boatman view

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darwin’s dog      

 

 

Meeting up with Darwin Gobel one summer afternoon at the Hilton, we tasted snack foods and sipped unusually bad ice tea as we talked.  An odd blend of conversation, interview and story telling careened over personal and business matters.

 

Good to see you, Darwin Gobel.  I have looked forward to this for some time.  I know your schedule is somewhat erratic and I appreciate you having the time to get together and just talk.   

 

Hey, it is good to see you, Howard.  You are persistent.  I figured you would keep calling and have Lucky and Rev and others bugging me to talk to you, so here we are.

 

And away we go.  Darwin, you were talking once about your grandfather, who you were named after, and I was wondering how you and he got along.

 

Well now, I was not named after my grandfather.  I was named after his dog.

 

Oh boy, that is interesting; can you tell us the story behind that? 

 

Grandpa Gobel, his first name was Gustafson, treated me real nice.  He was a leather tough lumberman in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  I can tell you the story he told me.

 

Tell me a story, Darwin.

 

Gustafson was not sure of this stray dog’s actual pedigree.  He suspected there was dog and wolf heritage mixed in there.  The results of a few wilderness-breeding seasons evolved into this dog hanging out at the edge of the woods near the lumber camp that Gustaf and his men worked.  This dog would peek out, do some howling.  He barked at them and their version of civilization.

 

The floor to ceiling windows in the Hilton gave us a nice view of the afternoon sky floating over the landscaped grounds.  Darwin was sipping his tea.  He set his drink down and was rubbing both hands over our table.  Head down, sinking deep into some thought, he stared at the table for a minute before he continued.

 

This is walnut, hard wood.  They tossed scraps in his direction and Gustafson said eventually this scruffy darwin dog emerged from the wild and nestled in the tool shed leaning against their storage barn.  Strong dog, smart and alert to his environment.  Except for biting a human, one time, he was loyal to his masters.   Grandpa Gobel says he was walking towards the tool shed to get a saw when the startled dog lunged at him and bit on his leg.  That Darwin dog let go quickly, seemed uncertain of what to do next, and sat there on his hind legs, looking up at grandpa.

 

Was your grandfather worried about infection, Darwin, scared he might get sick?

 

Worrying about infection or getting sick is what we do these days.  It shows that we are too far from the wilderness.  People worked hard in those days.  Grandpa used to say he was too tired to worry about anything, and he was not scared of anything except God and that bunch.  Grandpa says he did not yell or say a word.  He crouched to get eye level with Darwin.  They stared at each other for just a moment.  Then he hit the dog hard with a vicious smashing fist to the head.  The lumberman’s right hook lifted the dog off the ground a bit.  He landed hard and lay motionless.

 

Your grandfather hit the dog that hard?

 

Darwin was having another sip of his tea, and seemed to be studying the table again

 

Walnut is stronger than cherry, not as pretty.  It is strong wood.  Grandpa’s friends got a bit excited. “Jeez, ya’ hit him hard there Gus, like gentleman Jim done hit ole Max in their boxing fight there.  He jes playin with ya there.”  Gustafson examined his hand for a minute.  “Yeah, that may be.  I was not playin’ when I hit ‘em.”

 

“Gus, the dog, he not moving’ there.  He has not any breath in him.”

 

“Yeah that dog is good in a minute.  Sleep off that trauma he be up running around.  He won’t bite me again.”  Grandpa flexed his hand and walked past Darwin to the tool shed to get his saw.

 

“He’s an immigrant, like all of us here.  Got to learn the laws of the land.  He learned one good today, yeah.  Don’t bite me.”

 

Grandpa Gobel said that Darwin kept his distance from him for quite a few days.  That was understandable, to man and dog.  He would lie in the sun, over to a far side of where the work was being done. He watched what was going on and barked out when man or beast was approaching.  Grandpa liked telling his story.  He had that slight crinkle of a Gobel smile when he talked.  He told what his friends said about Darwin barking when someone approached the camp.

 

 “Yer dog ain’t barkin’ to warn us, ya know that don’t ya’ Gus.  He be barkin’ to those be approachin’ to warn them about you.”

 

So, Gustafson and, now his dog, Darwin were friends in the wild, and he told my dad it be a good name for a son of his.  I guess he believed it had something to do with loyalty.  Maybe it has to do with survival.  A person can believe what they want.  As much as I love my grandpa, I believe I prefer my name of Darwin to being named Gustafson.

 

That name Darwin bothers some people because of the survival of the species stuff.  The writer, Darwin, lived in England awhile back, wrote about his beliefs in evolution.  It is fine with me if he believes he evolved from an ape.  I do not believe I did.  Anyone else can believe what they want.  I am not an evolved man.  I am only Darwin’s dog, named after a dog, but a good dog.

 

Always interesting when Darwin talks.