Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Histories
Man’s Best Friend
Some Brief Tales of Canine Companions from the American Frontier
Hondo, a book by Louis L’Amour, made into a movie starring John Wayne, has a powerful scene where the hero swears vengeance on the Apache villain Vittoro, for killing his faithful hound dog.
Messach Browning, who was a real and little known hero of the early American frontier, who slew something like 50 panthers, a hundred bears and uncountable deer, hunted alone with a hound dog, a single shot muzzle loader and a knife. Hs accounts of fighting wounded panthers and bears with a knife as his hound took the brunt of the animal’s attack, are harrowing and make crocodile wrestling sound tame. Browning was an incredible athlete that once survived a fist fight with a mob of Pro-British agitators, and like his most faithful hound, managed to crawl back home and heel on the cabin floor for months of agony.
Source: America in Chains, by this author, four chapters
Balthus and Slasher are supporting characters from a Conan story, beyond the Black River, which was on its face a leatherstocking story of the American frontier set in a fantastic antideluvian world.
In most Conan stories the barbarian hero is seen from a supporting characters vantage, as in this one. But only here is the supporting character rated a heroic role, as Balthus, a young green horn, and Slasher, a ferocious dog whose owners had been slaughtered by the enemy and who prowled the woods for years hunting their slayers like a loyal dog out of London’s White Fang of Call of The Wild, made a last stand against the savage enemy in order to permit settler women and children to escape to the local fort.
Of interest is the fact that Conan was clearly patterned on Nathan Bedford Forest and that The Black River across which Forest campaigned numerous times, was set as the border between civilization’s furthest expanse and the savage wilderness.
One of Howard’s inspirations, Jack London, was a very politically incorrect novelist and story writer, and his work perhaps only survives today because of the fact that Russian School children have been enjoying his novels White Fang and Call of the Wild for a hundred years now, in the same way that American children love Robert L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Russia and its Siberian expanse do encompass the original Aryan homeland.
Old Yeller was a story about a rabid dog that had to be put down by his boy owner that always tugged at my heart. I gave up on owning dogs largely because I saw one of mine hit by a car as a boy. At five, I had named Frisky, a dog who survived until I was 16, a hero for biting in half a wasp that threatened us children in the yard.
On my return to Baltimore at 18 I was astonished at the feral cruelty that Bantu pet owners who had not attained middle class treated their dogs, burning them recreationally, putting out cigarettes on their anus, setting them on me—well, that Negro I understood. I also noted how these same folks who were generally cruel to dogs and enjoy abducting lap dogs and feeding them to pitbulls as “bait” dogs, are habitually cruel to each other, hate all folks of other races with an astonishing virulence, are typically and comically terrified of any dog unless they are an abuser of dogs, and are wickedly cruel to members of their own race, with homeless Bantu men routinely killed for sport by Bantu youth.
Riley, my dear departed friend, was an elderly man up from Mississippi living in Colorado when I met him, a man who loved his dogs, who always had one special dog that was his constant companion, a working dog, a dog he would nurse into old age, like Cowboy, the ancient Australian Shepherd who guarded me from wildlife while I ditched at Riley’s mountainside redoubt. I have never known a kinder soul than Riley Smith, who regarded me as quite the prosaic savage of our kind.
Sitting in his office, outside of his gun room, sipping carefully aged whiskey as I drank “jungle juice” made of cheap wine and rum, Riley told me a tale of dogs and men and how bad men pattern negatively upon dogs and how good men with good dogs are honor-bound to protect their companions. He had gone into town—Loveland, I think—on a supply run and had taken his aging dog with him, a dog so infirm that Riley had to pick him up and set him into and out of the truck. As Riley, a man in his 70s stood next to his dog struggling heroically to stand by his master’s side, a “hipster faggot—a sissy if I had ever seen one—was jogging with his two dogs, young, spry, ill-behaved and violent-minded dogs, who attacked my old dog. I was not having it, by God. I took up my shillelagh in two hands and hit that first son-of-a bitch in the head and knocked it dead. The other dog was wiser than its owner and backed off, who was not possessed of the sense that God had given him and had to be told that he was an ass and that I was half a mind to brain him for forcing me to kill his dog—who was a better man than him to be sure—by not exercising control over his animals. These sissy types infuriate a dog-loving man. I set my old dog back up in the bed of the truck and pulled off to avoid further sorrow.”
This brings me to the heroic instinct in a dog. Last year, Muckerdog had been my constant companion as I kept house for his owner in Portland for hour months. My friend Bob, an old hand with dogs, had met Mucker and advised me that, “that old boy doesn’t have long.”
Mucker was almost completely blind and did not hear too good. He lived a lonely life with his master driving truck and yet always perked up 15-minutes before his owner arrived home, as if there was a psychic connection. I sat with Mucker and wrote while his owner worked as I sit with the same man’s large cat and write this while his owner is on the road. Mucker insisted on laying at my feet on this hardwood floor which hurt him badly, so I arranged for a carpet for him to lay on and would help him up when we were done writing his fanciful autobiography. Mucker is not my only male, canine writing companion. Teddy from New Jersey sits by my thigh in the recliner all day while I write, perhaps understanding that I might need some help with my syntax and spelling.
One day last March, masculinity author, Jack Donovan came to pick me up and take me out to lunch. This was kind of an odd feeling event, as Jack and I did not know each other and he had basically been hounded by mutual readers to get together with me, despite the fact that we have pronounced philosophical differences. Also, I had the reputation of a little urban savage who hated cops and Jack sometimes gives talks to Law Officer groups.
We were both trying to size each the up, to understand if we could actually trust one another not to repeat or write something offhand the other might say—kind of writer-on-writer paranoia. My mind was put at ease when Jack came into the kitchen and saw old, blind Muckerdog wondering what kind of human was there, and Jack immediately felt a heartache for the old boy that was writ clearly on his handsome face and walked over to the fellow and kindly petted him.
My mind was at rest. Mucker had clearly taken the measure of the man and found him to be an upstanding sort.
prev:  ‘The Grim Ones’     ‹  histories  ›     next:  Hobo History: Episode 1
broken dance
the first boxers
the world is our widow
by the wine dark sea
riding the nightmare
Add Comment