I had seen the movie, A River runs Through it, but had not read the book. “You should,” my friend said, and she gave me a copy. After only 8 pages a mood came over me and I put the book aside to write this story. It is something I had to do. The book will be there later.
I Remember Bip
He was as close to me as anything could be, my arm for instance. His real name was Bippy, but I can’t imagine why. Perhaps it was given to him when he was just a pup and any flippant designation, applied with a laugh, would fit. You know how humans are around babies.
As he matured, my little brown dachshund moved off of his pad and into my heart, and even closer if there was such a place. He started sleeping on our bed, and then under the covers. It was nice to awaken in the middle of the night and feel his warmth at my feet.
Bippy became Bip, and then The Bip, as if the crown jewels had been injected into the name. In my work place he was always under the desk. If I moved an inch, he knew it. When I rose to walk, The Bip was always trotting, 3’ in my trail.
Once, in Lubbock where we lived, at the time, my wife and I had the occasion to drive from the Red Barn (the name of our art foundry) to visit Glenna Goodacre at her home. We drove about 3 miles through downtown to get there. My little dog was in his usual car-riding spot on the top of my driver’s seat, and behind my neck.
After a visit with Glenna we were ready to go, but The Bip wasn’t hanging with me, and he was nowhere around that we could see. He had never been to Glenna’s before and it was not like him to wander off into in a strange neighborhood. For three hours we searched, up this street and down that one, all about. He just wasn’t there, and I was sure someone had stolen him, or that he had been hit by a car. I was rife with despair.
After more hours of circling and looking, we drove back to the Red Barn. And there he was, The Bip, sitting by the front door and wagging his tail if to say, “Where have you guys been?”
How did he get from there to here, 3 miles through heavy traffic, and red lights, and big trucks? Those are the things that souls are made of.
Peggy and I were going up the Amazon River when we received a frantic phone call from Santa Fe. A vicious dog had attacked Bip, and he was having trouble. We charted a small pontoon plane, which I think was held together with bailing wire and duct tape, (it had no heading indicator or altimeter) to come land beside our boat, and carry us to Manaus, Brazil, which was 250 miles across the unmapped Amazon jungle where we could catch a flight home.. The Bip saw us and wagged his tail. He quickly recovered. Reunions following near disasters, are wonderful.
In 1981, a friend assisted Bip in writing his autobiography. It’s called Bip, and has his signature on the leather cover. It’s a 30-page fictionalized account of Bip as an artist, and Eric Sloane illustrated it with 7 drawings.
The book was published at Northland Press in Flagstaff, AZ, in one copy.
The book starts out:
I never wanted to tell my story. I think that should be stated at the start. I find most autobiographies rather self-serving. I hated “Doggie Dearest,” which I found highly exploitive, “For Whom the Dog Barks, “Memoirs of a Schnauzer of Pleasure,” “Cheaper by the Litter,” and all of the other volumes I have read over the years have left me cold. I always assumed that my art, not my printed word, would make the world aware that I have been one of the most colorful artists of the American West, Throughout all the years I have been painting, I have naively assumed that somehow my reputation would be discovered through the gallery we operate. But now that I am getting old, I think it is time that I tell the whole story.
At about 13 years, Bip’s muzzle turned white, and he got a cancer on his right fore-arm. It was an ugly balloon looking thing, the size of a cue ball. Our vet just shook his head, a gesture I wasn’t ready to accept. The 2nd vet, a wonderful man named Clint Hughes, said he could operate and fix it.
He operated for an hour and he did fix it, and he allowed me to sleep the night in his operating room on the floor beside my little dog. I knew he would be stressed. At about 15 years the terrible malignancy returned, and Clint fixed it again. We were on a roll.
Then at 17 years or so, The Bip began to fall apart. His liver failed and he had other problems. His eyes told me he was ready. Clint came out of retirement to help us, and as The Bip went limp in my arms, all of us cried.
But I wasn’t ready for all of that to happen, and I told Clint I wanted my little dog to spend one last night on my bed, like he had done so many times over the years. “He’s no longer there, his spirit has gone.” Clint said. It was a kick in the gut to me, And I quickly reacted. “Who says he isn’t still there, where is your evidence, please show me your evidence?” Why do we arbitrarily believe things that we’ve been told? Just because someone said it doesn’t make it true. Throughout the night me and Bip were together in spirit. It was a warm sleep for me.
The next morning, I wrote The Bip’s biography and placed it in a fruit jar that had a rust-proof lid. My words said what I needed to say, so I signed it with my name and date.
Then I made small wooden box. The boards were new and the nails were applied with loving care. Then I wrapped Bip in some warm covers and buried him under the big plum tree just outside my office at the gallery.
Many years later, when we sold our gallery, I moved Bip to a place just outside the bedroom at our new home on the Old Santa Fe Trail.
Chiseled on a flat sandstone slab, and placed atop his little space, are these words, Bip, so long old friend, for now. I just went out and brushed the snow away to see if there was a date. There wasn’t, and I’m glad, because I don’t want to know when he passed away. I just want to remember that, in a real way, he is still with me. fThat story is full of reminiscing words and I feel better for having said them.
Now it’s back to A River Runs Through it, page 9. Thank you S.