"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com

"The Jingle Bell Bum" (Read The Touching True Story...please!) Comment at patriciahanrion.com
Still available on Amazon for Nook and Kindle, hard copy booklett to re-print November 2013

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter To Remember!

I was in the UCLA Olive View hospital cafeteria eating an overcooked dried out grilled cheese sandwich with so little cheese it should have been advertised as a bread sandwich.  My nursing students were sharing dog stories and discussed an array of chubby Pomeranians, golden retrievers and adorable lovable pit bulls? 
As it was the last clinical day with my students before Easter my mind tracked back to a memorable dog story that just happened to occur the Saturday before Easter quite a few years ago.  Our first dog was a Labrador retriever/blood hound/cocker spaniel mix.  He was quite odd looking but very sweet, loyal and exceptionally protective to all the family. He considered us all his pack and fiercely guarded the kids and me…and tolerated the pack leader, Dad Patrick.
As tradition in our home went, the Saturday before Easter Sunday we dyed eggs.  Those eggs would then magically be hidden around the yard for them to discover the next morning before we left for church.  By then four of our children were born.  The youngest Megan was barely four years old.  Rebecca was seven, Colleen nine and Young Pat was eleven, almost too old for the egg game to be played out the next day.  But he participated so he wouldn't be left out, and also to have an opportunity to tease his three sisters.  Pat had invited the neighbor boys Richard and Steve Kuroda to join us. (They both had a crush on Rebecca)
I had all the dye, bowls, vinegar, boiled eggs and doo-dads for decoration assembled on the patio table.  The patio was concrete with a shade cover and hanging baskets full of plants.  I dutifully watered the flowers to have a pretty view out the back window and keep my eyes from landing on our falling-down back fence. 

The fence separated us from a twenty two acre plot that had recently been sold to a developer.  A strip mall was to be built on the land within the next few months.  They had given us notice they were building a ten foot block wall along the back of all the homes to shield them from the noise and unsightly view.  The construction of the wall was to take place in a few weeks so our sorry wood fence would be replaced by a nice new tall block one at no expense to us.  I was excited as I knew our budget could not have handled such an extravagance.  I even asked big Pat to move the bee-hives he kept next to the old fence so when the construction crew tore it down we wouldn’t have bees all over the place.  (Another story)
Looking back I realize it's a bit ironic because Patrick had several places where he kept his bee hives; one of them was in a field next to Olive View Hospital which is where those hives eventually landed.  But anyway…because he didn’t have the time to move them properly he put them alongside the house near the back door off the kitchen.  (He said at the time they would only be there for only a few days, but I think they ended up there for several months)
There was a small patch of dirt near the falling down fence where I had been doing some of my impromptu teaching with the kids about planting, water and food.  We were going to make sure when the fence finally came down our little garden of lettuce, carrots, beans and tomatoes would not be touched.  We watered the dirt diligently and plants were starting to sprout.  I remember the lettuce by that Saturday was at least two inches tall and I know we each had our own vision of a great harvest from our small cultivated plot. 
So there I was with bowls and the newspaper spread out, the eggs cooked and spoons at the ready.  The kids gathered around the table trying to carefully place their eggs into the hot water when I heard several dogs barking from behind the house and past our tumble down fence. 
“Oh no,” I thought, “Some dogs are loose!”  I ran to the back fence and saw a man slowly walking along the fences at the back of all the houses lining the lot.  
I yelled, “Hey mister, we have a dog here, and our fence is low in a few places so please take your dogs out away and into the field so they won’t hop the fence.  Our dog is pretty protective and this is his yard.” 
He continued along, as if he didn’t hear.
“Hey mister,” I yelled louder, “Please get your dogs away from this fence, we have a protective dog here.”
“My dogs are nice and friendly.”
“Well mine isn’t so please take your dogs away from our fence!”  By then he had reached the spot where the fence was only about four feet high and both his dogs easily glided over the fence and right into our little garden.
"Tuna Fish", our dog, in a totally protective posture bristled and growled, but when both dogs bore their teeth he jumped on the large collie and also managed to down the other one who looked like a bull dog.  He had them both pinned in seconds.  Tuna managed to hold one under him and had the other by the neck. 
This stranger then jumped into our yard, grabbed a piece of fence board and began pounding and beating our dog on the back and head.  Using the moment to escape because Tuna loosened his grip from the blows, the strangers’ dogs ran past the patio alongside the house right into the two live…humming bee hives. 
The man followed his pets, and just like a “Three Stooges” movie, immediately he and the dogs ran back the way they went in, right into our waiting unhappy dog…AND the wrath of a mother…The man reached down and picked up the board again and began to beat on our dog…Having had enough I jumped on his back to try and stop him and while trying to avoid the waving wood I began to slip off.  I hung on for dear life and in doing so, pulled down and stretched the neck of his sweater around his elbows…The knitted material pinned his arms to his sides and he was now off balance but continued to wildly brandish the wood as he went across the patio…breaking most of my planters sending pottery, plants and dirt across the table and into the Easter egg dye making a huge mess of our little project. All the while I hung on to his back like a tick on a bucking bronco.

The boys turned on the hose and were squirting at the dogs and the man (including me clinging to his back) trying to stop the melee.  The girls ran inside and yelled for their Dad.  He was taking a shower and when he heard the commotion quickly tried to get his pants on while soaking wet.  He was struggling and hopping over to the window to try and discover what I was yelling about.  As he stumbled around the corner and over to the picture widow he was shocked at the sight he saw.  The pots on the patio were swinging like knockers on a bell, his wife was riding around clinging to a strange man’s back yelling like a banshee, the boys were manning the hose like firemen putting out a blaze and all the while the man with his arms locked to his sides was waving a huge hunk of wood scattering eggs, dye, and plants everywhere.
I remember sliding to the ground because by now the stranger was slick with sweat and water...my grip on his sweater finally let go.  Dad Patrick then grabbed our dog and shoved him into the garage.  (Tuna was growling with his few exposed teeth.  He lost most of them from a high fever he had as a puppy because when we bought him he had distemper.  I guess he was planning to gum the other dogs to death.) 

By the time Patrick returned to the back yard, both of the interloper dogs were over the fence and half way across the huge lot.  The stranger followed his dogs so fast, when Patrick, chased after them, he couldn’t catch up.  He could see them far in the distance crossing the main highway.  He got in the car and tried to find them, but never did.  Later he told me he wanted to make sure the guy was okay, but I've always figured he was planning to punch 'em.  The stranger and his dogs had vanished, never to be seen again.
(Here is Patrick, Colleen, Becca and Megan in 1979, and Me with "Tuna."
Tuna was bleeding from his floppy ears and needed some antiseptic on his many scratches.  Later, when I finally stopped shaking and gathered my composure I went to the store.  Along with more eggs, dye and treats for the kids I bought our loyal dog a huge bone.  We all mourned the demise of our little garden, and I didn't replaced my hanging plants. 

The neighbor boys were impressed with my skills and I became an icon.  "Don't mess with the Mom." They said, "She's a good fighter."  They backed up the stories told for the next few weeks at Strathern Street school with some colorful details.  All our kids bragged that Tuna and I were spectacular by providing the best egg dying and Kung- fu exhibition ever.

I think Patrick is still amazed by my behavior, and to tell the truth...so am I.  But I guess you never know what you are capable of doing, until it happens.
We moved away from North Hollywood to Santa Clarita after Michael was born a year later.  Our new home had five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a stream full of tadpoles behind it, and a block wall all the way around. 

Tuna died of old age a few months after the "Stranger" incident and is buried in the yard he so valiantly defended.

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