The following two-part story was submitted by Bennett Mintz.
Eddie Willow was exhausted. It was the third week in July, the sixth week of the salmonfly hatch and Eddie’s forty-first consecutive day at work. As a fishing guide, you take your work days when you can get them . . . and rested after the season. Eddie knew that when he signed on at Casper’s Fly Fishing nine years ago. He knew that when he played baseball – a season with the Cubs, half a year with the Phillies, then back to Triple A, a season in Japan and a final yer out.
Eddie ached. He ached from a fastball into his ribs years ago. He ached from forty-one consecutive days of rowing his Hyde drift boat down the river, pushing and pulling his boat off and on the trailer, slinging the ice chest filled with pop, coffee and sandwiches. He was 45 and 20 years past his athletic career.
It was a few minutes to five. Eddie rolled over, looked at Marge, his wife of 18 somewhat disagreeable years, and pulled himself out of bed. When he opened the refrigerator to get the sandwiches she had packed the previous night – made during commercials on the Late Night Movie followed by the Midnight Matinee – Jody, their 18-month old Doberman padded over, yawned and asked to be let out.
Marge had bought Jody about a year ago – sitting home alone virtually all fishing season – with rumors of drugs, break-ins and vandalism all over the valley. “I want some protection. You’re on that river all day and half the night at the Mid Drift and I’m here without so much as a fly swatter,” said Marge in that I-want-it-now voice of hers.
They flew to Los Angeles to meet a breeder. The dog had been sold once, but the family didn’t take to his antics and the breeder took him back. He fit right in at the Willows. It was love at first sight. During fishing season – roughly late-May to mid-September – the Doberman sat with his head on Marge’s lap as she put in her required 14 hours a day in front of the television. In the off-season, he was with Eddie as he did home and boat chores or at his side as he tied flies to sell. Every hour or two Eddie or Marge would let him out into the yard for a quick romp or to bark and chase a squirrel. Squirrels were Jody’s mortal enemy. Marge learned to clip his nails and trim his muzzle; it’s a wonder the dog had any hair left since they both petted him constantly.
Eddie named the Doberman Joe D. after Joe DiMaggio, his all-time baseball hero, but it quickly morphed into Jody. He thought naming a sleek Dobie Joe D. was a fitting tribute to the Yankee Clipper.
The sun was just starting the break as Willow loaded the ice chest and drinks, hooked the boat trailer to the Toyota crew cab pick-up’s hitch and took off for town. He climbed Walnut Grade and looked to the spot where highway patrol guys often hid to catch speeders or fishing guides with bad trailer lights. The sneakiest of all was his brother Bob, who liked nothing better than giving Eddie a citation just to prove how honest a cop he was. Nice guy. This time Bob lit him up and punched his siren three times to pull him over.
“Hi ya Eddie, what the dickens kind of stunt are you pulling now?” asked the patrolman.
Eddie was dumfounded. He’d checked his brake and running lights and besides, it was practically daylight.
“That’s not only against the law, it’s really stupid,” said his brother, the cop.
Eddie got out to see what had irked his brother; and there it was. Jody was standing in the boat. The dog had jumped aboard just as Eddie pulled out of the driveway.
If Eddie had turned around and brought Jody home, he’s be late for his guide date and Casper Hardaway hated guides to be late. Cas was even known to dock a guide’s pay if he was just a few minutes behind schedule. And so Eddie decided to bring Jody to work. Maybe Terri Hardaway could watch him . . . or maybe the fishermen wouldn’t mind a little company. Or maybe he’d just quit guiding fly-fishermen from Chicago and New York and . . . and do what?
Cas Hardaway looked up from behind the cash register and made himself perfectly clear: “Willow! Get that dog of yours out of here.” Eddie rubbed Jody’s head and gave the shop owner a mild expletive.
Eddie’s guests were waiting in the boat trailer parking lot, miffed at being all of ten minutes late. “Gentlemen, I apologize . . . but I got this little problem named Jody who followed me to work today. We can either take him with us on the float trip or I can bring him home and you guys can find yourself another guide.” Eddie knew, of course, that with the salmonfly hatch in full swing there wasn’t a licensed guide without a fishing date for a hundred miles.
One of the fishermen petted Jody and said, “Aw, hell, let’s go;” but the other guy was a bit more reluctant. “If he breaks any of my flyrods or gets in the way when I’m casting, I’ll personally shoot him.”
Eddie stared at the fisherman and simply said, “Sir, I seriously doubt that.”
Jody was no trouble. Eddie had taken the dog out about a half-dozen times and he enjoyed his company more than that of most fishermen. Jody never complained, even when it rained, and he didn’t seem to care if they caught fish or not. Once he even helped Eddie pull the anchor rope. In a drift boat, the guide sits in the middle with one angler in front and one in the stern. Willow took an old blanket out of the truck and laid it on the floor in front of his foot brace.
They floated from Pilot Point to Midway – Eddie’s favorite eleven mile stretch of river – and had a bang-up day. By the end of the float the two guys had caught and released about 40 trout. About a mile above the take-out landing at Midway, Eddie put
his fishermen onto a gravel bar and they cast to trout rising to the late afternoon caddis hatch.
With the boat stopped, Jody jumped into the water and played with a big stick that Eddie tossed. Both of the guests laughed at the dog’s antics of grabbing the stick and then tossing it further into the river. Jody barked furiously at squirrels and stuck his butt into the air like Marmaduke in the comics. It looked like Eddie and Jody had made some friends of the breed.
As Eddie pulled the boat onto the trailer for the long ride home, he asked his guests if they’d like to stop at the Mid Drift for something cool like a six pack or two. The guys laughed and replied, “Hell, yes!”
To be continued Tuesday, May 17.
(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. He also wrote a four part story called Camp Dog posted here in March 2011.)
(Yancey belonged to my Florida friends Chuck & Mary Danielan. Yancey died at 5 years young from cardiac myopathy. He was much loved by all who knew him and will be remembered always.)