Something's wrong with Roo

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There’s something wrong with Roo. She doesn’t want to walk much and she’s eating less. I took her to the vet in Asheville, and she got a clean bill of health, but I don’t beleive it. I took Roo to that clinic because it used to be good, but Roo’s old vet wasn’t there. This time, a young vet cam in. She was wearing the biggest diamond ring I’ve ever seen — and I grew up in the building in New York where Zsa Zsa Gabor lived, and even though she liked ‘em big, old Zsa Zsa would have drawn the line at this one. This diamond was the sort of thing Saudi princes in Monte Carlo hand out to guarantee the good humor of Russian hookers sent as a personal favor by Vladimir Putin to make up for getting stiffed when he sent them to Trump. Just being in the same room with a diamond that size was distracting. Not only because it kept glinting at everything — the vet was small and the weight of the rock as hard for her to handle. She had to constantly rearrange it on her finger as the force of gravity pulled it down and lodged itself on the palm side of her finger where it felt like she was holding a handful of gravel. She was the worst vet I have ever encountered. She answered no questions, made no comments, smirked as she tried to control herself from saying what she really thought about my questions. She did a check up, gave me something for Roo’s sore and handed me a bill for $300. 

We went to Asheville when the cold blasted us out of Virginia and we were forced to move southward to avoid the next wave of it. Roo didn’t seem to be doing badly, other than a sore she picked up on her back leg. The sore was probably caused by a burr, and it was not a big deal.

The previous weeks of cold were hell. Just opening the door of the camper meant the inside air temp would drop to five degrees and have to be nursed back up to a survivable range. It was too cold even for Roo. That was when she started wanting to walk less, and I assumed it was just because it was too cold. Then I began to think that the reduction in her usual routine might have accounted for her slowing down.

No offense to those of you in the South, but I wasn’t enthused about the idea of going back there. The Confederate flags, the incredible levels of segregation and racism, the Trump signs everywhere. Crumbling schools, gleaming gun shops, big-hair Prosperity Gospel preachers with vanity license plates. I’m pretty sure I saw one that said JE$U$ and had a state-issued anti-abortion message on it. Every parking lot has a couple of crackers standing around smoking Camels out of a flourescent-colored pack and sneaking swigs of beer out of paper bags. Every one of them looking around to see if you’ve been sent by the Lord to fulfill their dream of finally getting to shoot someone. If you’re white, you have the advantage of their knowing youre off-limits. In the southern woods, there are frequent nighttime hobbyist explosions and campground gunfire. The sound of Liberty, they like to say. 

The poorer the southern town — the poorest are of course African-American — the more it is geared to sucking every last dime out of the citizens. Go to a Piggly-Wiggly in any town where there is not another grocery store withing 20 miles, and milk costs more than it does at a Whole Foods in Santa Monica. The bread trucks get there last and the bread they deliver was turned away by the managers of other stores for being crushed or stale. And since that malevolent blimp Trump appeared on the horizon, airborne on the strength of hot bullshit about to burst and rain its stinking bile on all below, there is increased hatred and suspicion everywhere. You feel it constantly. I was in a pharmacy the day Trump called some African countries shitholes. The pharmacist was from one of the shitholes, and you could see how hurt he was. I asked him if I could shake his hand and thank him for being here and that he wasn't the only one who would have to wait the bastards out but that we would and they could all go to hell. My prescription happened to be ready a lot quicker than those of some others ahead of me. The South is hellish. And, it’s intent on dragging the rest of the country down to its level. Arkansas senators saying that too bad if you were only two when you broke the law. You were still a wetback, weren’t you? Okay, then. Get the hell out. Alabama Republicans getting behind a child predator. The main complaint seems to be the deep desire to get rid of “political correctness,” otherwise known as being able to refer to a black person in the language of a lynch mob, and hopefully, get back to a system of justice that understands the clear necessity of the lynch mob itself. Isn’t that what JE$U$ would have wanted? That and a few more guns in the hands of the righteous?

But we had to go. The cold had been too extreme. The wind chill had dropped to twenty-five below zero one night, curtailing the amount of time Roo spent rolling in the grass when she went out to pee. 

