect the beliefs of other honest and honorable Americans.

The Mormons that I know are good and honest and honorable people. … Who am I, for that matter, who is Dr. Robert Jeffries, First Baptist Church, Dallas to say that Mormons are not Christians, that their religion is a cult.  I offer to you that he, Dr. Jeffries, is far move devisive and inflamatory than either Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney.


Tom Honea

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Conversation With Danny

We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with Danny just after he got home from the vet the other afternoon.  ( See A Yellow Lab & 40 Hours … posted on 1 August.)

“How did this start?” the visitor asked. “How did you get in this mess?”

Well, before the big guy threw us out to go and pee in the yard I had lifted a couple of beers from the frig, stashed ’em out by the gate. Of course, it’s his fault. He taught me several years ago to open the frig and bring him a beer. Lately, though, he and The Lady have been putting a lock on the door. From time to time  the left-over lasagna or deviled eggs were just too tempting. I keep looking for a pork tenderloin, but there is never one there! Even when the lock is not on the door.

You heisted a couple of beers? 

I did. Do it all the time. The Big Guy never misses it. Just keeps it there for when the neighbors come by. Especially that old, grey fellow … they don’t talk about nothing but football, drink beer!

Anyway, when he sent us outside to do our business at  just dark I collected the beers and headed off into the edge of the woods. Settle down for a drink and keep an eye on the night critters: raccoons, those little spotted skunks, and the occasional bear. … The Big Guy and The Lady get all upset, hate it, when those two yearling bears from up the road get the bird feeders. B G and the  Lady just stomp around most of the day, make twelve phone calls telling all the neighbors how awful it is. Damn bears! I suggested that they bring the feeders in at night, but I don’t think they paid much attention.

So you’re just there in the dark? … Having a beer?

Just minding my own business. …  It gets kind of fuzzy here, but most likely what happened is I went to sleep after that second beer, didn’t wake up until sometime in the middle of the night. What woke me up was a bit of a ruckus down in the hododendron  thicket that seemed like needed investigating. Turned out to be an owl in pursuit of a black snake, crashing around down in the middle of the limbs and leaves. I left them to sort it out. Decided I didn’t have a dog in that fight.

You realize it was the dark of the moon. Darker than a well-digger’s —- . Well, you get the picture. But even at that, if it
hadn’t been for that second beer I would have never gotten turned around. But I did, took the wrong trail, got on the wrong side of the ravine. I sat down for a while to think about it: go around the long way, or cut across?

What the heck, I decided. Just walk that log down to the lower end. It’ll save a couple ‘a minutes. Everything was fine until that mama possum started fussing at her little ones. Right under my feet, it sounded like.  Scared the bejesus out of me. In the dark I  missed that next step, slipped half off the log.

You slipped off the log?

I did. But even then it would have been okay except that the limb I could reach with my back feet was rotten, broke. So, there I am draped across this half rotten log, four feet off the ground. Rear end hanging out in the breeze, so to speak. Every time I tried to pull myself back up, I just slipped farther.

Is that when you fell?

It was. Didn’t even hurt. Just suddenly I’m on the ground. Surrounded by all these broken, rotten limbs. Every direction I turned I kept jabbing myself against something. Finally decided I would just wait until daylight, figure out then how to get out of there.

But, boy, it was a long night. Longest night I ever spent … up to then! Bet I went to sleep twenty times, woke up with a start thinking it was dawn. But it wasn’t, still no daylight.

But it did come eventually. What did you do then?

Well, I discovered I was in a kind of a hole. And my rear end and legs were curled up sort of under and behind me, beginning to go numb. I could tell already I was gonna need some help getting out ‘a there. I barked like crazy.

Nobody heard you? … Bark?

No. I guess not. You know the house and all is on the other side of the ridge from there … and I was down in that ravine, and under all that brush and stuff.

After a while I heard the Big Guy come walking through. I knew he would be mad at me about the beer and staying out all night, so I studied on it instead of barking when he was close by. Then he was on down the trail and didn’t hear me.

That must have been discouraging.

Boy, I’m telling you! … And I was starting to get really thirsty. It wasn’t too hot. Being down on the ground, and under all that stuff. But it sure was thirsty.

Were you scared? … Ever scared? Snakes and things.

No. Not from that standpoint. Snakes don’t bother you much as long as you’re too big to eat. (chuckle) … I did hear some coyotes the second night, up on the mountain.  But they didn’t ever come  close.

Did you try again to get yourself out of the hole?

I did. Tried to use just my front legs, pull myself up. But there wasn’t any direction I could go that wasn’t blocked.

People came by once a while. That nice lady from next door, the one with the little black and red dog. I barked, but they didn’t hear me. Them being up on the trail and me in the bottom of that ravine. Nobody ever got off the trail, came down in the rough stuff, the ravine.

What was the worst of it? When you got really worried.

When it got dark again and there wasn’t anybody still coming by to check. That was the worst. And, by then I needed water bad.
Even another beer!

I don’t remember much of that night and the next day. I think a must have passed out from time to  time. Then I would come  to and know that it was getting hotter and how thirsty I was.

Did anybody coming looking that day?

