MY PLAN included bungee cords to insure that if I wasn’t dashed to pieces on the first fall, I would be on the second, third or fourth.
My main obstacle was laziness. I’d have to write something (a biting epitaph) order a tombstone, get a thousand feet of rubber surgical tubing for just the right kind of that snappy slingshot action, rack up huge debts, tell everyone what I really thought of them, get someone I secretly despise to fall in love with me and make sure that nothing would be left to my children or ex-wives.
It was too much work. I filled my pipe and was off wandering in the Netherlands when I felt a gentle tug on my pant leg.
It was my dog Huck.
Huck was a cinnamon colored German shepherd who always wanted out. He would usually spend his days with his chin on my knee while I typed, looking up at me with doleful eyes silently begging to be taken for walk. His nights were spent at the foot of my bed, waiting for the next day to begin.
In the afternoons when I would arise, Huck would be in his most charming happy self, which he would use to get me out of bed to start the new day, begging to be let out.
We slept in a long windowless hallway. At one time it was the entrance to the Gould and Curry Mine. It was from here that James Fair snuck a team of miners into the mine down to the 1,500 foot level and began drilling and blasting their way north into what eventually become known as the Big Bonanza, the world’s greatest discovery of silver, so big it caused the worldwide financial crisis of the 1870’s, making him and his three partners, Mackay, O’Brien and Flood four of the world’s richest men.
But that was long ago. The mines were played out and now the mine entrance was my bedroom. As I approached the refridgerator (I know, I know, it isn’t spelled with a d, I’ll take care of it later) at the end of the narrow kitchen, Huck would dance ahead of me, and at the same time, at the same spot, every day, he would look back to see if I was coming, notice he had a bushy tail . . like “what the is that?” and running around in a circle, snap at it three times .
His tail was an elusive thing. Once it was up and wagging he could never catch it.
Well, on this one particular day, when I had been in deep reverie for couple of hours too long, he left off asking and took to tugging and growling a bit as he pulled on my pant leg.
“Hey! Cut it out!” I yelled, but he just pulled harder. I had to get up an hop on one foot. “Stop it! Stop yankin‘ on my leg, you’ll pull it off,” I yelled, but it just made him put his back into it, growl and dig his paws into the rug, like he was fighting over tenderloin with a pit bull.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I was wearing Wahmaker denim pants with thick strap suspenders nailed to them on strong steel posts, he would have pulled them right off me, butt naked.
I had to capitulate.
“Alright, alright,” I lied. He instantly dropped my leg and shot for the southeastern side door.
The Flowery Hills west of Virginia City might be called mountains, but in my metrology they only rate as a piedmont leading up to something much bigger. The white capped giants of the Sierra Nevadas off on the horizon . . now those are mountains.
A bricked path by the Mackay Mansion runs east towards them under cherry blooms, past rusting mine junk in front of a beautifully manicured cool green lawn. In the Spring its beauty was breath taking, the cool cherry bossoms that so gracefully bent over the path and laid their pin kisses on my cheek as I passed under them. Huck dashed for it, leapt the gate, flopped, wriggled and rolled, rubbing his back on it like a beached sturgeon.
So much for a walk.
He jumped up, looked around with ears forward. Something leapt the boundaries of the yard, a mule deer, and Huck was off in a blur in hot pursuit of clattering hooves, barking, me screaming his name to come back.
They headed up the hill through an empty lot to main street. I chugged up Flowery Street towards C Street, yelling “Huck! “Huck!”
Dogs need names that can be comfortably yelled loudly, without reservation or embarrassment. I named a rat terrier “Howdy” once and in a situation similar to this one a man said “Well, hello God damnit!”
I learned my lesson on dog names from that, and so it was no distraction when I yelled Huck‘s. Some angry whiskered guy with his teeth all rotted out yelled back at me, “your dog is chasing a mule deer through traffic!”
Huck was so magnifiently big and supernaturally fast that by the time I got to the top of the street he had finished his pursuit and returned home, leaving me slack jawed. I tried to recover some of my dignity by asking, “You mean that dog there?“ Gabby Hayes was as puzzled as I was, but I didn’t show it.
“Well who was that?” he said. “His evil twin?”
I acted like I knew.
When I came stumbling back into the yard, Huck tore around crazily, kicking up bits of lawn, and then turned on me, racing at full speed until he was about six feet away, where he got airborne, lunging directly at my face, whizzing by my ear like a tomahawk.
When I turned around he was fifteen feet away at the gate to the path, looking over his shoulder at me like, “well come on, what are you waiting for, let’s go!”
He noticed his tail: Snap snap snap!
Next: How Huck saved my life