Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conversations With Dogs: Viewing Rockwood

We are almost at the top of Rockwood Hill. There is a hidden path off to one side that would take us to the tipsy-top, but we will do that later. First I want to take you down, not to Strawberry Fields, but to the edge of the no-name park that is probably just an extension of Bringhurst Woods.

This path has a bit more slope, with a bit more slip and slide, than the path that got us here [See "Where Civilization Crumbles"], so be careful.

It is already on a downward slant, but the real dip doesn't start until we reach that wooden railing ahead.

Shall we toddle?

These wooden fences have graced many pictures throughout my little lectures. They make for lovely photos, somewhat rustic I suppose, but most of the time the fence seems gratuitous, an unnecessary addition to the scene.

But not always and in this case it is protective. The hill behind actually drops away rather abruptly and steeply. One really wouldn't want to go tumbling down it.

These fences can serve another purpose if you are so inclined to such a thing. They can allow you to take a self-portrait on the trail. Set the timer on your camera, then place the unit on the second rail down against one of the posts, press the shutter button and then quickly across the path to strike a pose. My camera allows ten-seconds to get yourself posed however you wish to be recorded. I don't do many of these. I have done a couple.

Not at this moment, though, I know all too well what I look like.

I'm coming around the last bend toward the road and I see a woman coming up. She has on a long leash a small dog wearing a cozy sweater. As I get closer I see a little white dog with black spots and a black face. It has a stub tail. The dog wears a sweater. Is it possible that is what I think it is?

I say hello to the lady, she returns my greeting.

"What kind of dog is that," I ask.

"A Toy Fox Terrier," she answers.

I was right in what I thought.

"I had a Toy Fox Terrier when I was a boy," I tell her. "Her name was Peppy. My grandfather gave her to me when I was six." I lean other and let her dog sniff my fingers. "What's his name?"

"Jazzy." Perhaps she said Jassy, since she added, "Short for Jasmine."

"Ahh, he's shaking," I say.

It didn't register that Jasmine was probably a girl's name. "I've never seen another Toy Fox Terrier since my own," I said. The truth is I had never seen any other Toy Fox Terrier except my own ever.

"We never saw one before we got her four months ago," she says. "We had a Golden Retriever that died and we wanted something. With the retriever we bathed him in a wading pool with a hose. This one is in the kitchen sink with a sponge."

Since Toy Fox Terriers seem to have become something of a rare breed some of you may not know what one looks like. Here is a picture of Peppy. The dog can grow to about 10 inches and from 3 to 7 pounds. It is an animal bred down to a smaller size from Fox Terriers, thus the word Toy on the breed. The dog is very fast and very energetic, which is why I named her Peppy.

You cannot see it in this photo, but she had a cropped tail, as did Jazzy, the lady's pooch.

(You know, "pooch" is such an odd word and I don't hear people refer to their dog as a pooch as much as they did many years ago, so as soon as I wrote, "the lady's pooch" I got second thoughts. Is  this somehow a double entendre? So I looked it up to make certain it didn't have some dirty meaning. It just sounds like one of those words waiting to become something nasty, but apparently not. It has two definitions: to protrude or a bulge and a dog. It is basically slang for dog, one wonders why. Does a bog look like a bulge? Is a dog always so close to its master it seemed to protrude from his or her body? Just to be absolutely certain, I even consulted the "Urban Dictionary".  If something has a nasty street meaning you can find it there. Again two meanings, one, a belly the bulges a bit, which some find sexy on a woman and two, you guessed it, a dog. Of course, I wanted to be positive because there is an expression, "Screwed the pooch". This seemed to be an old Navy term applied when a pilot missed the deck of a carrier and landed in the water. It has come to mean a terrible mistake, somewhat related to but slightly different from the old Army expression SNAFU -- an acronym we will not analyze here.)

Now I parted ways with Jazzy and her Mistress at this point, but I didn't immediately return up the hill at Rockwood.  I continued to walk through Bringhurst Woods and into part of Bellevue before heading back to my photographic record of Rockwood. I met another lady and her dog in Bringhurst, but I'll speak more about that later in my next piece. Right now I am going to bring us back up the hill from Shipley Road to that hidden path at the top.

