Of Gentlemen, Sailors,
And Sea Dogs
What is it about boats on rivers
that dogs on shore hate? Yesterday, Gentleman Frank, Bird-Man
Vernon, and I were cruising up the mighty Alafia River, in search
of a bit of lunch. The Alafia is pretty well built up all along
it’s banks where we were, and every third house had a
dog loose in the back yard. As we drew near, every one of them
would charge down to the bank, or the dock if there was one,
raising an awful racket, threatening us with a severe mauling
if we came closer.
Now I’m not too fond of
stupid people, but I’m even less enamored of stupid dogs.
So feeling somewhat ornery, I began to tease these canines as
we glided by. I opened the starboard window and stuck my head
out. “Arf, arf and woof, woof,“ I barked back at
them, growling and grinning. It drove them nuts. I was really
getting into it. Must have been my primitive side coming out.
I edged closer to the bank. “Grrrr…rruff, ruff,”
I taunted them. Stupid dogs going nuts, tearing up the grass,
claws clattering up and down on their docks.
Frank was appalled, being too
much of a southern gentleman to treat even a dog so impolitely.
And Vernon; well initially Vernon was mildly amused. But having
more sense than I do, he was starting to get concerned that
maybe I was becoming unhinged again. I might hit a dock or something.
“Hey Paul,” he said, “Yer getting a little
close there arncha?” “Naw…wooof, grrr, ruff-ruff,”
I answered, barely paying attention to Vernon, “Look at
the ignorant little rat-dog, Vernon. Wouldn’t even make
a good lunch. Ho, ho…grrrr, woof!” And just up ahead
was a miserable rat-dog for sure, about 5 pounds wringing wet,
ugly as sin, with a pug nose and bulgy eyes. The thing was really
riled up, and he got more and more agitated as we slid closer
and closer. Now there was a boathouse coming up, and a dock
on the other side of it. So the rat-dog tore around behind the
boathouse to get to the other side as we slid by. I angled over
to just miss the dock. “Watch this Vernon,” I said,
“He’ll come ripping down the dock. With any luck
he’ll fall in.”
I could hear him yapping as he
rounded the boathouse, but just as we got so we could see along
the other side….“Ooo, she it,” Vernon gasped.
“Uh-oh,” murmured Frank, and the two of them started
to look around furtively, because beside the boathouse was the
biggest, nastiest, most vicious looking Rottweiler you ever
did see. He was getting to his feet, and he didn’t look
any too happy about it. His rat-dog buddy had just run over
him, yapping all the while. Talk about the Hound of the Baskervilles,
here he comes! Snarling, drooling, growling, fur on end, from
a stiff step to a dead run down the dock in naught point five
Well sir, Vernon turned left,
and Frank turned right; the two of them bumped into each other.
I slammed the window shut and lunged for the forward door. The
rat-dog put on the brakes just as he came to the end of the
dock, but that hell-hound Rottweiler had no such intention.
He had perpetual hate in his heart for all boats, and he was
finally going to get one! He didn’t care about no stinking
five feet of river between us. Three bounds and then he launched
himself off the end of the dock, teeth first. The brute soared
through the air, snapping and spitting, and he landed skidding
across the foredeck to pile up against the far bulwark. Just
as he hit the deck, something splashed into the water and old
Vernon leapt for the ladder. He went up it like a squirrel with
his tail half bitten off, which it almost was, cause the Rottweiler
recovered in an instant. And when he lunged after Vernon, he
managed to glomp onto the heel of Vernon’s left shoe,
which he then proceeded to remove and shred in a most terrifying
manner. I had the door shut, but what had happened to Frank?
That question was answered when I spied him quietly doing the
breaststroke about 20 feet off to port, looking worried and
heading surreptitiously for the stern of the boat. I went to
give him a hand to get back aboard.
Frank as he stood there dripping on the aft deck, “Look
at that, would you.” We had a ringside view of the horrific
proceedings through the front windows. The hell-hound was snarling
and ripping and shaking Vernon’s shoe to bits. Every now
and then he’d lunge at the glass, slobbering all over
it. Then he’d chew on the ladder for a while. “You
sure that’s safety glass?” Frank worried, “Where’s
Vernon?” “Up top,” I answered. “His
foot in that shoe?” Frank asked. “You OK Vernon?”