I wondered if the extended period during which we were stuck in the trailer almost 24 hours a day because of the brutal cold had anything to do with Roo not feeling well. She is, after all, used to being a field dog. She put some weight on, but I chalked that up to the lack of exercise. So, my main concern was getting her someplace where she could run and dig and swim. I chose Pine Mountain, Georgia because there is a state park there close to Warm Springs, the place Franklin Roosevelt went to for his polio treatments, a place he loved and the place where he died in 1945. His home there is movingly simple, just a little, three-room white clapboard house with pine-paneled walls. His bedroom is the size of a bed and a desk with a straightback wheelchair. The living room only big enough for a sofa and a couple of armchairs. There’s something good just about being in FDR’s old neighborhood. And, with the predicted improvement in the weather, Roo would be able to do her thing.

For a few days she did do some running around. She dug a few holes and splashed in a few muddy streams. But, when it snowed unexpectedly one night and she wasn’t too excited about the snow, I began to worry. And she seems to be tiring quickly. Most of the time, as soon as we get outside, she asks to carry her leash, which is her way of saying she wants to go back. And, over the last few days, she seems to be eating less. Something’s up.

I’d rather get squashed under a rock again than make another 800-mile drive, but the only idea I have is to take Roo back to her favorite place, and it happens to be 800 miles west, that campground on the ranch in Oklahoma. She has more liberty there than just about anywhere. She rarely needs to be leashed and there are entire pastures where she is safe to wander and hunt at her own pace without much danger as long as the cottonmouths are still hibernating. It’s filled with rats and everyone else she likes to chase and dig up. And, Dr. Stokes, the vet who took care of her last year, is there, and he is one of the greats. 

So, that’s where we’re off too. I’m not confident that the truck is up to it, let alone the last of the credit cards, but we’re going to give it a shot.

I have made so many bad decisions. The days when you wonder if it’s possible to get more tired start to add up. I hope this isn’t another one of them, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve got to try to get Roo back on track.

I found another deer. This is a story of cruelty, so you may not want to read this any more than I wanted to write it.

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I found another deer a few days ago on the other side of the chain link fence around a baseball diamond, close to first base. He was a young buck lying on his side, struggling, but he couldn’t move his back legs. He was only 150 feet or so away from the camper, and as soon as I saw him I took Roo back and put her inside. When I came back and got close enough to try to see what was wrong with him, it only terrified him and made him thrash, so I backed off. He had some blood on his chest. I called around in the dim hope that some wildlife rehabilitator might be able to help, but everyone I spoke to said the deer would have to be shot. It looked like he had been already.

A woman at the camp knew the game warden and called him. He was only about 15 minutes away. Before he got there, officialdom had been set in motion and some cop showed up and asked me where the deer was and I told him, “Over there. Getting closer just scares him and makes him thrash around. I thought it’d be better to let him have some calm.” 

“Probably one of these guys up in here that’s got a silencer. They like to pop ‘em for fun.”

“What an asshole thing to do,” I said. “And silencers. Great.”

I understood from the dirty look he gave me that he had been referring to popping ‘em with a silencer as something admirable. The way the Second Amendment guarantees a man’s right to maim wildlife in residential neighborhoods. For fun.

The cop was one of those cops who became a cop to get revenge. He still wore the Moe haircut the other kids in middle school must have tortured him about. It clashed with his high-tech Robo Cop mirrored wraparound sunglasses. 

Of course the dumbass had to drive around the fence and park his SUV cruiser right in front of the deer and get out and look him over and terrorize him. He wore his Taser in front like a codpiece and was festooned with more gear than a Navy SEAL. All that for a rural Virginia beat. Granted, he probably came up against the random meth head from time to time, but he was wearing the kind of gear you wear on the day ISIS shows up to shove sharia law up the Commonwealth of Virginia’s ass.

He stood right next to the deer and terrorized him. He wouldn’t give him the twenty feet that would have kept him from thrashing around. I hate to see fear in an animal. I hate to see it in anyone. Nothing is worse than fear. In the end, fear is the only thing that alone who is scared of death is scared of. Death is nothing. What people and animals are scared of is what it feels like to die.

