VICIOUS Pit Bulls?

Haters should know what pits are really like.  With their permission, I’m copying what Angie & Jack wrote in their condolence card for Ty.

We are so sad that it was time for Ty to go.  That bouncy, loving, sweet, adorable ball of fur [well, no much fur actually :)].  Our thoughts and hearts are with you.  I know it was his time and that he had the most awesome of lives with the most awesome of Dad’s but it is still heartbreaking to let him go – at least in body.  His joyful, loving essence and memories will always stay with us all.  His physical loss can never take away all the gifts he gave everyone who knew him and loved him.

Here’s us on a hike we did back about 2005.  Jonesy was old and I’d left him at the car, alone for the first time (and I was anxious about it).  But the hike with Ty stuck in my mind as peace and fulfillment.  For me, this is what most of life should be.

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Training Camp

“Training Camp.” Usually it means a place where athletes temporarily reside to focus on their sport. In actual terms it has nothing to do with camping… unless you’re Heroes ‘N Pirates. These photos taken June of 2009 were after a protracted layoff to recover from biceps surgery. I tore it off at the distal end while doing heavy pullups. Once I had the green light, I couldn’t wait to resume even if it meant overlapping training and camping. The dogs, looking bored, wait on the tailgate.It was very hot, humid and buggy, thundering as I recall, and after training we all sat in the truck as a downpour ran its course.

Oldowan Choppers – Then and Now

One things that stuck with me from anthropology class was the oldest tools ever discovered. What kind of tools? A hand choppers of course. Dating back 2.5 million years they were found by Louis and Mary Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge of Africa. Choppers are hand held sharpened stones used for all sorts of camp tasks. They’ve been with us through all of human, and much pre-human history. (Current thinking is the oldest Homosapiens date back only 195,000 years.)

Large Pebble Oldowan Chopper

Even friends who are fully urban in orientation recognize a simple large knife or hatchet as the most basic and essential tool of all. As a child I was fascinated with them and my dad made a hatchet out of wood so I could “pretend” when I was quite young (no, not when I was 48…). No wonder the fascination continued into adult years. Such a tool can help provide fire via a bow and drill, a shelter and bed of boughs, it can procure food through spear or trap making, and it be used for defense. Warmth, comfort, food, and safety.

My fascination feels visceral, a genetic memory? I’m surprised more people aren’t intrigued by knives and axes. Or perhaps it’s more simple genetics. My dad was also interested. In the mid and late Forties he made numerous knives in a forge he built himself. He obtained the steel from leaf springs of burned out WWII trucks. Though I buy tools rather than make them, their creation interests me as well. One of the finest knife experts today is Michal Gavac from Gavko Knives.  In this video he demonstrates large knife use.

If you’re interested, his youtube page is full in informative videos. You can listen to his narration as he watches the creation of one of these supreme choppers:

Such beautiful custom craft is waaaay beyond Heroes ‘N Pirates’ modest budget. But I’ve field tested inexpensive knives. One of the most impressive, robust yet inexpensive survival knives, a contemporary Oldowan Chopper, is Mtech’s Nighthawk MX-8069. (Wholesale c. $45 + S&H – upper limit of my budget!)

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Oh, to have had it on the beach for stringy driftwood I was attempting to harvest!  It’s certainly not as weighty as the stone above.  Still, heft one of these massive blades and if you’re like me your insides will urge, “Bring on the adventure!”

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The Stone Chamber

Coffee in hand Roger and I plan the day’s hike and archaeological search.

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On the way, I nibble black birch twigs.  They give off a strong taste of something similar to but better than wintergreen; it’s what birch beer is made of.   Supposedly it also has medicinal qualities as a pain killer.

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Mak is such a picky water drinker, this was worth a photo.  He actually drank several times during the hike but prefers only water from his home tap.  I baby my boys but that is a level of sissy-ness I try not to indulge… particularly since “we” lick urine spots with no apparent displeasure.  In his day, Jonesy would drink from almost any organic source sometimes prompting me to worry about leptospirosis.

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We located the stone chamber.  Last time we were here, five or six years ago, I ran out of battery power and always wanted to come back.  Unexplained stone chambers dot the northeast.  Distribution maps I’ve seen have them from New Jersey to Maine.  I’ve been to seven or eight of them.  Many theories regarding their purpose and who built them abound but few are plausible.  Sadly, despite their antiquity and unsolved status, they are sometimes wantonly destroyed by developers and builders – with no penalty.  Also unexplained is why the academic world doesn’t study them in a serious way and shun those who do as amateurish “crackpots.”  The typical blow off explanation is that they were “root cellars” for colonists though they were documented to be here when the colonists arrived.

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This one was of rectilinear design but is unusually large and with twin supporting columns.  From the back facing the entrance:

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And from entrance wall facing the back:

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Of course surrounded by the primitive requires equipping oneself with appropriate weaponry.  I brandished a contemporary scramasax (Kershaw’s Camp 10)…

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…while Roger ate lunch outside.