I hollered. “More or less,” came the muffled reply,
“Whut we gonna do now?” Frank and I looked out the
windows again. The Rottweiler was busy peeing on the barrel
that held my anchor rode. But when he saw us looking at him
he rushed the door, chewing on the doorknob with his two-inch
fangs. Frank and I stepped back a bit. “Any ideas Frank?”
I asked. “Not me,” Frank said somewhat bitterly,
water dripping off his nose.
“Well, let’s see,”
I said, “How bout we come around to the dock again. Put
the boat against it, and I’ve got a couple sausages in
the fridge. We could throw them onto the dock. Maybe he’ll
jump off.” So we tried that. I pulled up to the dock and
let the breeze push us against it. Then I whipped open the side
window for an instant and Frank pitched the sausages onto the
dock. The hell-hound watched as the rat-dog stopped yapping
and ate the sausages. Then he went back to growling and chewing
on the ladder again. “Nuffa this,” Frank said, and
giving his rebel yell he opened the side window again. He put
one foot on the windowsill and swatted at the rat-dog with his
hat. Frank let him lock his nasty little snaggle-toothed jaws
into the hat, keeping him busy. Then he leaned round the corner
and gave the Rottweiler a raspberry. It was more than the beast
could bear, and he hurled himself back onto the dock to get
at Frank. But quick as a cat Frank slipped back inside and slammed
the window on his hat, leaving most of it outside with the rat-dog
still attached. The Rottweiler joined in and ripped the hat
out of the window. As the two of them tore it to bits, I goosed
the engine and made good our escape. Up top I could hear Vernon
scrambling to keep his footing. The noise started up forward,
proceeded sporadically for some distance aft, and finally terminated
with a blood-curdling scream and a giant splash off to port.
Water sloshed up against the port cabin window. Lucky thing
I had it closed.
Usually Vernon takes these dunkings
fairly well. But then he doesn’t usually start them from
such a high perch. And he’s not often as sober as he was
this time. “Grab him Frank,” I hollered, “I
ain’t stopping for nuthin!” As we roared by, Frank
managed to snare him with the boathook up his trouser leg. A
rather fine piece of seamanship, I thought. Once we were out
in the channel, I stopped the boat so we could haul him in.
I have to say it would have been considerably easier if he hadn’t
struggled so hard to keep his head above water. And you’d
think he would have been grateful when we finally managed to
drag him over the gunwale, cussing and coughing and spitting.
But no sir, he was so agitated that he staggered halfway to
his feet, took a swing at me of all people, slipped on the wet
deck and flopped smack down on his keester. Which was a good
thing, because that gave Frank and me time to scramble back
into the cabin and lock the aft door.
Vernon didn’t really calm
down till we were half way back to the marina. I let him in
when his mustache was droopy again. He’s always OK after
that. When we got back, let me tell you we cast some pretty
careful glances around for loose dogs. Then we tied up and stumped
off for the parking lot. “How bout some lunch now fellas?”
I suggested cheerily when we got to the car. But Frank and Vernon
both looked a bit glum. “I dunno. My left foot’s
sort a tender on the bottom of it,” Vernon complained,
“And I’m still wet.” “Yeah well I’m
wet too, and my head’s getting sunburned,” grumbled
Frank, which was entirely out of character for him. “Well
maybe I could drive over to the mall…” I mumbled,
“There’s that new Chinese joint, and, umm, that
K Mart. They’ve, umm, got shoes and hats. We’ll
leave the windows open on the freeway, so you guys can dry out.”
So that’s what we did. We went Dutch on lunch as usual,
but I thought it only sporting to offer to pay for the shoes
and the hat. “If you don’t want to sleep with the
fishes tonight,” joked Frank darkly… “Maybe
you should,” Vernon finished it for him. And we all laughed.
But a small corner of my wee mind wasn’t completely convinced
that they were joking. They weren’t saying much at lunch.
I guess maybe I did get a little
bit carried away. But geez, some guys got no sense of humor
at all. Ha! Stupid dog going nuts like that. Who da thought?
Ah hell, they’ll
get over it. I wonder if they want to go fishing next Saturday.
We could bring the women. We could pull up to Beer Can Island
for supper. Boil up some shrimp and corn on the beach.