“Any chance you could give that deer a little room?” I said to the cop. He gave me a look I’ve seen before from that kind of cop. The look of someone who has to remember how to spell “Resisting Arrest,” no matter how many times he charged someone who didn’t resist a thing with it. 

He wouldn’t move away from the deer. I figured that he’d make more of a point of it if I was there. I wasn’t doing any good, anyway. The game warden would be there and I had to get to Roo before a gunshot.

I heard the game warden show up as I got to the camper. He was a professional and not interested in letting the deer suffer. He waved the cop aside and before I had the door open to get to Roo he leveled his pistol at the deer’s head and shot him. I opened the door and was surprised that Roo hadn’t bolted to a corner. She must have been asleep. It set her a little on edge, but that was it. I left her inside and, I don’t know why, went back to the deer. They were looking him over, moving his foreleg up to get a look at his chest. The deer didn’t seem dead.

“That’s just nerves,” the game warden said to me.

“You sure?” I said. I hated the whole thing. The whole planet. The whole universe for requiring so much suffering and destruction all the time, all of it, from all the stars blowing up all the time and galaxies colliding 15 billion light years away to people getting bombed and lynched here to ants getting squashed to shitheads with drinking Bud Lites and shooting deer from their back yards with silencers because they think it’s fun, even if the occasional stray bullet cripples a four-year-old playing in a swing set in the neighbor’s yard from time to time. That’s the sound of Liberty you hear. That's the sound of the Second Amendment, son. The only goddamn part of the Constitution of the United States handed down to man by Jesus Himself.

“No, he’s not feeling anything,” the game warden said to me. “You can see where I hit him, and that’s with a .40 caliber.”

“Musta been one of these guys up in here got silencers shot him,” the cop said. “They do shit like that. You know that anybody with a FFL can get a silencer?” He grabbed the deer’s foreleg and the deer jerked it back.

What the hell was with this cop. “Why don't you let him die in peace?” I said.

The cop looked at me. He stood up. He couldn't help himself and he poked the deer in the chest with his boot.

“Are you sure that deer doesn’t need a second shot?” I said to the warden. It wasn’t as if I liked anyone shooting a gun off a hundred feet from Roo.

“Naw. That’s just nerves,” he said. “Can you get Public Works to come out and get him?” the game warden said to the cop.

“Yeah, but they’re done for today. They'll get him tomorrow.”

“Well, it’s cold enough that he won’t start stinking or anything,” the game warden said. Eventually the deer died. The game warden and the cop got in their vehicles and left. I stayed with the deer for a while and, maybe because I’ve been writing about what happened in the Himalaya and it came to mind, said a small Tibetan prayer they say over there to honor the spirits of animals when they die. I probably got it wrong but it couldn’t hurt. Nothing would have mattered but whether it was heartfelt.

I went back to get Roo out of the camper and take her for a walk. Nearby, a man was walking a fat Chihuahua. I went over and said, “If you could use a deer, there’s one here that hasn’t been dead more than fifteen minutes.”

“What happened to it?” he said.

“He was lying hurt in the baseball field. The game warden came and shot him.”

“Good deer?”

“Yeah, he was a good deer,” I said.

“Be a shame to let it go to waste.” he said. 

“Yeah,” I said. “It would be.”

“Well, my brother would probably like him. I’ll give him a call."

About 20 minutes later his brother showed up in an old pickup, painted in matte primer green, all the better to keep from glinting in the woods. Roo and I were back in the camper by then and I saw them from the window. He was a big guy. He dropped the tailgate of his truck and picked the little buck up by all four legs and swung him up and into the bed. He and his brother talked out there for a couple of minutes, maybe about the way things work out sometimes, and then the one brother drove off while the other went the other way with Eddie, which was what I found out the Chihuahua was named.

Later, Roo found the spot where the deer died and licked the frozen blood from the grass. She was as intent as a wolf, and I didn't stop her. She spent a long time there.

Rock, Scissors, Paper — Roo Style

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Weather forecasts for the next ten days predicted them to remain above freezing, but they were wrong, and with a new wave of cold on the way, Roo and I had to bolt southwards on Wednesday. On Tuesday, a small sore she had developed on her back leg, on the hock right next to the cut she got in Maine a couple of months ago, started to look puffy. Between that and having to make an appearance in my state of legal residence, North Carolina (which was recently classified as one of the world’s lowest functioning democracies, by the way) for a bunch of tasks, we headed to Asheville. I liked the vet she had there. She was the one who figured out how to fix Roo’s hot spots a few years ago, so it seemed like a good idea to go see her.

