Trippin’ Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 9, August 1969
Once within Seattle city limits, Martha said good-bye to her friends and regained control of her station wagon. Her two kids climbed into the back seat.
Martha asked me, “Do you fellows need a place to sleep tonight? You’re welcome to stay with us.”
“That would be great. We need to get a plane ticket to Alaska in the morning.”
We met her husband, Phil, who was a white-bearded professor at the university and turned out to be an interesting guy. He stuck Susie in the cage with Buster the monkey, who set to work searching the mini-poodles fur. “That’s how we keep her flea-free,” Phil explained.
* * * * *
Over breakfast cereal, we got to know Phil a little better. As we discussed our trip, I mentioned, “I should have brought my minister’s collar. I heard that the airlines give a discount to clergymen.”
Phil said, “I could take you by a religious-supply store if you want to pick up some collars.”
“I have a black turtleneck I can wear with one,” Albert said. “We could probably find another for Rich at a thrift store.”
After breakfast, we went shopping. I could tell Phil was getting a kick out of being a part of our absurd adventure. At the religious shop, we picked up white minister collars for the bargain price of a dollar and a quarter apiece. I found a dark blue turtleneck at the Salvation Army for another buck. Equipped for our charade, we returned to the house.
Phil dropped us off at 10 p.m. for the midnight “red-eye” flight to Anchorage. Albert and I showed up at the window dressed as clergymen, but the attendant didn’t believe us. He charged us full price, and I had to buy a dog crate for Charlie. As the man went to fetch the crate, I asked Albert, "Do we look like we just jumped off a freight train?"
He gave me a sly smile and said, “Holy Hobos, Batman. That didn’t work so well.”
I ushered Charlie outside to get her business done and waited until the last possible moment before locking her in the crate, which rested on a small cart. As I closed the door, I tried to console her. “Don’t worry, girl. I’ll see you in a few hours. I’ll be back.” This was all new to her, so I wasn’t sure how much she understood. It sucked, seeing her wheeled away.
My seat on the plane was next to the window, directly above the conveyor belt that moved baggage into the hold. Albert was wasted and conked out as soon as he buckled in. I watched my duffle roll up the belt, along with an assortment of suitcases and such. A small vehicle, pulling a trailer with a dog crate on it, stopped at the bottom of the belt. Two men lifted the crate onto the conveyor. I stared at Charlie’s face through the wire mesh, and it was not a happy sight. She had the wide eyes of Jonah being swallowed by the whale.
I knew this was a better solution than to have her quarantined in Canada. But I also realized she couldn’t comprehend where she was going and why I wasn’t at her side. "Hang in there, girl. I’ll see you soon, poor one."
The plane eventually took off and leveled out. This was my first time flying—at least on a plane. I should have been grooving on it, but I couldn’t stop worrying about Charlie. She was my closest friend, and I hated putting her through this ordeal.
Many people would never understand the bond I shared with my sweet four-legged companion.
It's obvious that there are two types of people: dog people and those who prefer to have little to do with canines. The latter, in my opinion, have no idea what they’re missing. Even among so-called dog people, I found that there are different breeds—many who don’t really love their dogs but merely possess them.
Some choose attractive breeds the way you’d buy a fancy car—for the attention they generate. Others own dogs merely for function: hunting, breeding, herding, or guarding. Though some of these dog-owners sincerely care for their animals, many have other motives. They might pride themselves for their skill in training or taming their “beasts” or enjoy the perversion of control and dominance. And there are those who love their animals in a needy way—to fulfill loneliness or insecurity. Love can be tainted by the owner’s shortcomings, never achieving its complete promise.
Authentic dog lovers have the ability to gauge their dog’s feelings and can share deep affection and communication with their companions. Even among this group, you get what you give. Breed dictates some behaviors, but dogs learn a great deal from their human partners. An angry person creates an angry dog—that is, if they don’t turn that aggressiveness towards the canine. If they do, they can end up with a frightened, submissive animal.
My intention has always been to present an example of calm while teaching Charlie respect for others. Lessons aimed at keeping her safe and able to accompany me wherever I go, offer much more value than a few parlor tricks.
I feel that the folks who love their dogs like I do are the lucky ones—with the opportunity to realize the full potential of the relationship. They can appreciate the love, loyalty, intelligence, and understanding inherent in the species—and create a sacred bond. Communication takes place without speech. A glance or a motion is all that’s necessary.
After a year and a half spending almost every moment with Charlie, we were inseparable. She always had my respect and the benefit of the doubt as to how much she could understand. And she hadn’t disappointed me in that department.
There may be others who have a close relationship with their dogs, but one thing I knew for certain—there was no one on this entire planet with a greater bond than the one I shared with Charlie. So, I couldn’t help but feel for her in that cold, dark, lonely hold down below.
“I’ll see you soon, girl.”
Even with my constant concern over my canine buddy, the image of Rosie appeared in my thoughts. Her persistent interruptions were bordering on annoyance. Still, I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of her steel-colored eyes and her thin face and lips. My mind had been poisoned by that slender beauty. And her allure was growing in relation to the distance coming between us.
I found it disconcerting since the hope of me settling down didn’t seem to be in the cards—too much hunger for adventure to fool with that kind of relationship. Still, my yearning heart was giving me little rest.
The sky showed tinges of pale orange light as the sun began to rise. Because we were flying in a northwestward direction, the sunrise continued for hours. Sleepless, I finally arrived in Anchorage, relieved to know I would soon be reunited with Charlie. She’ will be upset with me—but relieved as well.
To be continued ...
Author’s Note: I’ll be taking a short break. If you enjoy reading about my wacky adventures and would like to see more, please leave me a short comment. Thanks!
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Trippin': Roads, Rails and Mountain Trails
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my personal gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s was a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns