By Lone Janson
"Well now," started Dad, reaching for a cigarette and pawing in his pockets for a match that never was there, "Did I ever tell you about our dog, Tipsy?"
I allowed as how he hadn't but if he had, I'd have wanted to hear it again anyhow.
"He was a Siberian Husky, and part Police; white and brown and black spotted, and his tail curled up over his back real tight. He had one brown eye and one blue eye." Dad chuckled and leaned back. "Oh, he was a Hell of a looking dog!"
I was watching him real close and grinning, because he had the cigarette, still unlit, out of his mouth and was waving it to emphasize his words. But one hand still dug absently in his shirt pocket for the missing match, and I was curious to see how long before he'd cut the pantomime and ask me right out for one.
Encouraged by my grin, he went on: "Well, old Tipsy, he never learned about porcupines. He'd go out all the time and come back full of quills. He'd never let any of the family except Ma take them out. We couldn't even get close to him when he had quills in his nose. But the Old Lady, Ida, Dickie's mother, she'd say real stern: 'Come here!', and Tipsy would come slinking up to her. And she'd say, 'Sit down!', and Tipsy'd sit. And she'd work the quills out of his nose with a pair of pliers. And then he'd go out and get more. He never learned.
By now he was getting warmed up to his story and he stuck the cold cigarette in his mouth, in the slot where there was a missing tooth so it didn't slow down his talking in the least.
"Well, we were having a clamdigger's union meeting down on the beach..."
"On the beach?", I asked a little incredulously.
"Oh, sure," he said. "We never had no hall nor anything in those days. We were just organizing the fishermen's union and the clamdiggers were a part of it. We met down on the beach, because there was no building big enough for us all; only one-room cabins mostly.
"Well, there were lots of clams in those days; so many that the cannery couldn't handle all we could dig, and we were all on a strict limit. We were aguing at this meeting about the kids, Dickie and Buddy, who had been digging for several years. But there were some of the men said the kids shouldn't have a limit; they were too young."
Dad scowled and paused, remembering. His hand still probed thoughtfully in the shirt pocket, then he waved it as he went on with his story. "Those fellows were all single; they didn't know what it was to try to raise a family. They didn't want a man with a family to have anything. So I got good and mad and I said, 'To the Devil with you all! And you know what you can do with this organization, too! The kids are going to turn in their own limits, and that's all there is to it. To Hell with you!' And then I walked out.
"I got to the cabin and I had a couple of drinks of moonshine to cool off. Ma and the kids were gone to town in the skiff, and I was alone. I was mad, and drinking and thinking things over, and what should happen but in walks Tipsy with his nose full of quills.
"Something had to be done about it, but Ma was in town, so it was up to me. So I had another snort and started after Tipsy. Well, Tipsy saw me coming and he backed away and took off out the door like a steak of light, and me after him. I chased him all over that meadow up there, and finally caught him. 'Well now, Old Fella,' I says, 'You're going to get the quills out of your nose or else!'
"But I guess old Tipsy preferred the 'or else', because he bit me. Cut a big gash in my thumb, and the blood squirting all over him and all over me. And I says, 'Now, that don't matter a bit; you're going to get the quills out of your nose!' And so I rassled him and got him back up to the cabin.
I sure hated to do what I did next, but I couldn't see any other way. Tipsy was dead set against me pulling the quills, so I tied his legs together and hoisted him up to the ceiling.
"So I was sitting there, drinking moon, cussing and pulling quills out of Tipsy's nose, and the dog was hanging there all trussed up, howling and yipping and we were both covered with blood from where he bit me. I guess we were a pretty tough looking crew.
"And it was right then that a delegation of men came up from the union meeting, which was just breaking up down at the beach. They came up to the open door and when they saw what was going on, they just stood there gaping. And before they could say anything I yells, 'Go on and get out! I told you they were going to turn in their own limits and that's the end of it!'
"'No, no, Dick,' the spokesman said, backing up with his eyes bugged out, 'We just wanted to tell you that we decided that your oldest boy should be able to turn in a limit--'
"I was roaring mad by then and I yells, 'They're BOTH going to turn in on their own names and I'm not going to tell you again!'
"Well, you could see by the look in their eyes they were wondering what kind of madman they were dealing with; the dog hanging from the ceiling and both of us covered with blood and all the cussing and yowling. They sort of edged backward, nervously grinning, and when they got clear of the door they took to their heels. I never heard no more about the boys turning in their own limits, either."
We were all chuckling over the story when Dad finally looked at his cold cigarette as if he just remembered he had it.
"And say, Lone, have you got a match somewhere?"
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