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The end of a journey

By DOUG DAVISON, Houston Herald

It’s undeniably true that all good things come to an end, and Jamie’s life journey ended last week.

To me, how and why he’s gone isn’t as pertinent as the way he lived, and I’ve definitely focused more on that over the past several days. He did it with gusto and a yearning for experience, and it was me who was the lucky one in our relationship.

A lot of people love their dogs, and they become more a part of the family than a pet. Jamie was certainly a member of our family, and he knew it, too, and didn’t for a moment take that for granted.

He would often make a point of stopping me from doing whatever I was doing, so I would crouch down and he could stand on his hind legs for a huge Big Lug hug. You could see the gratitude in his eyes, and he would sometimes make little woofing or rumbling sounds as if trying to verbalize his thanks.

I know Jamie knew the feeling was mutual, too. He had a knack for making me – and others around him – smile without even trying. His mere presence was enough to invoke joy and even laughter, and when I bent over to pet him and say “you’re such a good boy,” his expression made it clear he understood he was appreciated.

Jamie was such a character.

I miss hearing his nails clicking on the hardwood floor as he slowly and deliberately approached the kitchen early in the morning. I miss seeing his short little legs sticking up in the air as he napped on his back in the living room. I miss watching him run, I miss feeding him dinner, and I miss hearing him snore.

And I really miss the anticipation the Big Man often displayed for what was going to happen next.

But I’ll never forget the good times, and I’m so very thankful that God allowed him to be a part of my life (and my family members’ lives).

What fun it was to have him sitting next to me in the front seat of the truck as we headed out for an adventure. What a pleasure it was to have him at the end of a leash while we walked around in a place neither of us had ever before been.

How nice it was to rub his belly, stroke his ears or brush his back. And what a blessing it was to simply squeeze him.

It was all awesome.

I received an email the other day that had an attachment entitled “Just a dog.” I don’t know where it originated, (and it doesn’t matter, anyway), but it described how dogs can go beyond their status as a quadruped canine mammal (and how not everyone understands that). Tears came to my eyes as I read so many sentences I completely related to.

Jamie wasn’t just a 35-pound Pembroke Welsh Corgi, he was much more than that. He was a comedian, a companion and a reliable, trusted friend. He was something wonderful to be occupied with, and something to look forward to.

From the moment I first laid eyes on him behind a chain link gate at an animal shelter in Oceanside, Calif., I knew Jamie was something special. When I saw him willingly (even excitedly) jump in the truck to “go home” to Missouri as if it had been his destiny forever, I knew then that it really was.

When I saw he and our youngest daughter (in her mid-teens at the time) running at full speed up and down a deserted freeway onramp on a starlit night in the middle of New Mexico, I knew there were great times in store with him.

Jamie was indeed far more than “just a dog.”

He was an inspiration, a sight to behold and even a business partner. And he was an incredible example of God’s creativity.

It was great while it lasted, but the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Thank you, Lord, for such a fine gift.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie was a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie; Aug. 18, 2006 – Feb. 28, 2014.

Jamie; Aug. 18, 2006 – Feb. 28, 2014.

Jamie smiles during one of his last Journeys in the Jillikins, a walk through Texas County pasture on a warm February afternoon.

Jamie smiles during one of his last Journeys in the Jillikins, a walk through Texas County pasture on a warm February afternoon.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie and his leash-handler Doug Davison hang out next to a rearing pond full of rainbow trout at Montauk State Park.

Jamie and his leash-handler Doug Davison hang out next to a rearing pond full of rainbow trout at Montauk State Park.

Jamie hangs out with his sidekick amongst some of the ancient exposed granite that makes up Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County, Mo.

Jamie hangs out with his sidekick amongst some of the ancient exposed granite that makes up Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County, Mo.

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Corgi correspondence and classification

By DOUG DAVISON, Houston Herald

Since he began working as a journalist a couple of years ago, Jamie has developed a bit of a following.

During his journeys and escapades in the Jillikins, the Big Lug has drawn some attention through his love of history, his sarcastic, almost cynical sense of humor, his incredible cache of knowledge about all things trivial, and his forwardness and opinionated nature. Basically, Jamie has some fans.

In turn, he receives a steady flow of email messages from his fan base (actually more of a drip than a flow), especially from other Pembroke Welsh Corgis. While he can’t reply to every message he gets (or any, for that matter, because of his lack of thumbs), he tries to respond to as many as possible (by taking advantage of the fact a human he knows does have thumbs).

A fellow Corgi named Cory – who resides in Kirkwood, in the St. Louis metropolitan area – recently dropped Jamie a line. Among other things, Cory said he likes peanut butter and ice cream and that he has ties to Texas County and comes here now and then to visit some of his human’s relatives in Cabool.

“Do you think it will be warm in April?” Cory said. “I hope so. I sure don’t like this cold weather.”

“Me neither,” Jamie said. “And we’re getting too much snow. Not enough ground clearance for that stuff.”

Cory said he outweighed the 35-pound Big Lug by 11 pounds.
“My vet says I should lose a little weight,” he said. “But, you know the routine – treats and yummy goodies from the table. And oh boy, I love the words ‘supper on.’”

“Yeah, I like it when a human in the kitchen says ‘here boy,’” Jamie said. “Mmm, treats and yummy goodies from the table. That’s the good stuff.”

Cory and Jamie share a dislike of water.

“Yuck, I don’t like water and I don’t like rain,” Cory said. “It’s like, ‘do I hafta go out mom? Well,

okay.’ Then I scrunch up under the eaves next to the house. I’m a wimp when it comes to rain.”

“I can relate,” Jamie said. “I get my outdoor business done in a hurry when it’s raining. And if I have to stay out, I just hang out on one of the two covered porches at my house and wait until I can go in again and lie down on my pad.”

A while back, a female Corgi named Apple – from Harrison, Ark. – sent Jamie an email after reading his account of a big day on the job. She was apparently inspired by the Big Lug’s dedication to hard work, but was attracted to his physical appearance as well.

“If we hook up,” Apple said, “I can show you a really fun time. Then you’ll work a lot less.”

Miss Apple even suggested combining her talents with Jamie’s, for the betterment of all of Pembroke Nation.

“Maybe we can use your work talent and my skill for social activities to start an Internet site called ‘corgismingle.com,’” she said. “Of course, membership would be limited to us highly superior Pembroke Welsh Corgis and those dirt ball Cardigan Welsh Corgis would be excluded. We could charge lots of bones for annual memberships, and even lifetime memberships.”

“That’s so crazy, it might just work,” Jamie said. “I’d probably have to have full control of the decision making, though. I’m not sure I’m ready to have a dog named after a fruit as an equal business partner.”

Apple said things she likes include herding, riding an ATV, drinking Dr. Pepper, and skinny-dipping.

