Tattoos in Mayberry

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During my time living on a Native reservation
,in the high country of North Western Montana,
Not growing up in the Indian way, 
 I didn't possess anything close to high status, in the tribe,
Status freely granted to my tribal member wife.
She was a, well known, Native Singer, story teller, 
in the proper oral traditions.
vocables of an angel.
Plus, she could sing  Ave Maria. and 'Crazy'
better than Patsy Cline.
She enjoyed showing people up 
when they under estimated her.

My low status meant little. 
being hitched with such reservation royalty. So,
defacto, I was by marriage,
I piggy backed on her high status.
On one of our promotional tours,
we visited other Indian friends, and their family,
One one occasion she took me deep in almost
at the water line home.
A very animated, compact, but agile 
full blood Kootenai came out to greet us.
He had many brothers in the tribe.
His wife, a full blood Yakima Indian.
All smiles...Warm lived in house,
kids..I felt love lived here.
She was to make me a ribbon shirt
to welcome me, her friend's husband,
who she respected and admired.
A nd, a few years after that, she would die.
I saw her husband, the Kootenai man
and he stampeded right by me when I said hello,
disagreeable, gruff, but, I could see
the strain, and the pull in his face and the madness 
of not getting a reasonable answer as to why the love of his life
was taken from him..
Yakama Wife..A keeper.
. I will always have her ribbon shirt
and the story to tell to  complete it.

I first met. her friends,  
the man and wife deep in by the lake,
, they  had  two Rottweiler puppies
tied up in their front yard on 10 feet of rope,.
I asked my lady since
they have two young pups and we have none.
Why don't we ask them for one,
she didn't make much of  a fuss
Maybe she wasn't listening
So I walked over and asked them
if we could have a dog.. 
He said, take your pick of the male or  female pups? 
I said, they are a couple of really fine dogs.
The two Rotts were bred from 
the union of a brother and sister
We agreed upon the male.
we traded a pup for a nice VCR
a delux model for their household.
They told us our dog's name was Tsu Puk.
which meant spoiled brat
in the Kootenai language.
I didn't have any way of verifying this.,
but, I believed them
because why would they lie.
Indians don't generally lie
about important stuff like that...
Before we left them,,.
The  man of the house,,
pulled me aside
to tell my wife, 
to ,make sure we spit in his nose,..  
He told me,spitting in our puppy's nose 
let's him know
who's the  boss,
So, when he grows up,, he won't turn on either one of you. 
It seemed a bit odd to spit in his nose
but, why would they make something like that up?
So, I did as I'd been told and spit in his nose.
My wife, however, did not.
And, you know what?  he never turned on me.
He grew and grew,
and soon we had a full grown adult animal
His head as big as a gorillas.
He could knock over a grown man at a gallop.
We never neutered him nor leashed him
His territory ran about 5 square miles. 

He would voluntarily come home when it suited him.
He didn't take too much advantage of his free run.
     He used to hang out at some of the neighbors homes,
since we allowed him on the open
reservation spaces to come and go as he pleased
He would sometimes bark aggressively at folks
in the morning when they'd leave to go to work
  he'd growl menacingly near
their garage doors
terrorizing them until they 
gave him tribute, by feeding him
 enough of  something, to his satisfaction
only then he would let them pass.
I didn't know he was saavy enough
to run his own private extortion operation.
But, we got a call threatening us
'if we didn't come over to retrieve him, they'd shoot him.'
There are no shortage of firearms on a reservation.
So, after assuring me they weren't mistaken
 It wasn't some other dog'?
I ran over  there while, calling his name,
He appeared from the early morning shadows
wagging his tail all
innocent looking and happy to see me
for rescuing him
from these hysterical, misled, and unruly people.
I recalled that his name meant spoiled brat..
Still, it was impossible for me to get angry with him.
He generally wasn't overly friendly with other people,
dogs or cats, who took away any of  my time and attention
which belonged to  him.
Once, at the shore of Flathead Lake, I was throwing sticks 
into the water, playing fetch 
with this neighborhood white lab.
He never seemed to tire of
jumping in the water and bringing back  the stick
just so I would throw it from off the dock, into the lake
to jump in again and drop it back at my feet
to throw again...
Tsu Puk, had enough by now,
and began barking and pacing on the shore,
 finally bounding over
and sinking his jaws neck deep into this white lab.
His jaws were shaking hard
jerking this dog's head and neck, into contorted positions.
We never saw that dog again..
Tsu Puks kryptonite was water.
Having lived the lake,
 I  made the critical error  , 
of trying to teach him how to swim
by tossing him off the dock
into the water,
. He began swimming like a champ back to shore
But, he panicked,
and swam under the dock
just as the tide was rolling in.
He dug and he dug underneath the dock
almost drowning but somehow
he managing to dig so persistently, under the sand
 he was finally  able to get his nose
above the water line
and make his way up onto dry land.
He never went into the lake again.
        At some point, I had to give him up 
because he started to get testy,
and then aggressive with my wife,,
not having  spat in his nose as a pup.
I drove him into the big city, Missoula,  Montana,
where we spent a few final, memorable, 
days together, hanging out
making new friends,
and, panhandling for his food,
Although, I wasn't a panhandler, by trade
we  were surprisingly, successful at it.
When folks would see him, 
they'd pet him,
his strong tail wagging
his big, tongue hanging out.
I would tell them it was a hardship
for me to feed him.
since he was always so hungry, 
Actually, that wasn't much of an exxageration
They'd open their wallets
we'd make new dinner companions 
and best of all, we'd both get fed
Often we had  extra
cash left over 
to gas up the van.
One morning, we ran into a very kind
Indian man
who happened
to be in town
running some errands, 
We made some small talk
and it turned out he knew
my native wife, who was
somewhat of a local celebrity.
I told him about our
predicament and after
some discussion he looked
at our dog and said
I'll take Tsu Puk off your hands.
I was conflicted,
but another part of me knew 
I had to give him up

Since, my original mission, in town
was to find a new home for him.
Tsu Puk had become
too much dog for my woman to handle.
So,I followed him out to his house.
He had a small, ranch due west of town
it ran parallel to the main rail road tracks
heading east andwest of Missuola.
This rancher cared for  a whole slew of dogs.
When we first arrived,
The other dogs were growling and hissing at Tsu Puk
Leering at him in a very sinister way.
Showing their teeth, and appearing as if, at any moment,
they were all going to maul and kill him.
The man suggested I  come into his home, relax,
and have a soda.
I looked over at Tsu Puk
He was wagging his tail and sticking his tongue out
Not  disturbed at all..
So, I went into the man's house, and we shot the breeze for a while. 
When I came back out  less than an hour later,
to say goodbye to my dear dog, companion,
all the other dogs were catering to his every need.
Licking him, grooming him,
He was busy drinking their water and eating their food.
That was the kind of dog he was
a big brat, dominant, and carefree
If he'd flip his hell on wheels switch 
you didn't want to be on the receiving end of that crap storm.
Three weeks later 
there was a train derailment near this man's ranch.
releasing highly toxic,
chlorine gas.
All the folks
living near this train, accident
had to evacuate immediately
carrying only the clothes on their backs.
There was no time to take their animals
pets or any of their belongings,.
The  tracks where the spill occurred,
was mere blocks
from this man's ranch.
I was one of the few,
not too surprised
when several weeks later
as the local residents
were allowed to return,
Tsu Puk  had pulled through.,
He had figured out a way to survive.
I was told he looked cheerful,
healthy and well fed, 
with a glint in his eyes,,
his head held up high,
his tongue lolling
and his tail wagging. 

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Spit in his nose.