Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bobo - Part 1

This is a story about an Indian dog.  At least that's how our family always thought of "Bobo".  He was "Indian" to us.  And in a sense, I guess he was.  But not in the way it sounds.  Given to us by our maternal great grandmother, who was a married halfbreed Indian living most of her life in Escondido in the midst of the most diverse group of Indian tribes one could possibly imagine.  We never could actually confirm which tribe claimed her, but most of the family in later years settled on Navajo or some other southwestern tribe, and that probably makes no sense at all.  But give us "Bobo" one particular day she did, and that changed things for our family forever.

"Bobo" was apparently a cross between a philandering mongrel mutt and a woefully fickle rat terrier cur.  He had a few tiny islands of white scattered throughout his coat, but he was pretty much brown and liver colored as far as anyone could see.  If I ever find a snapshot of him I will update it here.  As a puppy he endured the long trip back from Escondido to Los Angeles late one night in the backseat of our car by mostly "smelling like a dog", according to my long-suffering Uncle Wade, who was forced into the backseat along with us kids and Bobo..

Once at home in the Hyde Park neighborhood where we lived the new dog pretty much took over the outside of our home.  He learned to give us warning when ice trucks were delivering on our block, so we kids could score free ice slivers from the delivery guys to suck on in hot weather.  And he also watched out for the street repair guys so we could catch the dripping hot tar from their portable broiler to form up chewable "tar balls", which, except for the terrible flavor, were - due to the difference in cost - much preferred at the time over Wrigley's.

So all the neighbor kids loved Bobo.  My cousin Aub, who lived in the next block but played with us whenever he was allowed outside [which due to either his health or my Aunt's mothering nature wasn't that often]; my baby brother David, who was a brat but fun anyway; Paul, Roger. and Eddie - all part of neighborhood gang [I might mention those characters further in a future offering] - relied on Bobo for everything.  Because he was available.  He - unlike all the other neighborhood dogs - ran free.  Other dogs were backyard dogs.  Fenced in.  Don't think Bobo ever found a fence or gate he couldn't thwart, so he pretty much had his run of the neighborhood.

Current view of the front porch and lawn on which Muggy crawled and played almost 75 years ago, and where Bobo ruled whenever she was present.  Our house was in the center of the block.  Downhill was to the left, and cousin Aub lived that way in the third house on the right past the corner.  Eddie lived 2 doors downhill from here, and Paul and Roger lived in their own homes across the street, behind this view.  Graphic courtesy of Google Map "Street View"®. all rights reserved.
Ordinarily that would have been a big neighborhood problem, but Bobo had another calling.  One that all the neighbors appreciated and caused them to "cut him a break" on the staying in his yard thing.  Bobo was my sister's self-appointed "protector".  My sister, Muggy, was about five years old at the time, and has been afflicted all her life with a form of palsy that left her with the sense of balance of a sailor in the last hour of shore leave.  But she was still  stubborn enough - a trait she retains to this day - to want to play outside, on the front lawn, in sight of the "other kids".  And so to relieve us kids of the duty of  "watching her" - [how many times over the years have I been told to do that?] - Bobo ended up delegated as her faithful companion and substitute big brother.  .

From the day he arrived, if she were outside we never had to guess where Jodi was.  She was always about 12" from Bobo.  Just look for him.  Or call him and he would "bark" back.  She would drag herself out the front door, crawl across the porch and down the steps and Bobo would have heard her at the door and placed himself by her side even before she wiggled down the first step.  From then on he would never leave her side.  She might be out there an hour or 2 minutes, but she was "job one" as far as he was concerned.  Other - strange dogs might wander by and look at Jodi curiously but one glance at the raised hackles on Bobo's neck and his bared teeth and they turned away, suddenly more interested in less antagonistic critters and climes. 

If passing strangers on the sidewalk considered approaching Muggy - for any reason, helpful or harmful, - forget it!  Bobo's presence and intentions would immediately be heard throughout the neighborhood.  All the neighbors would look out their front windows or come out on their front porches.  The strangers quickly would wave off and briskly walk away.  Will never understand how so much noise could emanate from such a small frame.

When my sister was present Bobo had the heart of a lion.  But if she was elsewhere, he was nothing, nada.  If he'd had a tail it would've been between his legs.  Absolutely a different animal.  And the strange thing is, we didn't "get" Bobo to be her protector, we got him to be be a play companion.  The protective side of him was totally unexpected, a hidden benefit.

Looking back on those years I'm amazed at the stuff I don't remember.  For instance, where did Bobo sleep?  Was he an inside dog part of the time?  Maybe at night?  I don't remember.  But he became a fixed part of our family for better part of the next two decades, and Muggy still sees a little bit of "Bobo" in every dog she comes across.

The timing on this was just before WWII, at the tail end of the great depression.  We were dirt poor but dad was working and we had no idea there were others with more than we had, or less.  We just were living life as it was being thrown at us.  Bobo's biggest adventure was still to come.  And that will be grist for a future post.

1 comment:

  1. For an old man I think you did pretty well with the memory part.