“No dipping for me,” Jamie said. “Skinny, fat or otherwise. Not if I can help it.”

Apple said her dislikes include anything shorter than her, anything that can shed more hair and “those socially incompetent Cardigan Corgis.”

“My list would have to include ticks, empty dog dishes and ground hogs that pretend to predict weather,” Jamie said. “And dogs barking on TV. I find that distracting and annoying.”

An incomplete list

The other day, Jamie and I stumbled across something online that was both cool and unfortunate.

The cool part was it was a list posted on the BuzzFeed website of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013 (complete with photos or video of each one). The unfortunate part was that Jamie wasn’t even ranked, let alone at No. 1.

“What’s up with that?” he said. “Who are all these mutts anyway?”

“I don’t know big man,” I said. “My guess is the folks who put the rankings together somehow didn’t know about you and we’ll just have to give them the benefit of the doubt on leaving you out.”

“Yeah, ’cause if they knew about me, my position at the top would have been a no-brainer,” Jamie said. “And I’m not boasting – I’m just sayin’.”

While he was justifiably disappointed with being snubbed, Jamie did acknowledge that several worthy Corgis were on the list.

“I guess they’re not all total losers,” he said.

The Big Lug particularly liked a few of the honorees, including the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower, who were collectively ranked 39th. They were tabbed as the year’s most successful small business owners and plan to expand their operation from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Jamie said. “Corgis who get out and make something of themselves and for themselves.”

“I admire your appreciation of honest, hard work,” I said. “But I guess Apple noticed that about you, too.”

“A dog that earns his keep, keeps his earnings,” Jamie said.

“Wow, that’s profound,” I said. “Like a canine proverb.”

Jamie clearly didn’t agree with some of the rankings, like No. 2 Super Corgi, who donned a cheap looking Superman outfit while attending the annual SoCal Corgi Meetup on a beach in southern California.

“Super Corgi?” Jamie said. “More like Stupid Corgi. Look at those lame shades and that dime store bandana with an ‘S’ on it.”

“Hey, be nice,” I said. “That sounds like sour grapes to me. Or moldy dog biscuits.”

“I’m not bitter,” Jamie said. “I’m just sayin’.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email Jamie at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie sits in front of a laptop computer last Sunday while pondering his reply to a fan.

Jamie sits in front of a laptop computer while pondering his reply to a fan.

Jamie fan and correspondent Apple, right, stands in a custom-made wooden box mounted to an ATV near her home in Harrison, Ark. With Apple are members of her support staff, including, from left, Sydney, Annie and head security officer Poo.

Jamie fan and correspondent Apple, right, stands in a custom-made wooden box mounted to an ATV near her home in Harrison, Ark. With Apple are members of her support staff, including, from left, Sydney, Annie and head security officer Poo.

Getting "yuumy treats from the kitchen" are, from left, Amber, Cory, Winston and Chloe.

Getting “treats and yummy goodies from the table” are, from left, Amber, Cory, Winston and Chloe.

No. 39 on the list of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower were the year's most successful small business owners. In 2014 they are expanding their business from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

No. 39 on the list of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower were the year’s most successful small business owners. In 2014 they are expanding their business from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

No. 1 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, brothers Corgnelius and Stumphrey are reportedly the two most famous Corgis in the cyber world (although what they're famous for is more than a little sketchy). It should also be noted how gracious the pair are; when informed of their honor, they tweeted “thanks 2 r fans. We r v. humbled.”

No. 1 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, brothers Corgnelius and Stumphrey are reportedly the two most famous Corgis in the cyber world (although what they’re famous for is more than a little sketchy). It should also be noted how gracious the pair are; when informed of their honor, they tweeted “thanks 2 r fans. We r v. humbled.”

No. 16 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the Corgi That Ate An Entire Cupcake In One Bite played an important part in last year's popular body acceptance movement.

No. 16 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the Corgi That Ate An Entire Cupcake In One Bite played an important part in last year’s popular body acceptance movement.

No. 7 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, Trinket is the most charitable entry on the year’s list, having gathered Twinkies for the poor.

No. 7 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, Trinket is the most charitable entry on the year’s list, having gathered Twinkies for the poor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it just me, or was this January about the longest in the history of western civilization?

With its five Thursdays (which means five Houston Heralds) and weather that has done some see-sawing but has obviously been on the dang-cold side more often than not, this month has seemed to drag on and on. With about seven weeks still to go, this winter has already been the coldest I’ve experienced in my life – by far. That’s in large part thanks to January, and I suppose the relentless cold has a lot to do with the month seeming so long.

I really never thought I’d see a thermometer display a temperature below zero as many times as the one on the well house at our remote Texas County high country outpost has this season (for the record, the lowest temperature I ever saw in Georgia was zero, and the lowest I ever saw in Seattle was seven). I’d say it has done so about a dozen times since the whole cold thing began, and if it’s not below the line at 6:50 a.m., it’s often very near it or right on it, like on Tuesday morning this week when it was at exactly zero.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Now that February is on the radar, it’s hard not to hope for a run of more “seasonable” temperatures (like in the low 40s). But let’s face it, we’re talking about February – basically the meat of winter – so more cold could be on the menu (probably sooner than later).

Of course, the Farmer’s Almanac and persimmon seeds predicted a cold, snowy winter, and if I’m not mistaken, that included a harsh February. Nevertheless, the U.S. media and plenty of easily-amused Americans will turn Sunday to another source of weather information, as Punxsutawney Phil – the infamous prognosticating woodchuck of the small town in eastern Pennsylvania – once again grabs headlines on Ground Hog Day.

Personally, I’ve never been a big Phil fan. And history shows that his record is only about .500 (with as many misses as hits), so flipping a Susan B. Anthony dollar would be about as accurate. So would simply guessing, which is all a ground hog could do, if it could, which of course it can’t.

Phil’s gig and the Super Bowl being on the same day notwithstanding, perhaps there’s good news about where the rest of winter is headed in south-central Missouri. At least, there is if there’s any merit in something my wife Wendy pointed out the other day.

She said that as our semi-celebrity Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Jamie, was hanging out in the house, she looked down at him and noticed a bunch of loose fur on his 35-pound frame. After brushing about a Walmart bag full of hair off of him, she sent me an email that said he wouldn’t be shedding if more frigid weather was in the offing, so spring must be just around the corner.

Hmmm, I thought. An interesting situation.

Why, indeed, would the Big Lug be loosing layers if he was going to need them in the near future? To be sure, Jamie is always somewhat of a canine hair storm, but to a lesser extent during the colder months, so the fact he has become the Shed-meister a bit early this year could be meaningful. Maybe he knows something the persimmons don’t and actually can “shed” light on the subject.

