Yesterday afternoon, it was just the two of us, and we were riding down the road in your old truck, windows down and radio all the way up. We’d cycled through some of the usual suspects—David Allan Coe singing about picking his mama up from prison in the rain, Johnny Cash reminding us of his time at Folsom Prison, and even Merle Haggard asking us to sing him back home from prison. I was riding with my head out the window, as I am wont to do, but every time the song changed and another prison song came on, I will admit to being tempted to stick my paw up near the dash and change the station. Instead, I looked over at you behind the wheel, singing all the words in some variation of “in tune” at a volume that strained both your vocal cords and the laws of physics. Your face reveled in pleasure and pain simultaneously and so thoroughly that I didn’t have the heart to stop you. I didn’t have opposable thumbs either, so the tuning dial was admittedly going to be a challenge. In between numbers, while you caught your breath and the station tried to pay its bills, I eased across the seat to see if the “next Chris Stapleton” would scratch my head, and you did. That was mighty nice of you.
Then the tone changed, and that Chris Janson song came on, the one about money not being everything, though it could buy you a boat, along with a truck to pull it. I love that song almost as much as you do. I could tell by the way you tried to squeeze more blood out of that volume knob when there was no more to give. I also saw you give a furtive look in the rearview mirror, to the little fishing boat following close behind us like it was hooked to the bumper. I saw the look in your eyes. The one that says, “One of these days, I’ll have it good. I’ll have a new truck and a nice boat with all the trimmings.” It was a sad look, though I may have been suffering from prison song overload and might not have been an objective witness. Let’s assume for the sake of this essay that it was.
Humans have a lot of advantages over the rest of us living creatures. That may be by design or by accident, but that’s the way it is. At least for now. Once I figure out how the television remote works, global domination can’t be far behind. For now, though, humans have it pretty good. After all, you get to carry the guns and shoot the birds. When’s the last time you picked a quail up off the dusty ground with your mouth? I’m not knocking the work, I’m pointing out the division of labor. And yesterday, while I was trying to sit still on a boat seat, ill-prepared for what felt like 7-foot seas, you got to cast the lines and reel in the fish. And you’ll get to increase the size of those fish with each retelling over the coming weeks. Who am I to argue? Who’d believe me anyway?
And just like men will never understand women, dogs will never really understand humans. No matter how good your lot in life, it’s never enough. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about self improvement. After all, I speak seven languages fluently and drive a spreadsheet like nobody’s business, but I don’t measure myself against other dogs (even if my handlers often do). Dogs are simple beings in need of a few essentials and the company of others. Humans may cop to a greater complexity, but the separation between us is akin to threading a camel’s hair through the eye of a needle, which probably comes as a relief to the camel.
Here’s the trophy from yesterday’s fishing, and one that you should exaggerate in the retelling: You had the time to spend in the great outdoors with a trusted friend (though I may be taking some creative license with the nature of our relationship). You had a dependable truck to get us there and a modest but serviceable watercraft to launch. There might even have been a Yeti cooler stocked with adult beverages, but I’m not at liberty to say.
The point to this story—and you know how I like to point—is that if you are reading this, chances are pretty good that you’re living some variation of the American dream. If that’s not the case, no number of prison songs can help you. If it is the case, then you should own that dream and share it with all those folks looking for love in all the wrong music. And thanks for taking me fishing. Let’s go again soon. Frank out.