Before leaving, while I was doing all the chores to pick up stakes, Roo sat outside. It wasn’t cold, and she just lay in the grass, wondering what catastrophe it night have been that had at some point in the past struck the place and wiped it clear of mouses. It had been a disappointing place for her. She was not sorry to go. 

Getting ready to go took a lot longer than I expected, and when we were finally ready, one of my gloves was missing.

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I hate to lose a glove. Especially this glove. It’s not much of a glove, but I like it. We go back a long way. Nearly ten years. It used to be a flying glove and it never let me down. It’s made of kangaroo skin, and though I’m sorry about that, there’s nothing quite like a kangaroo glove, as it turns out. Instead of letting it go, I patrolled the ground and wasted another 30 minutes. It had to be there. I checked the garbage cans. I checked the flooded ground where the valve on a hydrant came loose and grew a pond on the ground. I just had to be there, and it annoyed me no end to lose it like that.

Finally, though, I had to give it up. We had 270 miles to drive and we had to make it that night because my doctor was kind enough to make a special appointment to see me early this morning.

Roo had been waiting in the car while I searched for the glove. I got in and told her the glove was gone. 

“Damn it, Chig. I hate to lose that glove.”

Roo has a way of demonstrating her disinterest in a subject by closing her eyes in preparation for sleep. Of course, the second we would get underway she would start batting me with her law to get my attention, but when it came to the glove, she did not care.

“I really do. I hate to lose that glove.”

She nestled her head onto the seat a little harder, as if some irritation was keeping her from getting comfortable.

Just as I started to pull out, a smiling woman pulled up in a pickup truck and waved at me to roll the window down, which I did.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“I have something for you,” she said. She was holding a brightly painted object in her hand.

I got out of the car and went to her window.

“I’ve seen you around here and said to my husband, ‘You know what? I’d like to give that fellow one of the rocks.’ I used to paint these,” she said. “So, this is for you.” She gave me the rock.

“Aww,” I said. That’s just about the sweetest thing ever.” And it was. She gave me the rock. Whoever was living in the rock was wearing sunglasses and had a big smile, seeming as happy to embark on its next journey as she was to dispatch it. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you.” And I meant it. What a lovely gesture. It more than made up for the glove. Sometimes people and the things that happen surprise you.

I asked her if I could take a picture of her giving me the rock and she laughed and said, “Oh, no! With me looking the way I do?”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “You look absolutely beautiful.”

“Well, all right,” she said, and I took the picture. I thanked her again and she said good-bye and pulled head of us, waving at us in the rearview. I had never seen her before. She had some hip trouble and just getting out into the truck to see us off with the rock took a special effort.

We got on the damnable road and Roo and I were trying to make time. Roo wasn’t enjoying the drive. For one thing, the extreme cold prevented her from getting her usual level of exercise, and, when I tell her it’s going to be a driving day, she understands that she’s going to be sitting there going out of her mind with boredom. She commands this by insisting on staying in the front seat instead of stretching out more comfortably in the back, which I suspect she does because in the front seat she can harass me constantly to pet her. The only break she got in the slog was when an error in my fuel calculation went off by a single mile and we ran out of gas. I was going for maximum range in order to make one intermediate fuel stop instead of two. I had chosen a route to avoid the hills, but there were still more than I expected and it threw me off. Had this happened to Neil Armstrong when he landed the Lunar Landing Module on the surface of the Moon with one second of fuel remaining, that would have been that, but we were just in Virginia. But, because it happened just after a spot where a couple of cops were lying in wait for speeders, and I didn’t want a visit from them because of the expired registrations on the truck and the trailer, I was inclined to hurry to top the tank off from one of the gas cans I have in the back.

Eventually we reached Asheville. It was an ugly night, dripping and humid and threatening the heavy rain about to hit. Roo, as usual, having been complaining about driving for so long, now refused to get out of the car. This is her usual position. It’s her way of sending a scout ahead to draw sniper fire. 