Whatever the case, Jamie naturally scoffs at the notion of gleaning climatic information from P. Phil.

“Why listen to an overgrown rodent?” he said. “I’ve got your answer right here in this Walmart bag.”

“So I guess monitoring Corgi fur is a much more reliable and accurate way of forecasting weather than the opinion of a woodchuck and the random casting of a shadow,” I said.

“What worthwhile meteorological knowledge could that four-legged butterball possibly have to offer?” Jamie said.

“As opposed to a pudgy Pembroke,” I said, “which is surely a much better source of weather wisdom.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

The annual break in the weather can’t come too soon.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Punxsutawney Phil: "Overgrown rodent," "four-legged butterball."

Punxsutawney Phil: “Overgrown rodent,” “four-legged butterball.”

Jamie: "Pudgy Pembroke," "shed-meister."

Jamie: “Pudgy Pembroke,” “shed-meister.”

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A visit to the spa

Not too many weeks ago, Jamie was the winner of a gift certificate to a local dog grooming salon.

Last Thursday, he got around to cashing in on his prize.

“Not that there’s any room for improvement here,” he said. “But I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

“Actually big man, your claws are about as long as 16-penny nails and they could use a good trimming,” I said. “And maybe the folks there can help you lose a few pounds of fur.”

“A few pounds?” Jamie said. “Hmmm, I’ve been wanting a nice new pillow.”

Jamie’s female sidekick Gertie (the Perma-pup) was also in on the trip, and my wife Wendy brought them to their destination, Diane’s Pet Styles in Houston. I met them there and when everyone was present, owner Dianna Bennett quickly made friends with the stub-wagging 35-pounder at the end of the leash I was holding.

Then it was pampering time for the Big Lug.

After hearing me mention that Jamie doesn’t much care for having his toenails cut, Ms. Bennett decided to try tackling that portion of the program first and hoisted her bulky assignment onto a grooming table. Not unexpectedly, her guest whimpered and whined and put up a struggle.

“Goodness Jamie, she’s not going to cut off your feet,” I said. “All the antics really aren’t necessary.”

“Oh, that?” Jamie said. “I was just practicing for my next role with the drama troop in Willow Springs. They want me to play – um – a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who’s afraid of having his claws trimmed.”

“Wow, nice work big guy,” I said. “For a moment there, you really had me believing you were a scared Corgi.”

At that point, Jamie went “Master Thespian” on me (the character Jon Lovitz played in numerous Saturday Night Live sketches during the late 1980s).

“Acting!” he yelled.

I played along.

“Genius!” I said.

After the difficulty with the nail clippers, Jamie’s spa host switched gears and bathed his long and low body. She then towel-dried him and placed him in a metallic, dual compartment dog-drying contraption with see-through glass doors that sort of resembled a wine cooler or some sort of meat smoker.

“I’m already aged perfectly and I’m an excellent choice with any entree,” Jamie said. “But make sure you have the timer set right on this thing and I don’t end up overdone. I still want a little pink in my middle when I get out of here.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “Wine and steak humor.”

While Jamie was in the drying room, Gertie got her bath and then entered the doggie wind tunnel. When the Big Lug exited, Ms. Bennett put him on another table and used an electric blow dryer to finish him off.

“You know, the first electric hair dryers appeared in France in the late 1800s,” Jamie said. “The first hand-held unit – like the one being used on me now – appeared in 1920.”

“Wow, Jamie,” I said. “I’m once again impressed by your knowledge of history.”

“Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,’” Jamie said. “I’m after a high interest rate.”

“Nice investment, Big Man,” I said. “I’m sure Ben would be proud.”

At Jamie’s next stop on his spa tour, he received a full-on brushing. But in order to assure his security while she worked him over on the grooming table, Ms. Bennett first hooked him up to a set of straps hanging from an overhead apparatus – one around his ample rear end and another around his neck.

“A noose!” Jamie exclaimed. “Somehow I knew all this was too good to be true!”

“It’s just there to keep you from falling,” Dianna said.

“I better not fall,” Jamie said. “If I do, I’ll be the first Corgi ever to be hanged in Missouri! And I’m innocent, I tell you!”

“Settle down,” I said. “You’re not in danger of any capital punishment.”

“You can’t be too careful when it comes to the wrath of the hangman,” Jamie said.

“You’re not on death row,” I said. “You’re at a spa.”

“I want to talk to my lawyer,” Jamie said.

“Dianna, never mind that nonsense,” I said.

After Ms. Bennett somehow survived the fur storm that blew through the room over the next several minutes, she proceeded to trim the heavy coat that still remained on Jamie’s frame. Combining the use of scissors and an electric trimmer, she carefully contoured his coiffure from front to rear.

When she worked on the USS Jamie’s stern, she even lifted his “lid” (a.k.a. tail, or stub) and shaped the poofy growth on his caboose. She also eliminated some of the excess down under.

“Hey, watch where you put that thing,” Jamie said. “There’s some important real estate in that neighborhood.”

“I think she’s got you covered, Big Man,” I said. “I’m pretty sure you’ll still be a baritone when you leave.”

Next it was time to go back to the claws. To give Jamie less to focus on, I stepped out of sight, and while Dianna’s assistant held him tight and told him how nice he was, Dianna successfully snipped away.

“I have to admit,” Jamie said, “those things you said about me are all true.”

Miss Gertie got the same overall treatment, and took several opportunities to display the growling, gurgling and half-crazed sound effects that lead me to often say she’s part Corgi and part Gremlin (although my wife is probably right that she’s just the world’s most ticklish dog and can’t stand it when someone’s toweling her off or something like that).

Before Jamie said his goodbyes, he was thoroughly spritzed with some Corgi Klein cologne. He left feeling completely refreshed and was soft and smooth to the touch.

“I look good,” he said. “But then, why should today be any different?”

“That’s a bit on the conceited side, don’t you think?” I said.

“It is what it is,” Jamie said.

“Maybe,” I said.

“When something’s good, it’s good,” Jamie said.

“Suddenly you’re a cliché machine,” I said.

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie's caboose. "Hey, be careful where you put that thing."

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie’s caboose. “Hey, be careful where you put that thing.”

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.

A news report from last week that may have escaped your notice indicated that Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, was receiving medical care after being severely injured by a dog.

In an apparent nighttime surprise-attack by a loose dog, Stubbs sustained a punctured lung, bruised hips, and a long deep gash on his side, and his sternum was fractured badly enough that it might require being repaired with a plate. A veterinarian who accompanied Stubbs’ owner on the hour-long trip to a clinic where he could receive adequate care brought along a euthanasia kit because there was doubt as to whether the mayor would even make it there.

Wait, how’s that? Veterinarian? Euthanasia kit?

