Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Quest For the Wire Fox – Part 4

 I won’t lie to you, the drive through Atlanta, even on a Sunday morning, was something of a test for me. I’ve been trying to live a life where I can handle whatever comes my way with aplomb. My mantra is that I have had worse to deal with, lost while backpacking in Maine, shark encounters while while surfing, and driving a motorhome in Scotland. We managed to get to Powder Springs, Georgia, with only a couple of wrong turns, no cursing and no freaking out. The level of difficulty was pulling a camper trailer behind the huge van and the endless flow of traffic before a big football game in the city.

This wasn’t a case of me worrying about something that would never happen. There were plenty of reminders on the sides of the road, smashed up cars, police vehicles with lights flashing and  small crowds of people wearing masks. I was driving 5 miles and hour UNDER the speed limit, but like Pam said, other drivers looked at the van and the dents on the trailer and gave us wide berth.

Ollie’s house was an interesting stop. Only an hour away from the crazy traffic of Atlanta, I pulled into this suburb that seemed created for hipsters. I could not tell if it was old and fixed up, or if they just recently built it to look old. Lots of bike paths, a long street of buildings that invited walking shoppers, and then what seemed like miles of fancy multi-story apartment buildings. We drove past all of this and then suddenly we were in the old country, with older homes with large properties, and huge shade trees. Pam was admiring all of this, saying ‘if I had to move, I could handle this!’. It didn’t hurt that the temperature had dropped to the point where you could walk outside for a few minutes in shorts and flipflops without sweating.

I was still ready for anything, leaving the gun in the car, tightly gripping the large sum of cash I had to bring for this special dog Pam had to have, and in the other hand, I had the keys spread out between my knuckles. I was telling myself to assess the situation and make sure that I took out the most dangerous person first if it came to that. The house was in front of me now, at the top of a small rise. A yellow and white home with a railed porch out front. I could see a large man sitting in a rocking chair, cradling something in his lap. If it was a gun, I couldn’t make out the model from the distance. I needed to know if it was a revolver. If that was the case, I might be able to count how many shots he could take. There was a little bit of a chance for us if the deal went south. There was a large well-used pleasure boat on a trailer on the street in front of the house, probably purchased with the money from other foolish people that had walked up here with lots of cash and no idea of how far they were from the law.

As we rounded the boat, he stood up and walked towards us and I tightened my grip on the keys and moved in front of Pam to make sure I closed as much distance between as I could before he raised his weapon. It turned out, that I had paid too much attention to the man, because I was caught unawares when a huge dog leaped in the air right in front of me. I dropped my keys and stood in amazement as the dog jumped about 4 feet straight up in the air 3 times.  The man yelled at the dog, ‘Bella, settle down!’ .  I stood there helplessly as he raised he hands and pointed a puppy at my head….



Friday, October 30, 2020

The Quest For the Wire Fox: part 3


The first day of the excursion was a leisurely drive up the interstate to a small town in Georgia called Forsyth. Our stop for the night turned out to be a really nice campground in a deeply wooded area with a fantastic view of the interstate highway flowing by. I drove a short distance from the main road into the park and found out right away that this was going to be a pleasant short stay. Rain had been in the forecast and we managed to get camp set up before the steady drizzle got going. I was feeling that this kind of camping wasn’t all that bad, until right before dark, another camper pulled in about six feet from our front door. This was apartment living, RV style.

We managed to get a little bit of exercise before the rain arrived, eyeing the fellow campers and their rigs. I was having flashbacks of me as a teenager, my mom and dad with their 31 foot Airstream trailer and International Travel All truck. It was one of those things that did go right for my dad after he got home from Vietnam. The government gave him something like a dollar for every day he spent in prisoner of war camp. He took that money and bought the RV rig of his dreams. They took us on a long trip with them, and every night they would string up the owl lanterns around their trailer awning, while us kids groaned and tried to look like we did not belong to the Airstream crowd. They would always walk the park, and make friends with the fellow campers, while I was trying to pretend that I was not really an 18 year-old  that was camping with his folks. Now, Pam and I were older than they were back then, walking the park, but somehow, I didn’t have the personality to go up to strange people and say ‘Great weather we’re having…if you’re a duck!’. Nope, that wasn’t me, but I did have a plan for the lanterns….