“Fine,” I told her. “Stay there all you like.” I clipped her Flexi on and extended it to its full length and left the door open so she could come, within reason, when she liked. I was too exhausted to insist. 

A minute later, a lot sooner than usual, she came out of the car. She was holding something in her mouth and giving me the slow wag of the successful prankster. The missing glove. She must have stolen it when I dropped it somewhere when I was breaking camp. And she must have buried it someplace in the car. She gave me one of those looks with her head slightly down under the weight of her own grin, and brought it inside. She has a spot she lies down in to signal that, as per her contract, she is owed a cookie. She went there and put the glove down. And got her cookie. 

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Note to readers of The Dog in the Clouds

FIrst of all, thank you for subscribing to The Dog in the Clouds.

As you may know, the site's title is based on an experience I had many years ago in Kathmandu. I saw a dog in the clouds and spent a couple of years looking for him. I've been writing that story, and publishing it in about 4 parts on a page for subscribers only. I have to do this because weeks of work goes into these long pieces and this is the only way I can try to earn some money from them.

The story will also be available to all of you who were part of any of the fundraising campaigns five years ago, either Kickstarter or Indiegogo. If that applies to you, please send a return email to The Dog Calling newsletter and I'll send you the link.

Otherwise, I hope you'll consider joining the Patreon campaign. Really, all it is is a high-tech way to leave a tip. You decide how much. All you get in return are some stories, so I understand that's not an especially appealing deal in the time of free internet.

But, if you enjoyed the Roo book, this current piece about The Dog in the Clouds might be for you. In it I part with some of the things that have been too difficult for me to write about for many years. It's not for me to evaluate whether it's any good, but it is as good as I'm able to make it. If you've ever felt like you'd make a great patron of the arts, give it a try. It's easy, secure and not at all expensive — you decide on anything from a buck on up.

Thank you,

Brian

Classic Roo: The Struggle to Wake Roo Up

Two days after Roo and I left Los Angeles for good (which was at the end of the Roo book, which you can find here), we were in a motel in Colorado. Two months earlier, Roo had been mistaken for a three-year-old, but turned out to be a puppy of eight months. Apart from having a lot of physical healing to do, being in the constant state of fear she had been in must have made it hard to get the amount of sleep a puppy needs, so she made a project of catching up. This is an example of how soundly she was beginning to sleep. It's still one of her principal hobbies. These days, now that she's over six, she seems finally to have agreed that getting a last pee in at night is a good idea. The real reason I think she likes to do that, though, is so that she can stay in bed until at least 11 AM. 

A note to any actors watching this video: Note Roo's technique for dealing with a director who insists on a realistic sleep shot. Even the finest actors can have a hard time keeping their eyes steady enough to realistically appear asleep, especially under the stress of repeated takes on a busy set. Roo, a born actor, chose instead merely to suggest sleep, to allow the idea of sleep to form in the audience's mind, by the simple trick of sticking her head under a pillow.

If you'd like to support Roo's regal lifestyle, you can either message me for the full list of our cryptocurrency addresses, or just sign up for our Patreon campaign. It's a great way to leave a tip, and if you do, I'll whisper your name in Roo's ear next time she's dreaming so she'll dream of you.

And a tip of the snout to Rebecca Shelor for the idea of renaming The Historic Roo Video Collection to Classic Roo.

Dog Dynasty

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It's been getting pretty cold lately, and it's on the way to getting colder. I'm starting to wonder if there isn't something to the old saying about "When hell freezes over." Maybe it is now. If there is a God, perhaps she has just decided to freeze the whole country cryogenically until a cure can be found sometime in the future.

But, in the meantime, when it gets as cold as this, there are certain steps that the average cracker out in the wild with a dog has to take. Trailers — at least the kinds manufactured by Amish con artists — are not able to withstand low temperatures. There are two problems: the first is that, because the entire plumbing system is mounted underneath and exposed to whatever the ambient temperature is, it is easily prone to freezing and bursting. The second is keeping warm inside. This second problem isn't hard to deal with. There is a propane heating system. It makes the camper warm by switching on a heating element under the sink and then blowing the air out by means of what sounds like a surplus jet engine from the Korean conflict. No one worried about quiet engines in those days. If there's sufficient electricity, a space heater suffices.