Um, Stubbs is a cat.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Yep, the 900 or so Americans who live in Talkeetna elected him as their municipal leader 15 years ago. What’s more, Stubbs – who was a strapping young yearling at the time of his election – was a write-in candidate.

Located 115 miles north of Anchorage, Talkeetna serves as the last stop for travelers and climbers visiting Mount McKinley (North America’s tallest peak, at 20,320 feet) and is billed as the inspiration for the town in the highly popular TV series, “Northern Exposure,” that aired on CBS from 1990 to 1995 (and was actually filmed in Roslyn, Wash.).

The off-beat little Alaskan berg barely occupies a wide spot in a moose trail, but Talkeetna features several artists’ shops, and hosts a yearly fundraiser ball where bachelors are auctioned off and a wilderness survival contest for women. But it’s now more famous for its feline politician than anything else.

Finding out about Stubbs got me thinking – of course.

I whole-heartedly believe I know of a 35-pound Pembroke Welsh Corgi who could make a whale (make that land manatee) of a political leader. I’m thinking that if Stubbs can do it, Jamie can.

Anyone who has noticed any of the columns I’ve helped him put together during the past couple of years already knows Jamie has a penchant for leadership, a great appreciation for what he thinks is right, and a keen snout for history. By applying those basic characteristics, he would likely thrive in a position of political authority.

I’ve run some ideas by him, and at this very moment he’s pondering a ground-breaking future as a canine elected official.

Imagine…

•Mayor Jamie: “There has been a lot of progress in this town in the recent past, and I can’t say I can’t take a lot of the credit. Certainly, many people with thumbs helped make it all possible, but I believe they needed a good delegator to give them direction, and I was just the Corgi to do it.”

•Sheriff Jamie: “So you say the gun found in your car that perfectly matched the weapon used in the crime belonged to your uncle’s neighbor, that the matching stories told by several witnesses implicating you are all lies, and that the residue found on your fingernails was mayonnaise, not meth. OK then, we’ll do a little verification of that, but in the meantime you’ll have to hold tight in a jail cell. I’d say we should be wrapped up with our investigation in, oh, about 37 years.”

•Senator Jamie: “Taxes are a necessity, but we have to find a way to administer them more wisely. I say we stop taxing dog toys, food and adoptions, and increase taxes on cat food, catnip, and anything else with that begins with the word or prefix ‘cat’ or by 637-percent.

“Also, I believe people wishing to have cats as pets should be required to obtain special permits, with costs of those permits beginning at 98-percent of a person’s yearly income.”

•President Jamie: “Now that you have given me this mandate to run – I mean improve your lives, I pledge to make sure there’s a $54,000 SUV in every garage and a pork chop bone on every lawn. And regarding recent reports that there’s too much Putin in Russia and the middle east, I say tell those people to quit eating so many beans.”

Jamie and I both hope Stubbs makes a full recovery from his unfortunate episode as a doggie chew toy. If this country is going to avoid the fall many people believe is inevitable, we’re going to need strong leaders like him to lean on.

And speaking of strong leadership, don’t be surprised if you see or hear “Jamie in 2016” commercials in the not too distant future. He’s not making any declarations just yet, but he hasn’t ruled out a run (or slow saunter) at an elected office.

And if he does, expect a spirited campaign, because this is one Big Lug who will be in it to win it.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, sips his favorite beverage (a mixure of water and catnip) from his favorite sipping receptacle (a wine glass).

Mayor Stubbs, of Talkeetna, Alaska, sips his favorite beverage (a mixure of water and catnip) from his favorite sipping receptacle (a wine glass).

Mayor Stubbs recovers from his recent horrific run-in with a dog that left him with several injuries.

Mayor Stubbs recovers from his recent horrific run-in with a dog that left him with several injuries.

Campaign buttons from Stubb's unsuccessful bid for vice-president in 2012.

Campaign buttons from Stubb’s unsuccessful bid for vice-president in 2012.

Stubbs 4

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit.

Jamie discusses his possible future in politics with Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham.

 

 

 

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A full day’s work

For quite some time, Jamie has been bugging me about going to work with me.

After years of hearing me talk about what I do, he has time and again insisted he could perhaps help.

He would often say, “you need a Corgi’s perspective.”

Last Thursday, the Big Lug got his wish.

The day began as usual, with Jamie heading outside to do his business, and then getting a bite to eat on the Sidewalk Café on the east side of our house, and me sitting down for a couple of cups of coffee. Then I brushed a Walmart bag or two of fur off of his 35-pound frame, and we were ready.

“Let’s do this,” Jamie said. “Stay close to me and I’ll get you through.”

“We’re not negotiating a field of land mines or heading to the front lines of a battle,” I said. “We’re going to work. I do this five days a week.”

“I’m just saying,” Jamie said.

When we got to the Houston Herald office, Jamie wasted no time getting started. He worked with editor Jeff McNiell on processing some digital photos that were downloaded in a computer, helped production manager Leesa Smith proofread an ad or two, and looked over accounting paperwork with publisher’s assistant Deanna McKinney. He then sat with me for a while proofing more ad copy.

“I think you might want to try a different font for that phrase right there to make it really pop,” Jamie said. “You have to do something that gets peoples’ attention.”

“That’s not bad, big man,” I said. “It’s almost like you know what you’re talking about.”

“Almost?” Jamie said. “I’m not here for my looks. Although that would be a valid reason.”

After tackling several other tasks, Jamie turned his focus to a lady who walked in to renew her subscription to the newspaper. She said she wanted to renew her “prescription.”

“So did your doctor tell you to take two Heralds and call him in the morning?” Jamie said.

“C’mon, Dawg, don’t be rude,” I said.

“You never know,” Jamie said.

One of the office women with thumbs took care of the customer, and I took the canine jack-of-all trades on the road to take care of some of the day’s out-of-the-office business.

We stopped first at the Houston Police Department station, and Jamie looked over some incident reports submitted by officers. He then met with Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham about the prospects of beginning a city K-9 program.

“This is something you really need, and I’m your dog,” Jamie said. “No law enforcement agency should be without state-of-the art ability to locate clandestine pork chop stashes hidden in vehicles or at crime scenes.”

“Uh, Jamie, what they might need even more is an animal that can detect drugs,” I said.

“No chops?” Jamie said.

“Nope,” I said.

“No ginger snaps?” he said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Right then, moving on,” Jamie said. “Thanks for your time gentlemen.”

Next we went to the new Farm Bureau Insurance office just south of town, where an open house was taking place to celebrate the firm’s move.

“Where’s Flo?” Jamie asked. “I want Flo’s autograph.”

“Uh, wrong insurance company big guy,” I said.

“What about that British lizard?” Jamie asked. “Where’s he?”

