Forty Ounce Feller's Crossbreed Bonanza
2015 - A Goodland County Story By John Bolton
Forty Ounce Feller is an ex con, a screw-up, a schemer and a seldom-do-well. He's a beer drinker and he likes his beer in the forty ounce bottles. They say that even a blind pig finds a few acorns. And in the same way, a few of Forty's schemes work out.
Forty is close to unemployable. He's gone through a lot of jobs. He has burned bridges behind him and pissed on the fires. He makes a poor first impression with an extra large head, long unkempt brown hair, a ratty ball cap that looks tiny on him and a scruffy reddish beard. He is about six feet tall and a soft and jiggly 280 pounds. He keeps his weight stable with a diet rich in beer, pork rinds, store brand mac & cheese and Twinkies.
Forty favors flannel shirts (say that three times and fast) with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders. That style displays his tattoos and hairy, flabby arms. The right bicep is adorned with 'FOURTY, ' tattoo, a misspelling of his nick name. There is, of course, a brown bottle tattoo beneath. I suspect that Forty does not recognize the spelling error. The left bicep has a classic glamor girl at the bicep and a dagger on the forearm. Forty is probably in his late forties, but could pass for ten years older.
One of his schemes that sort of worked out was his free add in the Penny Saver for house sitting and dog walking. One house sitting gig was a minor disaster, but that is another story. This story is about Forty walking a pedigreed standard poodle named Mitzy. Mitzy is white, always neatly trimmed and usually elegant, with a jeweled red collar and sometimes a ribbon or two. Mitzy's owner is an old hippie who takes pride in giving folks a second and maybe a third chance. She was recovering from knee replacement at the time she hired Forty to walk Mitzi. And as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
Mitzy is a good dog and Forty didn't mind walking her. Picking up mushy dog crap with a plastic bag was beneath him, but he did it just the same – if anyone was looking. Things went well for several weeks and what happened wasn't really Forty's fault and could have happened to anyone. One day Franny, Mitzy's owner, asked Forty if he could take Mitzy for an extra long walk to wear her out if he could. Mitzty was in heat and was to go visit a champion male poodle for breeding later in the day. Franny said she got $500.00 apiece for Mitzy's last litter of six pups.
All was going fine until Forty walked Mitzy past a black and brown Rottweiler chained to a front porch. Forty knew the Rott's name was Spike because it was painted on a big old dog house in front of the porch. Forty would always say, “Hey, Spike. What do you like?”
The Rott had been there on previous walks. He never barked and he wagged his tail when Forty talked to him. But that day, Spike started sniffing the air and his eyes got big as saucers. He whined and yipped. He charged and the eye bolt on the porch end of his chain popped out like a cork.
Forty tried to keep Mitzy walking, but she was frightened and then receptive to Spike's attention. Forty tried to shoo the Rott away. The big dog would not cooperate and growled if Forty got too close. Forty knew better than to mess with a humping Rottweiler. He let nature take its course.
The walks resumed after Mitzi got back from the poodle breeder. Forty kept his fingers crossed and collected ten dollars for every walk. He even hit on Franny, who was in her sixties, favored large and long dresses and weighed about the same as Forty. Things started to look hopeful in that direction.
Then a little over two months after the Rottweiler incident, Franny called Forty. Mitzy had given birth to eight pups. One was white and the other seven were black and tan and definitely not purebred poodles.
Eventually, Forty fessed up. Franny, sobbing by that time, asked, “Why didn't you tell me? Maybe the vet could have done something so this didn't happen.”
* * * *
Forty was out of the dog walking business. He continued to read the Penny Saver when it came in the mail on Wednesdays and about six weeks later he saw an add:
Large breed puppies – free to a good home.
Will make good farm dogs or guardian dogs.
Forty recognized Franny's phone number. Also from the Penny Saver, he knew that some crossbred dogs were selling for really good money. There was an add for Puggles, a pug and beagle cross for $400.00 a pup and an add for a Goldendoodle, a golden retriever and poodle cross for $650 a pup. The gears in Forty's extra large head did not mesh well, but they were spinning fast.
He called Franny that night. She said there were no takers yet on the pups. But the add was just out. Forty told her, “I feel like shit about this. I can take them pups and find em' dandy good homes. And you can be done with the whole shebang.”
Franny declined and said she'd see how she did on her own first. A week later she called Forty and told him she had seven of the pups left and that he could take them if he wanted.
Forty and a buddy got the pups home. He placed an add in the next Penny Saver and it read:
Cowboy Pood-weilers. $650 OBO Great farm and ranch dogs.
Gentle disposition. Highly Trainable. Loving and Loyal.
