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The Scenic Route

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The Scenic Route

Dogs and trucks and joy


Sometimes, things happen fast. Not often. But sometimes.

These times surprise me because most things seem to happen verrrrrry slowly. “C’mon, for cryin’ out loud,” we shout in impatience. Looking back is another matter, but the pace of our lives looking forward seems glacial, no matter what we do to hurry it along.

Thank God. It keeps us anchored to the planet, which we need to be. The species is stuck here, barring time travel, for a long damned time, even though our culture tries to achieve exit velocity and often acts like we’re just visiting. But, we haven’t figured an efficient way off this rock—nor anywhere to go even if we could. Sirius, the bright point in the southern sky we call the “Dog Star,” is our nearest galactic neighbor. Even if we travel 10,980,000 miles per minute—the speed of light—we don’t arrive at Sirius until after eight-point-seven years. And no one has gone even half that fast.

Three weeks ago, I suddenly got a dog. (There’s more to this, but not the space to tell it.) Or, the dog got me. Busted him out of the Sanders County Dog Jail where he was doing time for malingering. My mom and sis threw his bail, but he appears to be mostly mine.

I haven’t had a dog in 14 years. The last one — Radar — spoiled me, and I’ve waited to meet his kindred spirit since, and maybe I have. Laddie is a young, rambunctious, modified male. We’re figuring out the alpha thing. He works on obedience. I work on patience. He has issues with personal space. He thinks it’s all his. I have issues with control. I think it’s all mine. He’s learning “Off!” and “No!” and to come when I call him. I’m learning that he likes to just play sometimes. “To hell with school,” he says. “Just throw the ball!”

It’s not nearly as draining as having a baby, but they are similar experiences.

Two weeks after Laddie got paroled, another thing happened fast. I bought a car, but not just a car. I put out a memo to the Universe about the vehicle I wanted, and the Universe said, “OK!” and basically dropped me into the driver’s seat. This car — or is it a truck? — is more than I asked for at less than I was willing to pay. It has things I didn’t know I wanted. It’s actually sort of decadent. And, I’m OK with that.

On the other hand, I wait for the other shoe to drop. How’s the mileage, I wonder. It ain’t going to be great. It’s sort of like falling in love. You’re not sure you can move into it completely, as much as you want to, because “you might get hurt.” It’s also sort of like getting a new dog.

The dog likes the new truck—I guess it’s a truck. Jumps right in, assumes the obvious dog position for this particular vehicle.

I may not have had a dog in 14 years, but I have had a pickup. Radar and Laddie have both ridden in it, which is to say that I’ve had it for a long time and 315,260 miles. Light travels this far in 1.728 seconds — about 13 times around the world. That’s about 2,000 miles more than I have driven that pickup. The other two grand were put on by friends who borrowed it to move and go to the dump over 15 and a half years.

The pickup is being prepared to leave my life. I’m hoping some kid has a dream about my pickup like I had about my new car — uh, truck. So, I’m cleaning out the pickup, and don’t have a clue where most of the rocks and other souvenirs on the dash came from. But, I recognize and stash some of them in the new truck just for what they are and where they came from—the West. Flint. Agate. Jasper. A coyote tooth. A snail shell. A tarnished aluminum cross with “God Loves,” on the crossbeam and “You,” down the trunk. It’s seed. Adventure dust. One rig is pollinating the other. They are parked together tonight, and I imagine that they are telling each other stories. The new truck has been to New York. The old truck—it’s been everywhere.

I sweep the sand out of the pickup box, leftover from horseshoe pit construction. The remaining rocks from the dash go into the box under the freezeless hydrant. I find five quarts of oil and a box of cassette tapes. The camper shell goes back on and I leave the big metal box that’s ridden in the truck for 15 years, equipped with ice scraper, broom, shovel, axe, tire chains, hydraulic jack. I ponder about what to do with the old man’s tarp, an antique of full-on heavyweight duck canvas which has ridden in that box and served as load cover, sunshade and soogan and smells like a tarp should. Not what to do with it, really, as where to store it. Maybe under the dog in the new truck? Not a bad thought.

Goodbye, Old Blue. Hello, new truck. Names take time, sometimes.

Hello, new dog—Laddie. Goodbye total independence. Trades have been made.

Joy is sometimes tempered by reality, but it is joy nonetheless. Learning this, like most things, takes time.


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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

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driving, dogs, Laddie

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