“Again big man, wrong company,” I said. “Farm Bureau’s advertising campaign has to do with a guy named Dan who hangs out with a puppet named Clay who cracks corny jokes and says ‘you don’t have to be a farmer to get insurance from Farm Bureau.’”

“Oh yeah, him,” Jamie said. “His jokes aren’t that funny.”

“Yeah, that’s what Dan sometimes says,” I said.

“They need a better mascot,” Jamie said. “I can think of one that would draw millions more customers.”

“Let me guess – you’re referring one that’s long and low and has big ears,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s the ticket,” Jamie said. “All I’ll ask for as a salary is unlimited pork chops. And maybe ginger snaps.”

“Right,” I said.

“Speaking of food, I smell grilled hot dogs,” Jamie said.

“Yep, they’re offering a free lunch here,” I said. “You want a couple of weenies?”

“Does a Corgi shed in the spring?” Jamie said. “Mmm, that’s the good stuff.”

After making another stop of two, we headed back to the office and Jamie sat in for publisher Brad Gentry while he left for a spell. The interim boss didn’t take many calls.

“Just transfer them all to my voice mail,” Jamie said. “I’m a little busy over here trying to get a paper out.”

When the Big Lug was no longer needed at the helm of the good ship Herald, he helped print manager Tyson Troutman get some brochures put together for a local business.

“Hold that a little closer so I can read the fine print,” Jamie said.

As is seemingly the case with many Thursdays, the day went by quickly and late afternoon arrived before Jamie and I knew it. We finished the day by visiting Emmett Kelly Park to view the completed tree planting project.

“Wow, what a difference,” I said. “This is going to be awesome when they get big. It’s already awesome.”

“Yeah, but it looks like I need to get busy,” Jamie said. “Drop me off here and come back in about 45 minutes. I should be done by then.”

“No way, chief,” I said. “There’s a leash law in this town and I’m not going to escort you around to the base of every tree here.”

“Aw man,” Jamie said. “A great opportunity wasted.”

When we got home, Jamie almost immediately went horizontal on the hardwood floor. He was completely exhausted from a hard day’s work.

“I’m dog tired,” he said.  “Make sure to wake me up in the morning – I’ve got a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

“There’s work to do.”

“I know what you mean, big man,” I said. “I know what you mean.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Past versions of this column are posted on the blog page at http://www.houstonherald.com. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city’s proposed K-9 unit.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. "Hold it just a little closer."

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. “Hold it just a little closer.”

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. "Go ahead and trasfer that call to my voicemail, I'm kind of busy trying to get this paper out."

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. “Please transfer my calls to voice mail. I’m kind of busy trying to get this paper out.”

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.


D and J w:border

Milling about in the Ozarks

By Doug Davison

Having heard several people talk about it over the years, I have for quite a while thought that checking out Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch would be pretty cool.

Being the globe trekking canine he is, Jamie wasn’t about to miss out when my wife Wendy and I went there last weekend. But he had his concerns.

“Great, another place with fish,” he said. “What about pork chops? Why not pork chops?”

While the answers didn’t come easy to the big ‘ol Corgi, and he apparently didn’t understand what Rockbridge was all about, I had done some homework online and was aware it was a historic location left over from where a grist mill had been built in the 1800s by on the banks of Spring Creek in northern Ozark County.

The early history of the place includes the story of a group of families that late in the summer of 1871 left central Kentucky and made a difficult 500-mile trip in a handful of wagons pulled by oxen and horses. Led by Captain Kim Amyx, they were on a quest to begin a new life in the Ozarks wilderness, and would end their journey at the junction of Spring Creek and Bryant Creek, near present day Hodgson Mill.

After their original settlement – complete with dam and mill – was destroyed in a Civil War battle, Ozarks pioneer B.V. Morris built a new dam and mill in the late 1860s not far away at the current Rockbridge location.

Since then, several generations of the Amyx family have lived and worked in the area. And who could blame them? It’s an absolutely beautiful setting, surrounded by bluffs and high, forested ridges, and dissected by a clear, cool-running stream.

Although much of the history of Rockbridge is preserved in the form of stories, photos, and old buildings, the current set up is worthy of a visit by both long-time area residents and out-of-area travelers. It’s a resort, but one that’s chock full of Ozarks charm and beauty. There’s lodging for both people who like rustic simplicity and modern luxury. The architecture of the buildings is a mix of old-timey, period-correct stuff from the 1800s, and newer log cabin stylings.

There’s a riding stable operation, a whole bunch of hiking trails, and a giant, 3,000-plus acre hunting preserve.

But there’s one other thing that only a scant few Midwest destinations can offer (whether run by public of private entities): trout. The cold, spring-fed waters of Spring Creek are perfect for rainbows, and Rockbridge even has its own hatchery and fishery, started in the 1950s by some Amyx family members.

Jamie was mildly impressed.

“There ought to be a place like this that raises pork chops instead of fish,” he said. “Too bad there isn’t a big pool where you can toss in a line and hook a stocked pork chop.”

“Uh, yeah,” I said. “Too bad.”

The horse stables were closed when we were there, I think because of some sort of renovation. Jamie lives where horses roam, and didn’t need to see any to know what they’re like. Or at least to think he knows.

“Those are some big animals,” he said. “I’ll bet they eat a lot of pork chops.”

“Maybe more grass and grain than pork, big man,” I said. “Their teeth aren’t designed for ripping and tearing, but for pulling and grinding instead.”

“Wow, I feel sorry for them,” Jamie said. “I’m glad I can rip, tear, pull and grind – and chew and swallow, too.”

“Right,” I said. “Only you could turn a place like Rockbridge into a pork-fest.”

“What’s your point?” Jamie said.

In Rockbridge’s fledgling days, a trip to the mill represented a chance to visit with friends and neighbors, utilize the post office, vote, or simply hear word from the outside world. It was also the spot where residents of the area could obtain meal and flour.

“What about pork chops?” Jamie said. “Where did people get those?”

“Um, from their own or their neighbor’s pigs and hogs?” I said.

“Man, that’s mean,” Jamie said. “I suppose one day I’ll be the source of a Corgi chops meal.”

“Doubtful,” I said.

Nowadays, the mill and dam on Spring Creek make up one of those must-photograph landscapes unique to southern Missouri. But, of course, the main attraction at Rockbridge is trout. And not surprisingly, the restaurant serves it in several forms.

Wendy and I had some incredible smoked rainbow served cold with wheat crackers and a cream cheese/dill dip, a plate of deep fried trout nuggets that basically went “poof” in your mouth, and a sandwich with batter-fried trout fillets.

Yum. Top notch eats.

Jamie and his “little sister” Gertie each got to munch a few bites.

“That’s not half bad,” Jamie said. “But they probably have some serious pork chops in there. Mmm, that’s the good stuff.”

