By Bob Huber: PNT columnist
When I was bringing home $90 a week to feed a family of five, I experienced an illuminating event in my life. It should be noted that I also supported a pack of five dogs, a cigar addiction, and an ancient Chevrolet that came over on the Mayflower.
If anyone says life was simpler in those days, the entire left side of my face still twitches.
The event had to do with our dog pack, a cumbersome burden, and our children who were an equally unwieldy trio. The dogs were, in order of their ages and size, Nicky, Bee-Bee, Lonesome, Bean Dip, and Dammit.
I won’t tell you the kids’ names. They’re still wanted in some states.
Here are the dogs: Nicky’s roots were in a coyote den, Bee-Bee had a habit of breaking into the house during thunderstorms and hiding in the bathtub, Lonesome could clear a 6-foot fence in a single bound, Bean Dip gazed into space a lot, and Dammit chased tennis balls.
In fact, that’s how Dammit got his name. One day I said, “Dammit, stop bringing me these balls!” The kids heard me and thought I named him.
Anyway, as a working group, the dog pack kept friends away and invited burglars in, chased other dogs and cuddled cats, and consumed 40 pounds of dry food a week. They made enemies of neighbors and friends of the homeless, and if it were possible to perform an uncouth act in front of guests, they did it.
So it was inevitable that my wife Marilyn should demand one evening that I get the dogs and kids out of the house for a few hours, because she was having a bridge party and didn’t want anyone embarrassed by the dogs or bitten by the children. I said, “Sure, we’ll go to a drive-in movie.”
I should have known better, but in those days drive-in theaters were all the rage, because children and pets were admitted free. But when I pulled up to the ticket booth and said, “One adult,” the clerk glanced at the menagerie in the back seat and said, “How old is that ugly one with the beard?”
I turned and saw that the kids had draped their hats and coats on the dogs. “Oh, that’s Bean Dip,” I said. “He’s only 4 years old.”
“Ugly kid,” the ticket seller muttered. “Reeeeal ugly.”
But soon we settled into our parking space with a speaker dangling from the steering wheel. That’s when a young man walked by on his way to the refreshment stand, and the dog pack came unglued, thinking him a friend. It was in their DNA to bark at friends.
The kids in turn leaped on the dogs, screaming and hollering and yanking. Our old car bounced around the theater lot like a wild horse.
I rolled down my window to apologize to the young man, but he was on the roof of a neighbor’s car and couldn’t hear. The neighbor was yelling and shaking his fist.
But once the movie started the kids went to sleep, and the dogs sat in a row beside me to watch the show. Then another customer walked by.
The dogs came unglued once more with Nicky howling, Bee-Bee frantically looking for a bathtub, Lonesome leaping back and forth in single bounds, Bean Dip staring into space, and Dammit retrieving tennis balls from somewhere in the car. I think he stored them there in case of a hard winter.
I lost track of the movie. If the dogs weren’t barking, the kids were. I kept muttering to everyone around us, “Sorry, sorry,” but they drove off anyway.
That sort of thing kept up for another hour, and the ground around our car soon was littered with spilled popcorn and empty Coke cups where people levitated when the dogs barked. The kids were singing, “Thirty-two bottles of beer on the wall …”
Marilyn’s bridge party was still in progress when we returned home, so we snuck in the back door. Marilyn joined us in the kitchen and asked, “Have a good time?”
“Wonderful,” I said. “We had the entire drive-in to ourselves. I forget the name of the movie, but it was good, I think.”
From the living room a woman said, “Bring them in, Marilyn, and introduce us.”
At that moment I saw sly glances exchanged between beasts and kids, but I’ll save that part of the story for another day. I don’t want to spin all my yarns in one sitting.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.