We are using a ‘rig’ that must strike people as quite odd, and I do see many confused looks from fellow campers. Most people either go the route of getting something as big as they can possibly handle or totally minimalist. Usually, people that are pulling an Airstream Bambi are unusual folk. Here we have something quite small and light, yet expensive. One might imagine that it would be pulled by a tricked out Jeep Wrangler or a family SUV. Instead, we are pulling it with Megavan, the Nissan van we bought for doing farmer’s markets, and the van is actually larger than the trailer. It is also possible that the strange looks are because the van is nice and shiny and the trailer has way too many dents in it for something that cost so much.

We are excited and sleep will be hard to come by. The next day we will meet the Ollie, the pandemic puppy, and his family in Powder Springs, Georgia. Or we will get conked on the head by robbers, if you can believe my brothers. I am in that in between place, where I am hopeful that there really is a dog, and maybe it likes me or if it looks like a robbery, I can get out of there fast. Yes, sleep was looking like an elusive creature this time. Tomorrow will be driving through Atlanta pulling a trailer, and then going out into a country suburb and meeting whatever awaited us there. The plan was to drive from there to the mountains and camp a few more days…with an 8 week old puppy…what were we thinking?

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Quest For The Wire Fox: Part 5


 I'd have to say that in many ways, we are very fortunate. Pam and I were already retired when the pandemic hit, so we never had to make the awful decision of whether or not showing up at work was worth the risk. We did find like others, that suddenly being home all the time, made us bond more with our pets. The Perkins family has always had a lot of pets, and by circumstance, this summer found us with no dogs and no easy way of getting a new one. The last time I got a dog, it was a trip to the house of somebody that had puppies and picking out the one that liked us the most. That is not how it worked this summer.

I did have plenty of warning from friends that it was difficult to get a dog, unless I wanted a pitbull from the pound. I spent a lot of time looking and hoping to free some hapless dog from a prison, but apparently everyone else was doing the same thing. Meanwhile, Pam was sharpening her online skills, watching every puppy video and emailing everybody in the country that was breeding dogs. She finally decided that a Wire Fox Terrier, was a dog she would love, and it might just be possible to get one if we were willing to take a chance on a young couple that was having their first litter and drive over a day's drive through Protest marches and Confederate flags to get the puppy. 

That was the beginning of the quest, and now months and over a $1000 worth of dog supplies later, it had happened. Ollie the puppy and Bella, his mother, immediately melted whatever misgivings I had. Bella had that special trait that I remembered from our beloved Jack Russel dog, Princess. Our kids had grown up with Princess and she had this ability to do a standing jump that was unbelievably high. There used to be a pizza commercial that showed a pizza box on top of a refrigerator, and every few moments, a dog head would flash into view...a dog jumping up to grab the pizza box. That was our Princess, and apparently, the Wire Fox terrier breed had the same skill. Before I could even get to the front gate of the house, Bella was showing she could be over that gate and defend the house from me any time she chose.  

I came up and sat on the porch while Bella made sure I was okay to touch her puppy and Pam stood there smiling while Ryan, the suddenly nice young owner,  that did not seem at all menacing anymore, handed me Ollie the little ball of fur.

Suddenly, thoughts of robbery, the long drive, the things that could go wrong were all gone, replaced by visions of me and Ollie surfing, me and Ollie riding bikes, me and Ollie hiking. Sure, I'd let Pam spend time with him, while I was sleeping, but otherwise, it was me and Ollie. Then I held Ollie out to Pam, and I was second-best....again...