“Yeah, probably,” I said. “But I’m guessing you have to have thumbs to go in there and eat them.”

“Aw, man,” Jamie said.

Toward the end of our visit, as we were walking back to the car, Jamie asked one of those questions only a Welsh Corgi could.

“So, why again can’t we move here?” he said.

“Uh, that would be the fact that we really like where we live now,” I said. “Not to mention several other factors, like horses, chickens, cats, a donkey, and, um, dogs.”

“Oh yeah,” Jamie said. “I guess there is that.”

On our way out of Rockbridge, we stopped the car right next to a tree on the creek bank where a big bald eagle was perched on a branch only about 35 feet away. But as luck would have it, the majestic bird flew away just as Wendy was about to snap what would have undoubtedly been a keeper photo.

I watched as the eagle cruised effortlessly in an upstream direction for hundreds of yards before disappearing from view.

“I’ll bet he’s going to where they keep the pork chops,” Jamie said.

“Maybe, big man,” I said. “Maybe.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie and his sidekick Doug Davison hang out next to the waterfall adjacent to the old mill on Spring Creek at Rockbridge in northern Ozark County. (Photo by Wendy Davison)

Jamie and his sidekick Doug Davison hang out next to the waterfall adjacent to the old mill on Spring Creek at Rockbridge in northern Ozark County. (Photo by Wendy Davison)

With his baloney tongue flapping on a warm December afternoon, Jamie ponders a trip down a slide in a play area at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch in Ozark County, Mo.

With his baloney tongue flapping on a warm December afternoon, Jamie ponders a trip down a slide in a play area at Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch in Ozark County, Mo.

Jamie cracks up at a funny joke during his trek to Rockbridge.

Jamie cracks up at a funny joke during his trek to Rockbridge.

The main building at Rockbridge, Mo., housing the restaurant, store, post office and more.

The main building at Rockbridge, Mo., housing the restaurant, store, post office and more.

A pretty good idea

By DOUG DAVISON

Sometimes a Corgi doesn’t have to go far to find adventure.

My wife Wendy comes from a fairly large Southern family and has four brothers. One of them, Steven, recently moved with his family to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River near St. Louis after retiring from the United States Air Force. Over the Labor Day weekend, Steven, his wife Sarah, and their kids, Charlie (14), Emily (12), and Joey (10), made their first visit to our remote Texas County outpost – and their first to the Ozarks.

Naturally, when Jamie heard there were going to be extra people around for a few days, he wasn’t at all disappointed.

“Maybe they’ll bring pork chops,” he said. “I like pork chops.”

With the remnants of Hurricane Isaac falling from the sky in the form of a misty, almost continuous rain, the first couple of days of the weekend were pretty damp. But the temperature was nice, and Wendy’s nephews and niece had no qualms about spending time outdoors, discovering and experiencing lots of aspects of south-central Missouri that they had no way to be aware of while living in Abilene, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii, where their dad had previously been stationed. They romped around, fascinated with all of the plants and animals at their disposal, and the fact that there weren’t a bunch of cars and buildings and noise (or B52s doing touch-and-gos).

Jamie enjoyed following the kids around the property in their endless, insatiable quest for fun. But as they did the stuff kids do, the Big Lug often found himself unsure that what he was witnessing had any semblance of logic or common sense, even if the young ‘uns (or whatever object they were playing with or on) weren’t in any real danger.

At one point, Charlie decided to climb on a large, tripod-shaped section of a tree that came down during the wild August 2011 storm.

Doug Davison

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said.

The boy came back to Earth when his dad agreed with the Corgi.

On more than one occasion, the kids took turns sending each other into virtual orbit by wildly swinging our heavy-duty hammock.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said. Once or twice, I made a similar statement when the hammock-whaling got particularly intense. The kids even placed Jamie in the middle of the hanging bed and swung him – although not as hard.

“I really don’t think this is a very good idea,” Jamie said.

Of course, Isaac’s presence forced Jamie to be in wet Corgi mode for an extended time. Once or twice, he was offered the opportunity to set foot in the house by an unsuspecting youthful visitor.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said.

“Good boy,” I said. “Not before the Big Lug is thoroughly toweled off, and the water removed is used to irrigate portions of the Southern California desert.”

Despite all the extenuating circumstances, Jamie was inevitably rewarded for hanging near the youngsters, getting his furry frame petted and his ample belly rubbed dozens of times.

“This is what life in the Ozarks is all about,” he said. “I hope you children appreciate this. Someday you can tell your grandchildren about it.”

Despite the way Isaac gave the climate a gray, wet, Pacific Northwest-like look and feel, I spent pretty much all day Saturday outdoors monitoring the progress of the kids’ fun-quest. And I can certainly attest to the fact that Jamie wasn’t the only quadruped to benefit from the visitors’ presence. Our three horses and one doggie-donkey took full advantage of the situation, and ponied up to the attention bar for hours on end.

While the two Arabians (surly old Sur and big-motor Sean) got their share, our Tennessee Walker Bennie and John-boy Abe seemingly had a membership at the equine spa. They were both pampered for hours, as the three youngsters brushed them frequently, fed them about a million apples, and generally spoiled them in ways they never dreamed possible.

The kids even took turns riding them bareback. Bennie responded by acting as if that was his idea, walking cautiously around and stopping when asked to do so without the slightest fuss. In fact, I believe a lot of the activity he was involved in was his idea, as he would saunter right up to whichever kid was near him as if to ask what he could do to entertain them.

Kids kept saying, “he’s so soft – I can’t believe how soft he is.”

Jamie wasn’t jealous, but he knows an opportunity when he sees one.

“Hey, you want soft? We got soft over here 24/7,” he said. “You don’t know soft until you know Welsh Corgi soft. Here and now you have a chance to touch and know true soft.”

“Wow, Jamie,” I said. “Is that really necessary?”

“Uh, let’s see,” he said. “Yes. I feel it’s my duty to educate these young people. It’s important to eliminate ignorance whenever and wherever possible.

“They need to experience unadulterated soft.”

“How noble of you,” I said.

As everything calmed down a bit late Saturday afternoon, Charlie chilled out on the couch for a while and Jamie allowed him to have a dog in his lap.

“I’m pretty sure this is a good idea,” Jamie said. “Yep, this, young man, is what life in the Ozarks is all about.”

We grilled a pile of awesome turkey burgers Saturday evening.

“Mmm, turkey – that’s the good stuff,” Jamie said. “But man, those are some annoying birds. One time when I was down by the bridge messing around in the creek, one of those dumb things stole my baloney sandwich.”

“I think that was a buzzard, big man,” I said. “And if I remember right, it was Charlie’s cousin Alex who told that story – and I question its validity.”

