“This Dog’s Bandana”

Enjoying a roaring fire in the lobby at Kohl’s Ranch, a guest asked me a common question posed to authors: “Where do you get your ideas?”

I always liked the response I read that Will Rogers gave, brandishing a newspaper in the air as he chortled from the stage: “You can’t just make this stuff up.”

Creative as I may claim to be, stories just seem to find me.  The thing is, I may forget that I’m not a character in one of my stories as I tend to respond rather than react to situations.  And sure enough, here’s one.

Coming down the hill headed home from my mountain-top retreat, I opted for a rare stop, The Golden Arches.  They still have the arches as you leave Payson through Star Valley.  Entering the warm blast of air, I complimented a young gal on her colorful bomber ear-flap stocking cap.  I brushed my shaved dome, adding that I might have to trade a burger for it.  She smiled with a slight blush.  She even complimented me on my bandana.  Upon leaving after eating after I ate a meal, three good-sized boys were toeing the asphalt in the parking lot and they looked up as I stepped off the curb.  More than looking up, they smirked and closed ranks a bit.  I could see an embarrassed girl off to the left.

“That’s a purty scarf you got on there, mister.”  It was blue with white dog bones, trimmed in golden yellow.  I nodded and stepped to my right.

“You like pretty things, mister?” asked the Quarter-Pounder sidekick, glancing at the girl who now had her head down.  Hearing his fuctorical question, I nodded and stepped a bit wider.

But the Big Mac walked around him, glancing in the direction of my vehicle and back at me.  His young skin was like a sesame bun.  “You wear a lotta pretty scarves, mister?”

I just stared for a moment as a Chris LeDoux song came to mind, “This Cowboy’s Hat.”

The private jukebox in my head made me grin as I spoke, “I once had a dog that hardly ever met a person or another dog that he didn’t like.  Even those who rubbed his fur the wrong way, he gave them another chance.  I’m doing my best to do the same thing with you.”

There was a collective silent Huh? But my path was still blocked.  A hand slowly came up from a French fry toward my bandana and I took a polite step backward.  “My dog and I used to go spend a week at Kohl’s Ranch.  Just the two of us.  And every day Nubble and I played in the creek.  Didn’t matter how cold it was” as I shrugged at the potential snow clouds descending.  “It was one of his favorite activities.”  They nodded absently.

Well…I just spent a week all alone at a cabin up there, and yesterday I scattered Nubble’s ashes in Tonto Creek.  Now I’m headed home to the Valley, without him,” I paused.  “And this bandana was made by a friend of ours especially for him.  He wore it many times.  So I hope you get that when you start picking on this bandana of his, because it’s like you’re trying to kick my dog.”

There was a weighty silence as the three stooges traded glances.  Their alpha dog spoke, his hands now tucked in his jeans and his shoulders low.  “How about you just call me an asshole, and…we’ll call it even, sir?”

Now I waffled in silence before I tilted my head.  Then I cast the slightest grin as I extended my hand.  “I’m Pierre.”

His hand came out slowly.  “I’m Tad.”  He had trouble making eye contact for a moment.  “I’m sorry about your dog.”  The other two lug nuts concurred.

“Good to meet you, Tad.  You know, that dog of mine taught me way more than I ever taught him.  Shared many good lessons with me and other folks in his brief ten years on this earth.  Maybe, just maybe, Nubble shared a lesson with you, if’n you care to accept it.”

They parted as I headed for my truck, with no concern of looking back over my shoulder although I did glimpse at Heaven and smile.  It’s my guess The Nubster isn’t finished yet.