Your pick of the litter, big, strong and good looking dogs
It took 3 crazy weeks, but every one of the dogs sold and only the last one went for less than $500.00. Forty thought the 'Cowboy' part of Pood-weilers was a stroke of genius. And maybe it was.
Two of the dogs stayed in the county and Forty heard later on that they were great dogs and just like his add had said.
* * * *
Author's note. Wikipedia lists 21 recognized crossbreed dogs. In many cases, people are paying more for a cross bred than for a purebred.
A Goodland County Story ~ by John Bolton
2016 Corley, Oklahoma
Mike Potter's first eighteen years were lucky charmed. But like his grandpa used to say, “Things can turn to shit in a hurry”.
Mike had a great senior year at Clayton Community High School. He was in a work and study program with three morning classes and carpentry work in the afternoon. Two classes were easy and the third, advanced English, was a challenge. Mike was smart enough to hang with the college prep kids. But he wasn't going to college. He had other plans. What he really liked was to play music and build things. He figured to make a living doing what he liked to do.
Mike got along with just about everybody in his school and class of 123 kids. He lettered in football and track as a sophomore but never went out for a sport again. He had more fun working and making money. For a while, the coaches gave him shit. The football coach pressured him to play but Mike turned him down. Coach said, “Well Potter, go get a Honda and a guitar and let your hair grow out long.”
Mike knew a good plan when he heard it. He said, “Okay, Coach.”
Mike's grandfather ran the local pawn shop/ music store and bail bond business. From about age four to fourteen, Mike spent a lot of time at the shop with Grandpa. What does a kid do in a shop like that? In Mike's case, he learned to play fiddle and guitar. He played bluegrass fiddle with the Rusty Bucket Band for almost two years starting at age twelve. He was pretty good, but no phenom or prodigy. In early 1964, he heard the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” That song and a rock and roll station out of Tulsa put an end to Mike's bluegrass days.
Mike fell in love, also known as guitar lust, with a used Fender guitar at the pawn shop. Grandpa told him he'd have to earn the money and that was fine, but how was he going to do that? He was fourteen years old with just a small allowance and two mowing jobs
Mike's dad worked two or three mornings a week as a non-union, part time carpenter. Mike bugged him to go along on one of those mornings. His dad relented and got the okay from his boss. Mike got his chance on a sweat drenched June day. The crew was shingling a split level house. Mike was big and husky for his age. He was soon hauling the shingle bundles up the ladder and helping out wherever he could.
He got a five dollar bill after that first morning. He was happy with that but even happier that the boss told him he could come back the next day. He came back and worked hard and he payed attention to anything the boss and guys tried to teach him. He learned a lot that first summer and by summer's end, he had the Fender and an amp.
He asked around and found two guys who could play bass and drums and wanted to be in a band. All three were fourteen. By early 65' they were playing at high school dances in three counties. Mike was six one, lean and not bad looking with a chestnut brown hair cut Beach Boy style. The girls liked a singer and Mike sang most of the songs. His main stays were Hang On Sloopy, Gloria, Satisfaction, Louie Louie and two Beatles songs.
For the high school age group, they were big frogs in a small pond. Mike tried to be humble and mostly succeeded. And in truth, the drummer sucked and Mike didn't have good timing. That made it tough on the bass player. The band broke up after an eighteen month run. Mike liked to say, “It was artistic differences.”
After graduation, the talk among guys his age turned to the draft and Viet Nam. Not much of the talk was good. Mike knew two guys who'd been killed in Nam'. Didn't know them well, but well enough to make things very real. One of the guys had been a year ahead of him in school.
Right about that time, Mike started dating Maggie, who was still in school. Things got serious pretty fast. Mike did not want to get drafted. He figured if he had to go, he'd like to go Marine Reserves. But the recruiters said that meant two years active duty and a six year commitment. He tried the national guard and an army reserve unit but there were no immediate openings. He was put on the waiting lists.
And his draft notice came. Off he went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for basic training. They made him a squad leader and he did well in his training. Guys who enlisted knew what they were going to train for in after basic. Draftees did not. It was a big day when Mike got his orders for where and what was next. What he didn't want was to be an Eleven Bravo, infantryman. Grunt, ground pounder, cannon fodder. Those guys had it tough and too many did not come home in one piece.
His grandfather used to say, 'Be careful what you wish for'. He was sent off to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas for medical corpsman training. The army, in it's great wisdom, was making him a medic. As he learned what that meant, he would rather have been infantry. In his own words, he was, 'Scared shitless.' He dreaded the high likelihood of going to Viet Nam, getting in combat and dealing with severed limbs, sucking chest wounds and starting IVs. His biggest fear was that he might let his buddies down.