Do you recall my little quiz asking if you could see what was on the apex? Were you able to find it? It is over on the far right of the photo on the left.

Here, let me make it clear.

Yes, another gazebo, the one at the high point.

Today some rich dude would probably build his castle way up there. I am not sure why Joseph Shipley didn't. Perhaps the slope was too high and the forest up here not easily cleared back in the 1850s. Perhaps he wanted a more gradual plateauing to look out over.

Certainly his livestock would have found the pastures below more to their liking than the ground here, unless he was raising a herd of mountain goats.

Still he had a gazebo places up here and on summer eves little parties may have climbed the hill and taken tea while enjoying some cooling breeze.

From the back of the gazebo you get a view of the parking lot. Photographs telescope everything in and the lot appears closer than it is. Also, the back end of this hill, just a few feet behind the gazebo, simply drops off in sort of a cliff.

That isn't apparent in the photo either. You get the impression you could possibly walk down this side from here, but I wouldn't recommend it, not that you couldn't scale it up or down, just that it would take some effort and maybe some ropes.

If you also recall from last post, I showed a leaf covered hidden path that led up to the very top of the hill.

This is looking at the top of that path. See how it goes from the gazebo through an opening in that stone wall. Well, maybe not. It is hard to see.

From the stone wall it loops around that big tree and turns down between rocks and bushes to the hill trail where I met Jazzy or Jassy.

Sometimes I come up that trail just for a diversion. I don't think this spot is visited a lot. Much of the year you would pass by and not notice the gazebo. In the summer you are fairly hidden from the world if you are up here.

And the two rough pathways up are both hard to see at any time. A few years back this wasn't the case. The whole one side of the hill was trimmed off and you not only could easily see the structure, you could walk straight up the embankment unimpeded. That was only four years ago, but now the hillside is a tangle of brush and a maze of rock and trees.

I didn't come up that path that splits the stone wall. I came up this path. Yes, there really is a path there, it is just narrow and hard to spot.

It is rutted and has stones sticking up in places, so watch your step here as we descent down to the level portion of the path that is the steepest of the paved hill trails.

As I step out of the brush off this path I meet a couple walking two Pit Bulls up the trail. The one dog seems quite agitated at my sudden appearance and is straining at the leash in my direction.

"Easy, boy," I say, but it doesn't seem to reassure the beast. The other dog remains quite calm.

The couple and I say our good mornings and the man tugs the offended animal along. It goes reluctantly, straining against the effort to distract it from me. Didn't it have its breakfast? It's too early for lunch.

I simply wait quietly and still until they have pulled the dog well out of my reach. I don't want to be tomorrows headline adding to the Pit Bull controversy: MAN MAULED IN PARK BY PIT BULL.

I feel sorry for Pit Bulls. Certain people have given the dog a very bad reputation, but in the right hands they can be as gentle and loving as any other creature who is shown kindness and love.

You see a number of the breed in the shelters. Sometime they advertising them by their other name, Staffordshire Terrier, to take away the onus of the Pit Bull brand.

I had my own favorite Pit Bull for a while, one removed from those who had cropped her ears and left her scarred.

The Pit Bull I was on personal talking terms with was Shadow, although Shadow never said very much. She was pretty tight-lipped about things, but she had a difficult beginning in life before the shelter rescued her.  I used to go out regularly and throw tennis balls for her to retrieve. I always took a couple balls. She would run and get a tossed ball, bring it back, but not let it go. I wasn't going to try and pull it out of those jaws, so I would throw another ball. Then she would drop the one she had to go fetch the other, and so it would go.

I'm happy to say a couple years ago Shadow got adopted by a nice family and is living a life of luxury today. She is fat and happy, and has a ton of tennis balls.

Okay, now this has me stumped (no pun intended). What does it mean, "My wife's?" I'm sure Joseph Shipley didn't carve this, the carving is too clear and lacks weathering. Who did it is a mystery and exactly what is his wife's?

Her chair? I mean the stump does resemble a stubby throne. Does his wife sit here to rest any time they visit Rockwood? Is it verboten for anyone else to dare sit upon it?

Is it his wife's grave? Did he smack her over the head and bury the remains here behind the stump?

We'll never know.

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