The Wire Fox Quest: Part 2

 It is strange how I can not at all remember where I packed the bread, but can be suddenly struck with a flashback of an event from when I was eighteen years old. I was in a fancy beachside town in south Florida, standing behind my parent's car with the trunk open. We had driven there to cash in on a promised free weekend in an unbelievably ritzy hotel. My dad had recently been freed from a Vietnamese prison camp and was one of the first two men to return to the USA. We were probably some of the first people to discover what "15 minutes of fame" could mean. It was 1973 and my dad didn't have to spend money anywhere. Even I had my photo pasted on the front page of a few newspapers. My dad went from eating pumpkin soup in a ratty cell, wondering if that was where he would die to getting free nights in a luxurious hotel in Boca Raton. They were supposed to be sequestered in the Philippines, while they were slowly brought up to speed, but my grandmother was dying of a long term illness, so they rushed him all of the news people, and all of the photographers. We lost the war, but we got our POWs back...something to celebrate!

What none of us wanted to talk about was, how could anybody just do that? We maintained a facade that everything was fine, and we were living happily ever after. Never mind that when he left for the war he had four little crew-cut Sunday school kids, and he came home to teenage long haired hippies. Then there was his subservient Air Force wife that had somehow turned into a war protester and activist. He was rolling with it as best he could, and we could only get hints of what was going on beneath the surface.

There were times when things went differently and today was one of them. We had driven, all 6 of us, crammed into a car made for 5, for 4 hours down to Boca to the fancy hotel, only to find that nobody there knew anything about Glen Perkins, EX-POW and welcome was not laid out for this family. I was standing outside of the trunk of the car, holding my prize possession, my 6 foot twin-fin surfboard, the first board I had purchased new, with an acid-wash design in my favorite green. The reason I could afford this board was it was made by a local shop that cut some serious corners in materials making it. It had a couple of little pressure dings already merely from me carrying it. 

I was standing there with my board in hand, long haired surfer in my flip flops and shorts, while valets in suits stood by figiting nervously. My dad comes outside with a frown and growing look of sunburn on his neck and face. I recognized this situation and was ready to start hitchhiking home. Something had gone wrong inside the hotel and we were leaving. He grabbed my board and was trying to get it back in the trunk while I had a growing sense of alarm about how many pieces of my board were going into the car. I said, "Dad, it won't fit like that." 

"I'll make it fit!" he said.....and that went down in the history of the family forever.

I got up early this morning, looking for the bread, and glancing around this campground, packed with campers, looking almost more like an RV sales lot than a campground. I've got my megavan full of man toys and puppy stuff, and Dad's Airstream camper. Airstreams aren't all that common, and whenever you see one, you can tell they have been loved a little more than ordinary campers. My eyes go high and I see the four or five giant dents on this new camper and wonder just where my dad had decided this thing had to fit....


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Wire Fox Quest: Part 1



 It is the craziest, most unpredictable year in my life, and I've seen some doozies...yet this year has also contained some moments are possibly better because of everything we've all experienced.

My wife's business is down to about zero, and her team seemed okay with waiting out the pandemic, ready to get back to work when it seemed like it might be safe, but it's looking more and more like nobody really knows when that will be. In fact, today, we read the news that we have just marked the time with the most new reported cases of the virus in a single day...even while it appears that some in our government are making it more difficult to know if the facts we get are trustworthy. In Florida, it is well known that the attitude is "let's get back to work". 

Meanwhile, my family dealt with months of a very different life, one that had lots of TV, and reading. In the middle of all this, many people decided they needed a pet dog in their life and my wife was one of them. The last dog in our menagerie had recently died from old age and we had the empty nest syndrome. Soon, days were filled with websites full of puppy photos and frantic searches for dogs that needed a home.

The breeders were going 'send me money and I'll put you on the waiting list in the event we ever have more puppies'. On top of that, my wife became quite specific in what she wanted for a dog. So, now it was expensive AND impossible to get. Complicating things, were news articles about innocent people getting swindled out of large sums  of money.

In spite of all of this, a puppy was found and the excitement began. For most of our lives, getting a dog meant visiting people that had puppies and seeing if we found one that we liked and it liked us. This time was very different. This was seeing photos of  the mom and dad, and then pictures and video of the puppies as they grew closer to the age where we could have one. Finally, there would be a journey to go get the dog, but this time, it was a serious long drive and to me that meant one thing: Road Trip!