This is an old (as in 35mm Nikon F2 w/50 f1.8 and Vericolor Professional) picture of our baby girl Emmie back in March 1978. Her friend here is Seamus, a St. Bernard who was the first BDD (“Big Damn Doggie”) Em ever came eyeball-to-eyeball with. Seamus belonged to our friend Dave, who Liz and I had known for a few years before we became his neighbor up in Deermont.
Dave lived over a couple of ridges west-southwest of us right at the fork in Deer Creek Canyon that led up to our place bearing right, to Conifer on the left. He was an electrician by trade, gone most of the day, and Seamus would often come up to our house, sit on our porch and just wait for us to ask him in. He’d just plop his huge, hairy ass down alongside the sofa or the chair where we had Emmie propped up and settled in and he would sleep. Open his eyes every now and then only long enough to make sure we were taking care of the baby, longer if she was fussing.
Shortly after sundown we’d send him on his way, figuring Dave was likely home by then, and you might just have to trust me on this one, but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to push some massive dog through your front door out into the snow when he prefers to hang out by the Franklin stove.
Not enough that he had also lost his career in the matter, but he was no longer able to play his guitar. He wasn’t a virtuoso, but was indeed a tremendously gifted amateur whose heart poured out through his fingers caressing the frets of his Martin.
It was a lot for him to handle, a lot for anybody, but even more for Dave, who was pretty much the soul of the Dalai Lama wrapped up in a Paul Bunyan body.
When he finally got fitted with his prosthetic arm (with a combination hook/vice grip on the end of it) and was more than adept at handling all his daily needs he made it back up to Deermont. He had been doing some work on the side for us before his accident and would stop by to look over the shoulder of the hack we had finishing off what he had started, even trying some of the work himself.
And he was learning to play the slide guitar.
Things were getting back on track for him, but that didn’t mean it or anything or Dave was nearly the same. We never saw him down at The Tabor (the hippie saloon down in Morrison), rarely saw him anywhere in town down there or heading up/down the canyon. Someone would stop by to visit him every now and then, but it was always a bit uncomfortable. Don’t know whether it was more so for Dave or for his company.
One weekend a few of us – me, Billy Kjontvedt, Bryan Parker, Ralph and Marty Evans – decided we’d do a fairly sizable barbecue up at his place: bring all the food, the beer, the bags, the pipes, the papers. Dig a pit, toss in ten, maybe fifteen pounds of roast, pile the hickory on top of it and see if we could get Dave back to being Dave. Just the bunch of us, a few more friends of Dave who wouldn’t put out the more rambunctious vibes … and Seamus.We were all sitting in his living room listening to music, trading stories, swapping tall tales, waiting for the roast to call out to us through the hickory smoke drifting up into the Blue Spruce and Coniffers, when my wife Liz came down with Emmie after her nap. She was in the mood to party, but a roomful of people kind of put her more into her observation mode as opposed to her sociable side.
Em was about six months old at the time, maybe seven, and spent a while just watching everybody talking and laughing. At the other end of the living room, Dave sat quietly on the floor, all Buddha/Yoga/Yoda in demeanor and presence, pulling his sleeve down over his hook every now and then, trying to bury it deep in his lap, petting Seamus with his other hand.
Was making less conversation than usual, most of it to Seamus, which is just camouflaging the fact that he was talking to himself. I did that all the time with my Husky Schitz (named after an old girlfriend). Dave opened up a little, getting up the courage and confidence to play some slide guitar on his treasured Martin. It was pure bliss. For a few minutes there worth of “Ripple” served as a prayer, bringing comfort to a heart looking to find some.I was not really sure what prompted Emmie to do this, at least I wasn’t at the time, but after a while she crawled off Liz’s lap on the floor and crawled across the living room. She wasn’t just meandering, but did not have it quite together enough to be considered to be on a mission. She was just crawling across the living room. Wherever it was she was going, she’d know when she got there.
She didn’t stop when she got to Dave. Looked up at his gentle face somewhere behind the full beard hiding his neck, and stared at him for a bit. Then she smiled back at Dave.
And Em just kept crawling right up onto his lap, grabbing onto his sweater to pull herself up. Whether she either sat down or lost her balance is open to debate, but Emmie stayed there on Dave’s lap for quite a while. He talked to her gently, and she was looking at him like those were the sweetest words she ever heard.
She never even say the prosthesis, or didn’t sense it. She was enraptured by a new, strange, friendly face that seems to make Mommy and Daddy smile too.
I think it was then that I realized what is meant by an “angel”, and that any and all of us can be called upon to do God’s work for Him here on earth when we remain open to Him and to His will.
And it has been all the years since that I see that too many people have outgrown that kind of pure innocence and acceptance that allows them to remain open to that calling.We need to do that some more.
Something as simple as telling a forlorn-looking stranger “Good morning!” and greet his eyes with a smile.
Don’t hold back.You can never be sure how badly a person needs that.
Only Big Damn Doggies and Tiny Little Angels do.