Keeping the bottom of the camper from freezing is much more difficult. The only way to do it is to create a barrier of some kind, called a skirt, around the entire bottom of the camper. There are commercial systems available for that, heavy canvas that you attach to snaps mounted on the camper.

In search of a cheaper alternative, I had several ideas. The first was simply to wrap it up in that clear plastic wrap furniture movers use, the stuff like giant rolls of Saran Wrap. That didn't work. I finally settled on some cheap foam board. It's a terrible production getting it on. There are all sorts of places where it has to be trimmed and fitted and it's brittle stuff and it flops around in the wind.

If you have a dog watching you when you're trying to do this, the dog assumes you've lost your mind. They lie there, luxuriating in the feeling of freezing grass, and give you that kind of questioning look, especially when the job drags on for hours.

But it has to be done if you're stuck for any prolonged period in extremely cold temperatures. In our case, the idea of traveling farther south was too disturbing. We're in Virginia now. South of here is North Carolina, where it's every bit as cold, and after that you get to where the Trump lawn signs are still up. Most of the rest of the country had the good taste to replace those, in a complicated move that had to have been coordinated by a nationwide cabal of Evengelical preachers, with pre-positioned Thank You, Jesus signs. They were swapped out on the night of the election last year as if someone had thrown a switch. My feeling is that if Jesus had a pickup truck and a baseball bat he'd have driven the backroads and knocked every one of them down.

Well, once I finally got the thing sort of attached, it was time to take Roo for a walk. I knew she was going to go swimming. There's a river nearby and it hadn't frozen over yet, and those are especially hard for her to pass up. I was wearing five or six layers of t-shits, thermal underwear, frayed old Brooks Brothers shirts (they are my last holdout on the way to becoming a complete cracker), scarves and so on. None of it mattered. It was as if I was running naked on the way to an ice bath in Siberia. 

When we got back to the campground, Roo was iced up from her swim. The burrs in her coat were frozen in place. She was feeling great. She wasn't the one who was going to have to spend the next hour cleaning her up. She was a little tired, though, and walking slowly.

Few other people are out in this weather, especially in RVs. An old man was puttering around with something outside a well-kept old motorhome and Roo drifted over in his direction.

We had met him the other day when Roo walked over to him and he turned around and yelled at me: "Hey! That dog's got to be on a leash!"

"Oh, sorry," I said. "She won't bother you."

"I don't care! I don't want to be stepping in any dog crap over here!"

"You won't be stepping in any of hers, mister," I said. No one likes being yelled at.

"I already did! Stepped in some right over here!"

"Well, it wasn't hers, I can guarantee you."

"You better watch out," he said. "I work for the park."

"I don't care of you're the head of the goddamned KGB. You haven't got the right to yell at anybody like that," I said, and I kept going.

A minute later the old guy drove up in a little white car and rolled his window down. I looked at him, wondering now what.

"I'm sorry about that," he said, "and I owe you an apology. I don't know what come over me. Wasn't right what I did. You were right."

"Oh, hell," I said. "No hard feelings." I went over and shook his hand and said, "I'll tell you what. You're a hell of good old coot to say it."

"I don't know," he said. "I'm eighty-five now, maybe that's it."

"Eighty-five? Well, you don't look a day over ninety," I said. Every guy who makes it into his eighties has been on one end or the other of that crack for decades. I told him my name and he told me his was Franklin and I asked him which Franklin they named him after.

"Well, it was 1933," he said, and trailed off. He was hesitant to fill in the rest. To claim the other Franklin he would have had to say it was 1780. I sensed that this might be because of the burden of carrying the name of a Democrat around for nearly a century. A New York Democrat, at that. Everybody knows they're the worst kind. I'm one, myself.

"Franklin Roosevelt," I said. 

He nodded a little gravely.

"He was a great man," I said. "I admire him enough to have a picture of him up on the wall in my camper," which I do. Every time I look at it I wonder if he's buried in the suit in that picture and how well it's been holding up with all the rolling over in his grave he's been doing lately. It's probably more frayed than my old Brooks shirts, which may have been sold to me by someone who sold him that suit, come to think of it.

