Howie Foutch, mid-1950’s
Dogs and Dreams
I met Howie Foutch in elementary school. Freckles. Didn’t wear glasses (I did). His short hair going off in all directions. School picture with his mouth open.
His mother’s name was Beulah Foutch. A plain woman, Beulah Foutch. Howie’s older brother’s name was Al. I never knew his dad’s name. Howie and Beulah went to our church.
I remember going to a baseball practice in 1954. I was 9. Al was practicing with some other kids, all of them older than me. Al came up to bat. On the first pitch he hit the ball hard enough to smack the wall of the school next to the field. I thought he was really good and I wished I could be like him.
We went to Howie’s house. His dog had just had pups. We adopted one. Named him “Boots”. He was mongrel with white feet, just like me.
As we raised him he became my best friend (I had nobody else that close to me).
Over the next year, Boots grew big. He had his own schedule and would wander around the neighbourhood. One day he came home with a note tied ‘round his neck. “Your dog has impregnated my prize poodle. You must keep him under control.” Asked my mother what “impregnated” meant. She was flustered but said, “It’s where babies come from.” I said nothing; I was confused.
Middle of summer. 1957. One afternoon I noticed that Boots was not around. For several days I waited for him to come back. Boots’ friend, “Buster” was seen regularly but no Boots.
Accordion lessons at our house with Millie Crimm.
[Three years before, my parents enrolled my sister and me at the Stancato School of Accordion. My sister hated it; I did not: I could now make music all by myself.]
Back to 1957. Millie Crimm and the accordion. During a lesson, my mother got a phone call. She put down the phone with a look on her face. “They found Boots.” That’s all she said but I knew Boots was dead. I put down the accordion as the tears fell from my face and I ran to my room. I would later learn he had been hit by a car.
A few months later, Howie’s brother Al and his dad were killed in a car accident.
* * *
A dream. We had raspberry bushes down below the house. It was a hot summer afternoon. I could smell the tall grass. Boots was there, entangled in a wire fence. As I reached out to free him my arms became shorter and Boots receded into the distance.
* * *
A sense of loss. All things are transitory. Nothing remains the same. “Stop!”, I shouted. “Just stop it!” When I realized that nothing would stop “it” and I would never know everything or go to all the places I should go or meet all the people I should meet, I retreated into myself. “If I hide maybe it will stop”. Further into in. And it didn’t stop. It couldn’t stop, no matter how much I might retreat, no matter how much I self-isolated.
* * *
The dream. The dream again. This time, though, it is me who is entangled in the fence, lashed to the wires. There is no one to free me. The tall grass is fragrant but I fear it’s going to catch fire. The more I struggle, the more entangled I become. “Must get free. Must get away from here before . . . Before what? I don’t know. Must get away.” I make myself very small and escape from the fence. But then I realize I can’t make myself big again.
* * *
I stayed isolated.
If I didn’t socialize others I couldn’t be hurt.
That was who is was well into adulthood.
* * *
Many decades later, my sister would tell me to come with her to Oregon. It was finally Time. There at Newport I found the ropes that were restraining me loosening. I made friends. I learned that I needn’t fear interacting with others. I found I could love and be loved.
* * *
Another dream. I am outdoors. Outdoors on a beach. Nye Beach at Newport, Oregon. I stand tall on the beach, my former restraints resting on the wet sand beside me. I have found myself. The ropes move away on their own, skittering across the beach, receding into the distance. We no longer need each other.
Walking on the beach, smiling and singing into the ocean breeze. Free, free at last, wondering what Howie is doing today . . .
And this dream is true.