Sunday, August 25, 2013

February 28, 1991

Dear Dale,

That was some story you told your mother. The Army runs you off the street at 6 PM.
What will you tell her when you show up back in Centerville with a 4’-8” Korean bride?
You’re mother will want to know how you had time to court her. Better have an honest
story ready. You and I know you’re living a jazzed-up version of your Flint fraternity days
minus the final exams.

I’m just back from the hills with my old dog, Dudley. Actually, he is Robyn’s old dog, but
I take him out every day for 1 1/2 to 2 hours of hiking either along the Yakima River or
Manashtash Ridge. The first two miles from the house1 the latter 10 miles. I prefer the
ridge because I get a more strenuous workout - on a warm day, some sweating. Dudley
doesn’t care. Along the river - rain, wind, sleet, or snow - he’s in the water. On a cold
day, he’s practically a walking ice cube.

The Yakima is a mountain river on its way to the Columbia sixty miles east. It starts fifty
miles west of here. By the time it reaches Ellensburg, it is fifty yards wide and moving. In
the summer, it will have rafters soaking up the sun above and the water below. By the time
they float through the Canyon, they’re water wrinkled down and sun baked up.

Until last June, I hiked with two dogs, Dudley and Wyndam, both flat coat retrievers.
Wyndam was Robyn’s champion - confirmation, obedience, and tracker trained. A truly
great dog. Unlike Dudley, he was not interested in jumping into the river after sticks. He
wanted the real thing. Along the river, I had to watch him so that he did not challenge a
beaver, a muskrat, or a 90-pound king salmon. Just a super dog. But, at age 12, he was
seriously ailing, so we put him down.

In addition (the dogs live with Barbara, my ex-wife), we still have Kitty’s dog, Mollie,
a sheltie. Mollie won’t (never has) hiked with us, but she is always there to welcome us
home. Barbara tells me she loves Dudley’s stories about the wolf he chased and mice the
size of elephants. Dudley can be wild with his stories. Then there is Harold, Barbara’s cat.
Harold is almost as big as Mollie. Here in my apartment I have only Harlem (Little Fleece),
Tracy’s rabbit. He objects to me calling him Little Fleece. Claims I’m threatening him. I
tell him not to worry. I prefer wool in my moccasins and rabbits are to damn stringy to eat.
I’ve also told him that if I slip one more time on one of his little black ball bearings, I’ll
introduce Dudley to him.

I talked with your mother last evening. I thought she had sold all your cars, but she tells
me she still has a small pickup and a big bike for sale—cheap. I told her if I could find my
old black leather jacket, I would buy the bike. Not until warm weather, of course. But I’ve
had second thoughts. Now-a-days, you’ve got to wear a helmet, keep the headlights on,
even be licensed. I like the old days when you could ride with nothing but your oily levies,
a red bandanna and a tattoo, hair a blowing, girls a screaming, cops a chasing. Those were
the days. There was nothing like a 60 yard skid on your side to test the paint job on the old
Harley. Even thinking about the old days calls for a nap.

Hang in there.


(Dale is a nephew and a veteran helicopter pilot Iraq)