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No cold lunch for this archaeologist.  I made a fire in a damp spot of leaves,

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and had organic chicken sausages on whole wheat, good conversation, the best dog in the whole wide world by my side… and the scramasax in case of zombies.

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Mak appreciated my sweatshirt and showed his fatigue by actually lying on it.

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We were out for five hours, much of it walking through woods.  Not bad for seventy-nine year old Roger, if you ask me.  Back at his place we had a simple outdoor meal of Irish brown bread he’d baked, beans I made overnight in a crock pot then brought in a sauce pan and fresh brewed coffee from a stove top brewing pot.  On our ride home, Mak and I agreed, it had been a fulfilling day even if we never found zombies to dispatch.

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Route to Happiness?

“And you think that’s what she wants, to be a rich man’s wife?”
“Isn’t that what most women want?”
Esteban gave that a strange smile, “You told me once you did not grow up poor like most gangsters.”
Joe nodded, “We weren’t rich but…”
“But you had a nice house, food in your bellies, could afford to go to school.”
“Yes.”
“And was your mother happy?”
Joe said nothing for a long time.
“I’ll assume that’s a ‘No,’” Esteban said.

-from Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane

Rituals to Mark Life Events

Grieving is personal and specific to situation.  I decided to honor Ty by wearing the “dog ring” for the weekend.  I usually never wear it because it’s so obtrusive that it catches on everything.  But out in the woods and for one weekend?  No worries.  I wore it on my left hand ring finger, the Heroes ‘N Pirates is on my right.

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The other thing I did (or am trying out to see how it “feels”) is after wearing Zeus’ rabies tag for almost fourteen years, I switched to Ty’s brass star tag.  If it ends up coloring my skin or clothes I may have to look for one of his old steel ones.  Truth is much as I loved Zeus, he did bite me – four times – despite his own cloying devotion.  But I might go back to the Zeus tag some day or wear both.  In Roger’s kitchen showing Ty’s tag:

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Rice, Rawhide, Tears & A Blankie

Earlier today it was me being the “strong one” helping Mak keep his spirits up.  But tonight while cooking a rice dish and listening to an audio book, the main character’s dog dies while they are camping in the mountains.  At morning wake up, he finds his old dog frozen in the sleeping bag.  Just like that all his plans go out the window and he becomes almost catatonic for three days.  Waking the third morning, for a brief moment he forgets his dog is gone and feels his weight in the sleeping bag only to then remember.  He thinks of the rifle in his pack and what he could do with it.  Then he imagines how his dog would disapprove.

It was all too much.  I ended up sitting on the kitchen floor, my back to the cabinets, tears streaming down my cheeks, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t hear.  That’s the way grief is.  It hits you suddenly, sometimes unexpectedly and you go from whistling while you work, tra la la la, to waaaah!

Mak polished off the rawhide square I’d given him (he’s getting the royal treatment to get used to being the only dog) and came over to nuzzle my face.  I held him as he slowly wagged and pressed into me.  It was his turn to be “the strong one.”  Now he is again on his bed next to the computer chair and I’ve covered him with his blankie.  Isn’t companionship grand?

Renewal in Companionship and the Natural World.

Mak and I take comfort in each other after losing one of our own on 4/17/14. We had extra good cuddles that night and next morning and again today.  But he was clingy this morning and I put his dog bed right next to my computer chair so if I drop my hand while typing, he’d be right there. (He’s next to me now.)
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Maybe I was anthropomorphizing, but he looked depressed and sad on the morning of 4/19/14.
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Even here, taking up the sunny window sill (with pre-smudged windows!) sadness etched his face.
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We needed to get out of the house, so I took him to my mom’s and encouraged him to sit his buttsky in the copilot seat.
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He was amped to come along to grandma’s, but once there fell back into gloom.
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Get him out in the woods, is what I thought. So after leaving grandma’s we stopped at a wildlife management wetland. So much for moping.
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Exploring the natural world together, that got us smiling.
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Hitting scents and crashing through brush after prey, this dog was meant to hunt!
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Often times our umbilical cord was taught as a violin string.
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But dad got his fun too.  I picked a suitable place for a tiny fire and Mak indulged me by making use of my coat as a bed.
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The woods dry, the fire was easily lit. But I was still glad to carry the MT-086 survival knife because in some spots the thorns were so thick I had to cut my way through. That’s at least partly why this particular place is almost never used, making it empty of people. Perfect.
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Spring peepers were all around us, we heard geese and red wing blackbirds. The evening sun was low, it was great to be out there with my buddy. Before circling back to the car, we climbed a low hill, found some neat little clearings, and I vowed to bring him back there again. By the time he was back in the copilot seat, the sky had turned festive.
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We saw the whole sky reflected in the river as we drove home. Yeah we missed Ty, but realistically he was too old to have done this hike. His full life’s circle closed as it must for us all. Mak and I still have a bit of time together in the sun and I aim to make our time together as fulfilling as possible. My hand rested on his velvet-soft massive head, he sighed and we were content.