“Turkey – buzzard – whatever,” Jamie said. “Actually, I think it was a turkey buzzard, and, um, I was with Alex when it happened. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

“Oh, boy,” I sighed. “And I’m sure there was a crayfish in Alex’s shorts and one in each of your nostrils.”

“How did you know that?” Jamie said.

While Steven, me, Jamie, and the perma-pup Gertie chased the kids around outside, Wendy and Sarah spent part of their time putting together some amazing edible enjoyment – from awesome apple coleslaw to killer cake. Jamie was definitely on board with that program.

“I’m thinking we need to invite relatives over more often, because the menu seems to improve every time,” he said. “Or maybe put up a couple of houses in the pasture and let them stay.”

“They have their own lives, you know,” I said.

“I guess,” Jamie said. “Just wishing out loud.”

Before the visitors left, Steven said they might return sometime in the fall, perhaps equipped with tents so they can get an even better feel for the Jillikins.

“I guess that sounds like a good idea,” Jamie said. “Nobody went away with any broken bones this time around. At least no major ones.”

“I reckon so, big man,” I said. “I reckon so.”

“And maybe this time they’ll bring pork chops,” Jamie said. “That would be a good idea.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie allows his new friend Charlie to hold him on the couch during the Labor Day weekend.

“I reeeaally don’t think this is a good idea.”

 

Rockin’ with the elephants

By DOUG DAVISON

During the many hours of online research about southern Missouri that I did a few years back, I stopped for quite a while on the Missouri State Parks web site.

I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Elephant Rocks State Park (in Iron County), and the unusual natural granite formations that were apparently there for all to see. Ever since, I’ve wanted to see the place for myself and I knew that going there would be more than just worthwhile.

During June, my wife Wendy’s 15-year-old nephew Alex spent the better part of a week hanging out at our remote Texas County outpost. I figured this was the perfect time for a trip to a world where elephants and rocks collide.

Jamie agreed.

So after the Big Lug ate a couple of pecans for a morning snack and helped make sure the gate to the chicken family’s fenced area was open so they could come and go throughout the day, he and I set out for an adventure in the southeast Missouri hill country along with Wendy, Alex and our little perma-pup Gertie (she’s a year-and-a-half-old, spends almost every waking moment in hyper-energetic puppy mode, and likely always will).

None of us will ever forget it.

Doug Davison

Elephant Rocks State Park preserves an ancient, isolated outcropping of 1.5 billion year old granite (known as a tor) in the Saint Francois Mountains. It apparently gets its name from a string of large boulders that resemble a train of pink circus elephants.

But names notwithstanding, it’s arguably one of the most amazing landscapes in America. I’ve been in all corners of the Lower 48 and in Hawaii, and this is one of the most fascinating sights I’ve seen.

You don’t think of Missouri as a place where you’d see a gigantic chunk of exposed granite with huge boulders sitting all over it, but that’s what the park is all about. The patriarch of the Elephant Rocks – aptly named Dumbo – checks in at 27 feet tall, 35 feet long and 17 feet wide, and weighs a hefty 680 tons (a mere 162 pounds per cubic foot).

While the park isn’t all that big (there’s no campground), the state has done an exemplary job of preparing it for human enjoyment, and there is a well-shaded picnic area with lots of tables just below some awesome granite formations adjacent to the parking lot. But without a doubt, the highlight is a one-mile paved trail that loops all the way around the mammoth granite dome that is basically the entire region’s primary feature. Called the Braille Trail (because of its design that supports both visually and physically handicapped visitors), the path is equipped with many signs that offer information about the history of the area and sites along the way. It also includes lots of benches and strategically positioned rocks where weary feet can get some rest.

While walking the trail, as it zig-zags through some of the oddest real estate on either side of the Mississippi, visitors quickly notice that the place is quite literally littered with boulders, some of which resemble massive “dinosaur eggs.” There’s a unique atmosphere to the deal; you might say you can “feel” the rocks as well as see them.

Excited to be in another new environment, Jamie got into his “Corgi-on-the-move” rhythm as soon as he set foot on the trail, claws clicking on the well-traveled asphalt and baloney tongue flapping in the hot, early summer breeze. But at first, there was one thing he didn’t seem to understand.

“I don’t see any elephants,” he said. “Where’s the dang pachyderms?”

“I’m not sure you’ll be seeing any stampedes today big man,” I said. “I think the name comes from the immense size of the rocks – like elephants.”

“Yeah – or me,” Jamie said. “Corgi Rocks – that has a nice ring to it.”

About a third of the way around the loop, a trail spur leads to the ruins of a building where trains were serviced back in the late 1800s and early 1900s when a large quarry operation cut granite from the dome. Not surprisingly, the structure is made of rock, but amazingly, the mortar holding the rocks together shows virtually no sign of wear or aging.

When observing the overgrown train tracks whose story now disappears into the adjacent deep woods, one can’t help but imagine what it was like during the quarry’s heyday when iron horses came and went and dozens of men toiled for dollars.

“Smells like a bunch of dogs were here a long time ago,” Jamie said.

“I’m sure the workers had dogs,” I said. “Maybe even Corgis.”

“Yeah, if they were smart,” Jamie said.

About half way along the loop, hikers encounter the choice of negotiating a narrow opening called “Fat Man’s Squeeze” that splits two granite formations with walls about 15-20 feet tall on either side, or taking the bypass route around the sliver-like passage.

Leading the way at the end of his blue leash, Jamie took the squeeze.

“No problem,” he said. “Thirty-five pounds of canine muscle, comin’ through.”

“Don’t get cocky, Slim,” I said.

About three-quarters of a mile from the beginning, the trail passes the location of the quarry, a large hole carved into the side of the dome that is now filled by a 40-foot deep lake.

Near the end of the loop, another spur twists through a 100-foot section of scattered boulders called “The Maze.”

“This way,” Jamie said. “No this way – wait, this way.”

“You’re 18-inch height puts you at a disadvantage here, buddy,” I said. “Let me direct you so we can get out of here today.”

“Fine,” Jamie mumbled. “But I could have done it.”

The Big Lug always tries to get the most out any day trip, and he worked hard in that respect from beginning to end at Elephant Rocks. He sniffed about a million spots near the paved path and left his mark at the base of about a hundred trees.

“J-a-m-i-e was here,” he said. “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

Not far down the highway from Elephant Rocks are two more Missouri state parks: Taum Sauk Mountain and Johnson’s Shut-Ins. We’ll be back to check out Taum Sauk (and the nearby Fort Davidson State Historic Site, near where the Battle of Pilot Knob occurred during the Civil War in September of 1864), but we took a shot at Johnson’s, a place featuring its own wild-looking granite formation through which the Black River flows.