Maybe. Truth is, I didn’t know what was a dream and what was real. The Big Guy might have been calling. But, hell, I don’t know. I might have been making it up. Things were getting pretty fuzzy about then. I thought somebody was there, or maybe another dog. Ester maybe. Then I would look and nothing. Just those damn  limbs and sticks. The sun getting higher in the sky.

When did they find you? … How?

There was a howl. I sort of remember that. A howl, and three or four yelps. It wasn’t me, I know that. I knew it was from right  where I was, but it wasn’t me howling. Do angels howl? I don’t know. I never heard one howl. I tried to look around, see who it might ‘a been. I didn’t see anybody. But … I might ‘a been dreaming, or even hallucinating.

Anyway, there was a howl. If I heard it, somebody else must have, figured out where to look.

What’s the first you remember? First time you knew somebody was there?

Somebody breaking away the limbs, the snapping sound. Then pulling on my collar. I think I just looked at them, couldn’t help.  I tried to help. Think my front legs just quivered. I couldn’t help.  … Then the water came. I’m still in the hole, and the water came.

I knew then it would be okay.

The Lady came in with a tray of peanuts, celery
and pimento cheese and such. Danny ambled off looking for a treat … or three.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Yellow Lab & Forty Hours

Dog stories are always good, especially when they have a happy ending.

On Friday morning there was a call from one of the Sugar Hollow neighbors, good friends, thirty year friends.

“Danny is missing, didn’t come home last night. Keep an eye out for ‘im.”

Danny is a twelve year old Yellow Lab. A lover, a great dog; a bit down in the hips. Not as quick and agile as he once was. Still, he has a reputation as an escape artist. Not that he wants to run away from home, you understand. He has a great home, and he knows it! He does, however, like to make the rounds in the neighborhood, there might be treats out there somewhere. When supper time approaches, Danny comes home.

His  domain comes complete with a fenced-in five plus acres that feature a network of trails. (Plus other assorted lawns and gardens.) Don and Martha both walked the trails,
several people walked the trails. Walked the road ( gravel ) in the immediate neighborhood.

Friday evening: no Danny.

This is serious. Had somebody picked him up? We don’t have much traffic on our part
of the road. But still, that nagging thought is there. Did coyotes get him? That has happened more than once in our little haven. Did he go into the underbrush and make himself a bed in which to die?  Animals do that, you know. We once had a Dachshund  who did that.

Saturday morning I ran a road race, the Bele Chere 5K; didn’t check in with Don and Martha until the middle of the day. Still no Danny. They were resigned to the worst, and still wanted to know what had happened and where he was.

“Can I come and do a walk-through?” I asked. “Put a fresh pair of eyes on the underbrush.”

The first part of the search was on the well kept paths: nothing. Now it was down to bush-whacking, getting off into the briar tangles and Rhododendron thickets, along the fence lines. Nothing.

Danny had been missing for some forty hours now. There was one last area to search. A deep ravine filled with downed trees and limbs left from the Christmas day ice storms two years ago.

Then: from half-a-football-field distance, up the ravine came a howl, a big dog howl, followed by three diminishing yelps. We called. No response. Whistled. Nothing.

We worked our way up the draw, circled the worst of the tangled mass of fallen debris. No barks, no howls, no yelps. But, was that heavy labored breathing, panting. Or was it wistful thinking?

We called Martha. “Maybe we’ve found him. Tell Don to come and help us call. Maybe he ‘ll answer Don’s call.”

We lost the phone signal before she could get Don on the line.

By the time we had worked our way partially down into the tangle, help began arriving. A couple of landscaper guys were next door working for Diana. She sent them over in response to Martha’s frantic call. Still, it was a full minute or so narrowing down the source of the now evident panting. In the midst of the effort to get Gene, the landscaper, to quit running about and shouting, what? … where?  we spotted the bright yellow of Danny’s shoulders and back in the deepest part of the pile of logs and limbs.

How he had ever gotten there is hard to imagine. But, I think, he tried to turn to get back out and his hip dysplasia reached out and grabbed him. He lost his footing on the big log and fell into the depths of the tangle. Probably his efforts to extricate himself just resulted into his slipping deeper and deeper into the mass of rotten limbs.

Diana brought water. The big yellow dog drank two 16 oz bottles straight-away, before we even tried to move him. The first efforts to get Danny up and out weren’t successful. He made feeble efforts to help with his front legs. They only trembled, quivered. Finally it was just pick him up and carry him out. Even then, it was one person on the rear-end, another
at the front, move the him two feet up the steep incline, get a new foot-hold and move him another two feet. Maybe twenty of those lifts getting him up to the trail.

Shawn (landscaper) was sent to fetch a canvas tarp from which we fashioned a stretcher. With one person on each corner, we carried him the two hundred yards back home. More water, Gatorade!!, and high protein food (a little at a time.) Within an hour the vet ( a friend ) was there with intravenous fluids.  Refusing to pee in the house, by
4:00 PM he was asking to get outside!

Did he hear us prior to that howl in the early afternoon? Did he know that one of the little Australian Terriers was close by, did he hear her? Was it luck, fate, did the Gods smile on him? Were his angels in the neighborhood just then? Whatever, that howl saved him. Don and Martha will not forever be left wondering.

And Danny? … The last I heard, his next get-away was thwarted just this morning even as he was being led to the car for a trip to the vet and a complete check-up!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment