The first time I experienced big people whooping it up was at the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association convention in Silver City. It was 1956 and I was enjoying the summer between the fourth and fifth grades.
We spent Saturday checking out the relics and sharing the town with the cattlemen and every other tourist who had come to check out the big party—although I was too young to know a big party was in store. As evening approached mom cooked dinner over the campfire and after the dishes were dried we headed to the big Masonic Hall, an ancient wooden structure precariously bridging Jordan Creek.
Other than the girls assigned to me in Lowell Grade School dance classes in Boise, I had never cut a rug with anyone except my mom, so I pestered her for dances until nearly the last song. She finally convinced me to go ask a little girl sitting three tables down. Wow! I found out girls say yes, they would like to dance! She and I enjoyed a few dances, trying to keep out from under the cowboy’s flailing boots.
And man, did those cattlemen love to dance! The old building shook and bounced and trembled but somehow managed to keep from breaking right in two and falling into the creek. But then, that building has seen many a raucous time and still does today for all I know.
On the way back to camp we passed a drunken cowboy just as he pointed out a truck and confidently impressed his buddy with his spelling talents: “Jeep — J-E-P-P.” Dad moved between we and the revelers.
There was whooping it up in the trembling Masonic Hall and more whoops on the street, but they were tame compared to our arrival the night before, all thanks to Flip.
Flip was a young, frisky, beagle-lab mix of a pound rescue. He knew that once we were on dirt roads he could get out and run beside the car. By the time we were a half mile on the dirt road to Silver city he was yowling and whining and barking and bouncing all over the car, beside himself with anticipation. Soon he was out, running full tilt as dad drove just slow enough so he could stay in front of us. It was downright doggy delight. Then Flip’s first jackrabbit darted across the road. Flip cut in front of the car and was gone into the desert.
We called and honked and yelled. It was hours before Flip was back in sight, much less back in the car.
We had planned on setting up camp with plenty of sunlight but our arrival at the campground was after dark and all the good people had nestled their heads down for a good night’s sleep. There were six of us—two adults, three kids, and one excited dog—with a big wall-sided tent to put up and pots and pans to rattle around fixing some grub. It was all done in headlights, flashlights, and stumbling around in the dark.
About the time the commotion settled down Flip returned from his exploring, whimpering and rubbing his nose. Dad’s flashlight revealed a snout full of porcupine quills.
Dad got the pliers and Mom did her best to hold him still, but Flip was having nothing to do with those quills being pulled. We kids cried and yelled, then screamed, about hurting poor Flip. Mom and Dad were trying to keep their voices down but nerves were on edge. Finally Dad got a noose around Flip’s nose and Flip immediately gave up.
The pliers pulled the skin around his mouth to the ripping point. Just when his lips were ready to split from his skull the quill would let go. One by one the task went on until the last quill released. Then Dad found more quills on the inside of Flip’s lips and in his tongue and gums, and he pulled those as well.
We got to bed by three in the morning, wondering how we’d be able to feed Flip through his swollen mouth. But come morning, Flip was poking his nose in our faces, eager to have us up, chipper as a sparrow and without a sign of ever having been riddled with the effects of arguing with barbed quills.
Our fellow campers remembered our arrival much longer than it took Flip to recover. Even so, in all our subsequent outdoor adventures he never again argued with a porcupine.
My dad Merrill, sister Nyla, myself and sister Vicky
Silver City, 1956
Masonic Hall, Silver City, Idaho
October 9, 2006