Shut-ins was a name used by early settlers to describe a gorge, and this one is surreal, with numerous pools and channels of water intertwined amongst granite walls and bulges. But unfortunately, Jamie was shut out at the Shut-Ins, as park rules prohibited dogs from going past the parking area below the access trail that led to where literally hundreds of people were swimming in the unusual series of aquatic openings.

The good news was that there was a dog-friendly access to the river a short way upstream, and we all took a dip in the clear, chest-deep water.

As we did, the Perma-pup reiterated her status as a true water dog, coming and going time and again from the shore to the middle. Meanwhile, Jamie got wet for a while and then hung out in the shade of a solitary bush a few feet from the river’s edge where we had placed our belongings.

“I’ll be over here if you need me,” he said. “I’ll guard our stuff.”

As we headed back home, construction or some other factor detoured us from the regular route onto a remote highway that allowed us to see some forest and hills of Reynolds and Dent Counties that we might otherwise have never laid eyes on. As he lay sprawled out in the far back of the Honda SUV, it was obvious Jamie had thoroughly enjoyed the outing. But he had one regret.

“I never did see any elephants,” he said.

“Maybe next time, big man,” I said. “Maybe next time.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie and his sidekick Doug Davison sit among some of the granite boulders that are said to resemble giant dinosaur eggs at Missouri’s Elephant Rocks State Park.

Jamie checks out the ruins of a building where trains were repaired during the days when the granite mountain that now comprises Elephant Rocks State Park was home to a major quarry operation.

Jamie takes the opportunity to cool off on a hot June day in a small pool of rainwater he found at the summit of the giant granite outcropping at Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County.

Jamie hangs out with his sidekick amongst some of the ancient exposed granite that makes up Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County, Mo.

Something’s fishy in the Ozarks

By DOUG DAVISON

Trout aren’t native to the relatively warm waters of Missouri’s rivers, but years ago they were discovered to do well in areas where springs rise from the ground and form stretches of cold running water.

Over time, several state-run “trout parks” appeared, including Montauk State Park, which sits on a tract between Houston and Salem acquired by the state in 1926. A series of springs within Montauk’s boundaries form the headwaters of the Current River, and the Department of Conservation’s on-site fish hatchery produces thousands of rainbow and brown trout, some of which are stocked in the Current every night.

Basically, Montauk has been effectively designed as a place dedicated to offering visitors the option of catching trout. And its success as a fish park is well documented; most local residents have seen at least a photo or two of anglers literally lining the river shoulder-to-shoulder, a tradition that can be counted on to happen each March on opening day of trout season.

Having always had an appreciation for fish (especially the kind coated with beer batter), Jamie was excited from the get-go when we embarked on a trip to Montauk about a week ago. In an effort to help us avoid getting into any fishy situations, I felt led to make sure he understood the deal before we left.

Doug Davison

“Now, we’re going to see a whole lot of fish in the same place at same time, big man,” I said. “It would be easy for you to get into a bit of mischief.”

“OK,” Jamie said. “I promise I’ll try to be good, but I can’t help it if one accidentally jumps into my mouth.”

When we got to Montauk, along with a family friend and my wife’s 15-year-old nephew Alex, we soon found ourselves face-to-face with thousands upon thousands of trout of varying sizes that were sharing space in the hatchery’s numerous rectangular concrete rearing ponds. No matter how many times I see a zillion trout in a hatchery pond, I always find it to be pretty cool.

Jamie never had before, and was obviously fascinated. But as usual, the thing that’s most often on his mind took control.

“Man, look at them all!” he said. “I should have brought some malt vinegar and tartar sauce.”

“Those are trout, not cod,” I said.

“Yeah, maybe bread crumbs and almonds would have been better,” Jamie said.

“It’s probably best that you didn’t bring any of that,” I said.

“Well, what good are a bunch of fish if you can’t eat at least some of ‘em?” Jamie said. “And what the heck are they all doing in there, anyway?”

Those of us with thumbs put some quarters in the handy dispensers adjacent to the ponds and got a few handfuls of fish food pellets. As might be expected, the result was probably the highlight of the day. Every time a pellet met the water, the somewhat peaceful and orderly movement of trout below the surface was suddenly replaced by a swarming cloud of frenetic fish, each one determined to be the victor in a no-holds-barred competition to secure the floating snack.

The aquatic battle repeated each time a pellet aroused the submerged crowd, always to the amazement of Alex – and of course Jamie.

“That’s crazy – they’re crazy,” Jamie said. “Those little pebble thingies can’t be that tasty, can they?”

“Probably not,” I said. “I think it’s more about simply getting to eat and preventing rivals from eating something you think should be yours.”

“Now that I can understand,” Jamie said. “It’s like, ‘I’m getting mine, and you’re not.’ Sounds like me when there’s scraps of chicken skin around.”

After we had done a pass or two up and down a couple of the lengthy ponds, Jamie noticed two young girls kneeling down to get a closer look at some medium-sized rainbows. He butted in – but then, he always seems to get away with it.

“I know those fish are pretty cool, but check out the awesome Corgi right here,” Jamie said.

“Come on now Jamie,” I said.

“Hey, just trying to get in a little hand time over here,” he said.

“Is it OK if we pet him?” one of the girls asked.

I didn’t have to answer.

“What, are you kidding? The furry frame you see before you was meant for that,” Jamie said. “And just think how bad you’d feel later if you missed out on this opportunity.”

The temperature was in the low 90s on the day we went trout watching, so after taking in the fishy sites, we all figured a visit to the shaded banks of the Current River was in order. Jamie concurred, and was in Corgi heaven when my friend dripped and rubbed cool water on his head.

“Now this is what I’m talking about,” Jamie said. “Make sure to get a little behind my ears, and try not to get any in my eyes.”

A few men wearing hip waders were fishing with spinning reel rigs a few yards from where we were standing (and Jamie was lounging). One decided to exit the water, and smiled at Jamie as he went by.

The gentleman must not have hooked a lunker.

“No fewer fish in there than before I got here,” he said. “The only bite I got was from a horsefly.”

As we headed back to the car, Jamie just had to ask a silly question.

“Is it OK if I go take a quick dip in one of those fish ponds?” he said. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“No Jamie,” I said. “I don’t think the park rangers would appreciate that.”

“Can we go to Captain D’s?” Jamie said. “I feel like fish.”

“I think it’s canned food and crunchies for you tonight, big guy,” I said.

“That’s OK,” Jamie said. “I was just hoping for some of the good stuff.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi.  Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie and his leash-handler Doug Davison hang out next to a rearing pond full of rainbow trout at Montauk State Park.

Jamie’s buddy Oggie Murillo rubs some cool Current River water on his head.

Along with his leash-holder Doug Davison, Jamie enjoys a day at Montauk State Park.