Fiction: Camp Dog – part 1by Karyn Zoldan on Mar. 09, 2011, under Dogs, Canines, Fun with Fido, Barking Encouraged
Doberman Dog Yawning by Photos8.com
The Rev. Karl Keller was pumping Shell gas into the old Jeep pickup truck. He was up to $45 and he still had the three five-gallon jugs in the bed of the truck to go, which would bring him right around $90 – or forty bucks over the monthly fuel budget.
Karl Keller – everyone called him K.K. and pronounced it more like Kiki – was the director of Moccasin Flats Lutheran Church Camp. Kiki was 6-feet, 6-inches tall and was projected to be the greatest tight end in the history of college football until he went over the middle for a pass as a college freshman and took a spleen shot from a senior linebacker at South Dakota State Teachers College that ended his career then and there. He became a Lutheran minister.
He worked first as a youth minister and did quite well. But then the head minister retired and the parish council moved Keller into the top chair, which was enough to turn most of the flock into non-believers. Keller’s sermons were simplistic; he rambled on, couldn’t remember parishioners’ names and had no verbal authority from the pulpit. When attendance at Christmas Eve services was less than half of the previous year, the church council made a move on him. He was subsequently named an area-wide “roving youth minister” for the four Lutheran churches in the county, but two of the churches were middle-of-the-road, one conservative and one liberal, so that didn’t work too well.
When the job of camp director opened up, Keller applied for it. That was 21 years ago.
Moccasin Flats was owned and operated by a consortium of the four Lutheran churches. The camp was composed of two sections – one was just called “camp” and was for boys and girls ages 8 to 12 who attended for two weeks; the other was Viking Camp for teenagers who stayed a month, six weeks or two months. The dining hall and nightly campfire were shared. Most of the other programs were conducted separately. One or two nights a week the Rev. Keller spoke at the campfire program, detailing in no uncertain terms the subject of moral responsibility.
Kiki was married to the former Anna Gott, whose late father was a strict constructionist Lutheran minister from the Wisconsin synod. Anna was the camp’s nurse, secretary, bookkeeper and personnel director. She was as unbending as a baseball bat. When something was going wrong, she expresses her displeasure by putting her hands on her hips and saying, “Well, honestly!”
Karl made the 18 mile trip into town almost weekly. It was a lousy ride, with the last six miles into camp on a dusty, rutted, unpaved road. In the winter and spring he was forced to use the Jeep’s 4-wheel drive option just to get through the snow or mud. As he topped off the tank and began to work on the five gallon jugs, he waved to Eddie Samuels across the street in the Mobil station. Keller alternated buying gas at the Shell and Mobil each week. Major food and supplies came up from the city, but sometimes he’d have to buy an extra 25 dozen eggs or 100 pounds of flour and he’d switch between the town’s markets. Just keeping the peace, he reasoned.
It was mid-May. Two weeks before the official opening of camp and there were a million things to be done, but first and foremost he had to hire a handyman that his wife would approve; he had to get the pool filter pump working and had to hang 28 screen doors on the cabins; but first he had to hire a camp handyman. He’d advertised in the town paper, The Moose Call, but there were no takers. He even swung by the YWCA, Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps seeing if they knew of a handyman, but no luck.
That’s when he spotted Andy Reeve. Or, rather, Reeve spotted him.
Andrew Reeve was a sad sight. He was obviously down on his luck, a man of about 50 years, his pants were ill-fitting hand-me-downs, his hair needed cutting and the scruffy black and tan dog he led by some knotted clothesline looked worse. “Hey, pal,” asked Reeve, “you know where a guy could get a job . . . maybe washing dishes or waxing cars in this town?”
The fact that Reeve hadn’t asked for a handout impressed Keller.
“I might. I just might.”
Keller asked Reeve if he had any skills and just as matter of fact the shaggy man replied, “Shit, mister, I can fix anything from a Benrus watch to a machine gun to an old Jeep pickup truck.”
The minister invited Reeve to have a cup of coffee.
Handy Andy Reeve had been among the last Marines out of Saigon on May 15, 1975. He had been shot in the leg and still had two large chunks of VC shrapnel in his back; he spent two weeks at a Navy hospital in Yokosuka outside Tokyo before being returned to the States. Even after returning home, his life continued skidding downhill. There were bouts of depression, bouts of alcohol, fights with strangers, bar fights, fights with friends, a year in jail, a year in and out of a VA psychiatric facility, six months in a vocational school learning to repair automatic transmissions, a job at Aamco and a fight with the idiot manager that resulted in a three year prison sentence with time off for good behavior.
Despite his faults as a minister, his cliché-filled sermons and his inattention to detail, Keller had a knack for listening and he heard Andy Reeve loud and clear.
He offered Andy the job. His budget was $650 a month for handyman services and Keller offered Reeve $500 with the promise that if he stayed the whole summer he’d “see if I can get you another hundred.”
They swung by the thrift shop and bought Andy some underwear, three shirts, three pair of work pants, a jacket, hat, shoes, work boots and socks. It was $100, but they gave the Lutheran camp a discount to $50. “If you get the job, it comes out of your salary; if my wife doesn’t like you, consider the clothes a donation to a war veteran,” said Keller.
Briefly, Keller told Andy that he’d have to pass the test of his wife, because she was actually the camp personnel director. That he should not cuss, to act respectful and be thankful for God’s blessings such as decent food and a good summer job. Andy said he understood. On the way out of the mountain town, they pulled over at a highway rest area where Andy shaved using a new disposable razor, then swished some water under his armpits and changed clothes. He looked amazingly good.
“What about that mutt of yours?” asked Keller.
“He ain’t no mutt. He might look like shit since he’s so skinny, but Monte is a full blown Doberman Pinscher with an honest pedigree.”
(Story graciously submitted by Bennett J. Mintz who is owned by a 6 1/2 year old AKC registered Doberman Pinscher named Ace Barkowitz. Mr. Mintz owns a small advertising & communications agency in Chatsworth, Calif. and is currently the Corresponding Secretary for the Doberman Pinscher Club of Los Angeles.