02. January 2006 · Comments Off on On the Road With the Lesser Weevil · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

Among her favorable canine qualities (sweet nature, high intelligence, compact size, overall good health and relative freedom from behavior problems stemming from the circumstances which inspired my daughter to rescue her from a very unfortunate situation) highest among them is the one which became most apparent over the last week or so. That is, the Lesser Weevil is an excellent traveler. She readily jumped into her travel station in the back seat on command and spent much of the journeys of the last three weeks curled up sleeping there, qualities which can best be appreciated by anyone who has gone on a very long road trip with a dog… which if the evidence of my own experience at rest stops along the highways between San Antonio and San Diego this last holiday week are any indication, may include a large percentage of the traveling public. Most of our stops, up and down IH 10 and 8 coincided with those of other travelers armed with leashes, at the other end of which was one of the canine set enjoying a leisurely poop and pee in the designated pet section of the state-designated rest area.

And, oh, how those rest areas were welcomed by the weary traveler. It would be hard for some of my European friends to visualize how vast and how empty the western United States can be, nothing but two lanes of blacktop with a wide median in between, spooling endlessly across a great basin towards a jagged line of distant blue mountains. On either side of the road, nothing much but adobe colored dust, and low scrub bushes… taupe and pale green, pale gold tufts of bunch-grass, dark green mesquite, and saguaro cacti with uplifted branches…. And that is all there is, for miles and miles. The only other signs of human traffic are the other vehicles on the road, coming and going, their lights at night like a sliding string of diamonds and rubies, perhaps a long freight-train loaded with containers moving toy-like in the distance, and a couple of jets scribbling a feather-stitching of contrails in the blue bowl of sky overhead. Only twice did we drive through cities of any size— El Paso and Tucson— all the rest are places like Yuma and Fort Stockton, or even smaller still, like Sierra Blanca and Junction, just a couple of square blocks of houses, and sometimes not even that. We breezed past an off-ramp with the name of a town on it, which seemed to be made up of a gas station, a house and a scattering of rusting trailers, and Blondie wondered out loud what makes a town? Isn’t there some sort of minimum requirement? Or was there once a substantial town which has dried up and withered away in the fierce desert heat? How lonely it must have been for the first settlers, in the late 19th century, to live so far over the edge of civilization. I remembered an account from the wife of one of the early Texas cattle barons— Mary Ann Goodnight, I believe, who came out to live on her husbands’ ranch several days journey from the nearest small town, the only woman for a hundred miles in each direction. One of the ranch hands gifted her with some chickens, and she was so desperately lonely that the chickens became beloved pets, rather than dinners. Driving past one of those tiny, solitary houses or trailers sitting in a small clump of trees fifty miles from the nearest town, I can now understand how that happened.

At the very least, a pet can be a small but constant font of uncritical affection, besides company and protection, and the Lesser Weevil certainly offers all that. On the very first night on the road, we wound up sleeping in the car, parked in a truck plaza in Fort Stockton, with the seats put back and both of us wrapped in an enormous blanket of Blondie’s. Lesser Weevil curled up happily between us, rousing occasionally to growl softly at people walking too close to the car, and we actually felt quite safe with her there.
She endeared herself to Mom and Dad, mostly because she looks very much like one of their most beloved dogs, who was also part boxer. Lesser Weevil did not make a good initial impression, though.

We arrived very late on the Friday before Christmas, and went straight into the house, where one of Mom and Dad’s current dogs, a midnight black Great Dane came galumphing into the kitchen like the hound from Hell, and so terrified Weevil that her bladder let loose a veritable lake of pee onto the floor. But they all made friends very quickly, and when my sister and her family brought their own three dogs on Christmas Day, there was a merry canine pack romping through the verandah, teasing the cats, Trouble and Grey Davie. My brother in law in fact, took a picture of Grey Davie scowling indignantly down from a branch of the live oak tree, and by the morning we left, Lesser Weevil was attempting— without result— to entice Trouble to play with her. In the end, Mom and Dad were so taken with Lesser Weevil and her part-boxer charms that they separately suggested that if she really didn’t work out at my house, they would take her at theirs… if I can only get her to stop peeing on the rugs. (She baptized each area rug in the house, by the end of the week.)

We headed back a day earlier than planned, after thinking that there might be a bit of a problem, buying gas in the smaller towns on New Years’ Day… and we didn’t much want to be on the road after dark on New Years’ Eve. As it was, there was hardly any traffic that afternoon, and all we were left to wonder about was the road-kill count, as we came back through the Hill Country. The deer season is closed as far as killing them with bows and sporting rifles go, but it is still open season when it comes to using 3,000+ motor vehicles. At one place, there were four or five road-kill deer in the median within the space of half a mile.
“Clearing out the gene pool,” Blondie suggested.
“Evolution.” I said. “Like squirrels—the smartest ones have learned to cross over roads on the electrical wires.” We looked at the electrical lines beside the highway, and burst out laughing, imagining deer teetering along the high wires, while Lesser Weevil sat up in the back and looked at us in puzzlement.
“ “I think I can make it, Rudolph!”” Blondie giggled. “Hell, slap a tutu on their ass and give them a balancing pole, it works in the circus!”

It was a long trip— we took our amusement where we could find it. And when we got home, I let Lesser Weevil into the house. She has behaved herself— mostly, although Sammy and Little Arthur are terribly affronted. Percival and Henry ignore her, and only Morgie seems inclined to be civil.

We’ve run out of paper towels, though.

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