I’m often reminded that people who have lived in the city their entire lives do not understand the rules of the country. And believe me city dwellers, when you cross that city limit sign – the rules have changed.
Now it isn’t as if you’ve crossed into the Appalachian mountain range, and are entering Hatfield and McCoy territory. The people of the surrounding Manteca countryside are as cultured as the rest. We own books, and even have running water in most homes. We also have something many these days seem to go without: Manners and common sense. Case in point.
It was a few weeks back that I took a tongue lashing from a biker. Not the type of biker in a leather vest, flying his colors, and representing an Easy Rider lifestyle. I’m talking about expensive 10-speed bike dude gussied up in full Lance Armstrong regalia wearing a bright yellow skin-tight big bird jumpsuit. Oddly shaped aerodynamic cone helmet that not only cuts through the wind – but through any allusion that would have me take them seriously. I’m being a little tongue in cheek. But c’mon, you aren’t riding the Tour de France down Austin Road. Shorts and a tee shirt will do...yet I digress...
There is actually a large group of these characters that make their way past my home on a daily basis. A bicycling club from Ripon I’ve been told. And I’ve been told by actual members of the group, the few who have stopped for a second to just say hi. Bicyclists that are usually near the rear of the pack of 30-40 riders, and are in the shorts and tees I spoke of. Regular men and women not putting on airs, in hopes of fooling themselves and others into believing, that they are anything other than people out for a nice bike ride in the country.
The kind of people whose self-awareness lets them know one empirical fact of riding a bicycle through the country: You’re gonna get chased by dogs!
I’m not talking south of the Bypass country – Woodward Park area. We are talking beyond West Ripon road - “...where the deer and the antelope play” I believe the song says, or in this case dairy and farm dogs.
You can’t on one hand make the decision to enjoy the sights and sounds of the country on your bike, and then moan and complain when an integral part of that scene shows itself.
The country is full of dogs. Working dogs that are not only allowed to roam freely in their owner’s yards – but are expected to do so. This is their turf. If you were on an African Savanna sightseeing tour, you’d expect the lions to approach your Land Rover out of curiosity? Well dogs are the lions of south Manteca.
Who do you complain to when a bird flies by your bike? Do bees get a pass? Believe me, being chased by dogs is a rite of passage that all country kids know. In my day we didn’t have expensive ten speeds with which to out run these “Terrier Terrors” — just an old Huffy and guts. Build a game plan. We did as 10-year-olds out here. My friends and myself knew exactly which house had a chase dog and took steps to either avoid it. Or recognize the fact that they just want to chase. Not bite.
It was the late great Richard Pryor that spoke the best piece of advice I can give on this issue.
“If you and me are in the woods, and we come across a bear, I don’t need to be faster than the bear to survive – I just gotta’ be faster than you!”
By having a dog loose in my front yard, I have in essence given you incentive to become a better bicyclist. Peddle faster, and just don’t be last. This is natural selection at its finest.
I realize a few of you are probably thinking “Why does he think he can have a dog free to roam around his home?!” (I hope everyone read that in an extremely whiny voice – cause that is how that complaint sounds.)
I have news for you. If a dog in the country is vicious enough to bite someone, then it is either tethered or penned. We are country people, mostly farmers, with different people in and out of our yards all day. There is absolutely no benefit to having a dog that will keep a delivery person from our door.
And unlike city dogs, country dogs live outside their whole life. As a young boy it always made me feel bad that our dogs were not allowed in the house. This was a steadfast rule. Country dogs spend the day in dirt, manure, weeds, roadkill – or much of the trash city folk see fit to toss in our orchards. I’d try to sneak my dogs inside, but soon learned, that an animal acclimated to being outside – freaks out when confined to a house. I own Queensland Heelers. These animals would prefer laying in the rain, as opposed to a throw rug in front of a television though I’ve had to make exceptions for Deaf Puppy.
They survive the heat, cold, rain, wind – and occasional religious pamphlet peddler. Not to mention the thieves looking to stalk out a victim. The countryside is loaded with easy pickings: Outside fuel tanks, equipment, tools, etc etc. The only thing we ask of our pets out here is to bark loudly when someone approaches at night. And for this honorable duty they serve, I will be damned if I’m gonna’ sequester my 2 dogs in the backyard during the day. The orchards and surrounding areas are their Savanna to learn and roam.
When you are south of West Ripon road, you are on their turf. Bicyclist beware.
Yet this last week, I had a knock at my front door only to find a Lance Armstrong impersonator standing in front of me. Let me repeat that.
A knock at my front door??!!...To address me about the dogs you are afraid of?...The ones 10 feet away pawing at an old tennis ball?
“This is the 3rd or 4th time your dog has chased us – are you gonna’ do something about it?!”
Please tell me that you are seeing this picture. A man apparently so terrified of my pet’s vicious nature, that he was able to walk up to my front door, wearing a full sized banana skin and space helmet?!!
But make no bones about it. I hate when my dogs chase the bicyclists, and have tried to break them of this habit. I immediately turn to my older dog Charlie, and give him the business. “Charlie!...You know better than....”...and just as Charlie began his standard cower and slink away, the bicyclist says “Not that one...the other one”...(I felt terrible, knowing that Charlie has long been broken of his “chase instinct”)
There are moments in life that the comedy God’s just drop into your lap.
“Ohhhh that one?!..The one with the tennis ball in her mouth?.. The one the size of a raccoon and just as cute?...The deaf one currently acting like she’s a lion stalking my lawnmower?!”
The Deaf Puppy.
I explained that she is deaf, and wasn’t capable of beating up my lawnmower, much less a full sized man dressed like a rubber duck. He took no solace in my attempt at sarcastic brevity. And I understand that some people are simply not comfortable around dogs of any size or temperament. This was not his case, as he stood on my front steps like a human school bus picking up kids.
“You’ve been outside when she runs into the road to chase us....” he continued.
The inner workings of owning a deaf pup are usually lost upon people. I once again explained that she is deaf, and when she decides to run off, I am unable to call her back which I hoped he’d understand. Her running into the road is in fact my biggest fear, something I’ve almost broken her of. But the sight of 30-40 people in a row bicycling activates her primal instinct to chase.
My attempt to appeal to him as a human almost worked. I explained that she understands hand commands, and took a second to show him “The Closed Fist”...She knows that a closed fist held out front, a la John Carlos and Tommy Smith at the Mexico City Olympics, means “Stop and Sit!”
“I don’t have time to be stopping and giving hand commands...I’m out here trying to bike.” — said the man who apparently did have the time to dress like a plain cheese omelette that day.
We were at an impasse. So I gave Deaf Puppy the “come in the house” command. (a finger point, followed by a double thigh pat – sort of a reverse Leather Tuscadero.)
He actually cracked a quick smile at seeing a cute deaf pup obey a command. That smile soon left his face. As I gave him the same command, and pointed towards the road – which he also obeyed.
It’s nice to see that bicyclists and deaf puppies can both be reasoned with, and understand simple commands. In the words of Fonzie “Ayyyyyyye”
Deaf Puppy Comedy Show...July 9 at The Pub and Lounge. The Deaf Puppy comedy crew present: Chris Storin and Dan Mires. Two of the Bay Areas top comics make their way to Manteca for a night of laughs. Show starts at 9, tickets and reserved tables are available at The Pub. or at Cateicheira@hotmail.com (209) 622-5745
Have a safe and fun 4th of July weekend!
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”