The subject of the skirting on my trailer came up. He told me that his son had spotted it and told him about it and said, "What's the guy doing? Is he moving in?"

"No, not going to do that," I said. 

The day after Christmas Roo and I were walking back again and there was old Franklin again and Roo trotted right up to him and he gave her a few friendly pats and scratches. A real dog man. You can always tell. Roo liked him.

"Hello, there, Franklin," I said. "How're you doing?"

"Doing good, doing good. How are you?"

"Just fine, thanks. How was your Christmas?"

"It was good," he said. "We had about twenty of the family over to the son's house. And you know what?"

No, sir. What?"

"I thought about you."

"Good thoughts, I hope."

"I thought about you."

"Well, Franklin," I said, "I really appreciate that."

"Okay," he said.

 

How Roo and I became filthy rich today

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I've always been interested in the practical side of cryptography and stuff like digital currencies, more as a matter of curiosity than anything else. It started with needing to help some friends fighting a revolution in Burma figure out how to communicate securely, and went on from there. So, back in 2011, when Bitcoin was the first of the new wave of digital currencies, and only worth a few cents, I used to mess around with them. I learned how to buy them and trade them and just generally fart around with them. It was a harmless distraction, and what with the price always going up, I probably made a couple of hundred bucks, fifty cents at a time, back then.

Well, with the price of Bitcoin having edged up to nearly $20,000 each (they've gone up 178,000 percent), I thought I'd rummage in the digital sofa cushions for lost change. I have nine hard drives with me, and there was a chance that a forgotten wallet file from back then might still be there.

So, I hooked the drives up one at a time, and, my, my... lookee here, baby... what did I find, but the old digital wallet. It was stuffed to the tune of 21.5 Bitcoin. Though the price had fallen in the time I was conducting the search to a meager $16,800 each, I wasn't too severely disappointed. If I had to settle for $360,000, then I would just buck up and put a brave face on it. Rather than speculate further, I would call it a day at the baccarat table, tip the lovely dealer and cash them in en masse and transfer the resulting torrent of dollars to a checking account. I'd better just send a third of the windfall straight to the IRS so I wouldn't get too used to having it close to hand. I could be too easily tempted to start amassing a collection of old mandolins and vintage British motorcycles. I told Roo to get ready for the good stuff. She was about to get back on the good jerky. She would obviously require a more expensive and dignified name, one that spared no expense on the numbers of letters in it. I allowed my mind to wander over the country we had lately seen in such great detail. Where would we live, now that we could, within reason, choose any place we liked? The sudden freedom and hope of the thing was too much. I was getting too far out ahead of myself. Better to start modestly. I'd hitch the trailer up for one last ride out West, where I would shove it into a ravine just south of that hellhole up at Dismal Lake that it almost went into the first time around.

I was glad to learn that coming into so much unexpected cash wasn't changing me one bit. I didn't allow myself to sink into an easy, cushy lifestyle. Unlike most of the wealthy, I remained interested in more than myself. My curiosity about the world was undiminished. So undiminished, in fact, that before I hitched the trailer up for its death march to Idaho, and because I had learned about Bitcoin way back then and have a pretty good understanding of how it works, it occurred to me that the $400K figure might have been off. The interface between the complex worldwide system of Bitcoin nodes and the wallet software on one's personal computer could conceivably have produced some kind of error. 

I was rusty on the procedures, so it took several hours to arrive at a final determination of just how rich Roo and I were. I won't bore you with the technicalities, because it is nothing but the worst kind of them, but after a lengthy process involving checking the cryptological addresses of all those old Bitcoins against their combined histories on the blockchain, a concrete valuation of my towering cash portfolio eventually emerged. The initial $400,000 estimate was only off by a little — depending on whether you counted up or down from the $400,000. It was off by $399,700. In the typical way of such errors, it was in the bank's favor.

It was nice while it lasted. 

In case you've never seen one, is what a Bitcoin address looks like:

1GsvpKfBZPPeiN24FNHXKsAMVzHeizjLV6  If you need any practice using them, feel free to try that one.

Otherwise, damn the damn things.