At the end of training, he got a 14 day leave and orders for Viet Nam. Less than one month in country and in his second firefight, two of his squad members were killed almost instantly. While Mike was trying to help a wounded man, he took shrapnel to the torso and lost most of the two small fingers of his left hand.
Mike was still trying to help the other wounded guy when the medivac copter got there. As he was helping the guy get on board, an AK-47 round smashed through his right shoulder. After clean up surgeries in Saigon, Mike was soon back in San Antonio at Fort Sam for another shoulder surgery. His carpentry days were ended by a shoulder that would not let him raise his elbow higher than his neck. His guitar playing was over too. Or so he thought.
Maggie waited for him and he was very glad to get home. He used his GI bill and disability checks to enroll in community college and look for something to do with his life. He worked as a hospital orderly and figured out that he wanted to be in a 'helping' profession.
Mike and Maggie got married in November of 70. They moved to Tulsa for Mike to finish up his last two years of college. Then he went on to optometry school. Eyes kind of grossed Mike out. But he figured he would get used to it, be called doctor and make a good living.
Back home in Corley, Mike worked with and older optometrist for a few years, then bought the practice. Maggie fitted and sold frames. They did better than okay, but gave too much away when folks couldn't pay.
Mike never felt right about being called Doc or Doctor. When someone called him that, he would say, “I'm an eye doc. Call me Idoc or call me Mike. It got so folks called him Idoc. It was a bit odd, but he liked it fine. Even Maggie called him that some times.
He and Maggie had a good marriage and life, but no children. They always had a cat or two and later on they always had a female rat terrier too. The pets were almost substitutes for the kids they seemed unable to have.
Idoc got back into carpentry by remodeling his and Maggie's first house. There was not much he couldn't do. He still couldn't raise that right arm above shoulder level, but Maggie or his brother Jim helped with the few things he couldn't figure out how to do on his own. Over the years they bought and remodeled five homes. There last and final place was an old farm house and acreage near Osage Creek.
Idoc would occasionally play slide guitar and a little fiddle, but always in private. Maggie would try to get him to play and tell him he sounded great. But it wasn't what he wanted it to be. His brother, Jim, had taken over the pawn shop/bail bond and music store in 69' when their grandpa died. Jim tried to get him back into music too. And in 2008, Jim found videos about making and playing cigar box guitars on the internet. Jim got Idoc to help him make a three string cigar box guitar. It turned out great and right away, both brothers could play the crap out of the thing.
That first CBG led to more and got Idoc playing again. They started with 3 stringed guitars and found that Idoc's 'disabilities' were insignificant. He had a big enough stub of ring finger to use a slide. And he rigged a retainer to help keep the slide on.
Then an old Harmony tenor (4 string) guitar came into the pawn shop. Idoc tried it and bought it. It had more volume than a CBG for unplugged playing in public. Maggie learned to play too and though Idoc hadn't been a church goer as an adult, he loved playing Gospel songs. And especially bluesy Gospels. Maggie got him to go to church with her and they played that bluesy Gospel.
Idoc and Maggie sold the optometry shop and retired at ages 60 and 59. They took up bicycling, bought a small 60's vintage Airstream trailer and refurbished it. They camped and did a little traveling but were both homebodies. Idoc messed around on the acreage, played in his shop and built more CBGs. He and Maggie played at one church or another about once a month and they took up playing at nursing homes too. Their first five years of retirement were very good.... Then things turned to shit in a hurry.
One of the problems of retiring early is paying for good health insurance. Maggie got a mammogram at age 61 and then maybe due to the high co-pay cost or maybe just being busy, she put off getting the next one. She was 64 when she found a lump in her breast. Advanced, aggressive and metastasized breast cancer. After a tough six months she made it through the holidays and died at home with Idoc and a hospice nurse at her side.
Idoc didn't take it well. He blamed himself for not paying better attention about getting Maggie to go for mammograms. Their acreage had well water and the water tested okay when they bought the place, but that was too long back and he worried that maybe the water had something to do with the cancer.
On a moonless night six weeks after Maggie died, Idoc ran into a bridge abutment at highway speed in his pickup. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The deputy on the scene thought maybe a deer ran in front of the car and Idoc swerved to avoid it. Idoc didn't text at all or mess with devices. So it probably wasn't distracted driving that caused the wreck. In fact, Idoc seldom had his cell phone turned on. The deputy reported it was turned off at the scene of the wreck.
Interesting fact. Police and hospitals don't say motor vehicle 'accident'. They say motor vehicle 'crash'. Because not all crashes are accidents... Maybe an oncoming car caused the wreck. Or maybe Idoc was dodging a deer or possum or dog or cat. Maybe it was an unsuspected illness. Or maybe it was a broken heart.