The Charlie Bravo Story

Toy Story

Toy Story

Remember the premise of the first “Toy Story” movie? How Woody was used to being Andy’s favorite, the along comes Buzz Lightyear?

Years ago, I had an American Eskimo dog named Uki. The Ukester came along at a time before we had kids, and he was the original “Charlie”, if you will . Every once in a while a dog comes along that fills a void that you didn’t even know you had, and becomes so much more than a “pet”. Even if you don’t agree that dogs like Uki and Charlie define you, you would have to agree that they at the very least define an era of your life.

I was heavily into mountain biking at the time, and Uki was well-known for being able to go along on rides as long as twenty miles, in the dead of winter. In his prime, I remember many times when he would extend his bounds so far that his curled tail would seem to touch the back of his head when he was fully extended, and it was a thing of beauty I will never forget. I’m sure that people got pretty sick of me bragging on his prowess, but being twitterpated is sometimes sickening to everyone else except the parties actually involved. I make no apologies.

Then the years began to take their toll, and the rides became shorter and slower. About that time I became infected with the duck hunting virus, and Beebe the black lab entered the picture. And with him came the guilt; Buzz Lightyear replacing Woody. Uki wanted to go, but although the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak.

It’s always too soon until it’s too late; when the time to say goodbye came and went and then came back around again, and this time could not be denied, it was horrible beyond belief. Years have passed and it still kills me to think of it. Having the Beedog around helped ease the pain, but at the same time, increased the guilt; it seemed that by enjoying the company of the one that was left, I was somehow being disloyal to the one that was gone.

Now, there’s Charlie, and she’s starting to slow just a bit. I saw it on our last big trip from the Pacific northwest, back home to Arkansas. We started with 500 mile days, then then those daily numbers began to drop as the snow, sleet, and rain of the Cascades and the Sawtooths began to take their toll. By the time that we had reached Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats, we were down to 300 miles a day, and weren’t halfway home, with the heat of Moab and altitude of the high mountain passes still to contend with.

And then there was Oklahoma, the Alzhiemers of good road trips, as that God-forsaken land of constant crosswinds blows away any previous memories of what may or may not have occurred earlier in the trip. If you like mind-numbing interstates, truck stops and overpriced fake Indian jewelry, I-40 through the Sooner State is there just for you. As for me, I would Sooner drink rancid buttermilk filtered through dirty gym socks than ride that highway west to east ever again.

Was that a bit harsh?

By the time we got back to the Casa, Charlie was whupped, and so was I. It was quite some time before she even wanted to get on the riding mower, let alone the motorcycle. We’ll probably never attempt such a excursion again. That’s not to say that our traveling days are over, far from it; we’ll just find ways to do it that are more conducive to a couple of compadres that aren’t as young as we once were. The two of us not heading west for any reason, or for no reason at all, is not in the cards; I would rather stop breathing.

But now Titus Pullo has entered the scene, and by all rights, he is a stunner. But is he a Buzz Lightyear? To some, including mom, maybe, as he is her dog. But as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one Charlie; I have too many faults to even pretend to keep track off, but a lack of loyalty is not one of them. The way I see it, the goofy girl came along at a time when I needed it most, and until the time comes to part ways forever, I will honor that debt.

Anyway, the travel bug is already biting hard even in the dead of winter, but when is it not? Sharing a sleeping bag with an inconsiderate big black bed hog is not for the right-thinking among us, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, which speaks volumes for how faulty my wiring might be…

We be of one blood, ye and I.

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