Monday, April 20, 2009

Greetings From Marmarth, North Dakota!

We arrived in Fort Benton, MT on Friday afternoon and immediately found the statue of Old Shep. I hopped out of the car and went straight over to give the old dog a sniff.  Not as impressed as the thousands who come through the historic town to see the dog, I jumped down and started marking Shep's territory instead.  

We were soon befriended by the town's 14-year-old juvenille delinquent. He told us that he'd just finished his 20 hours of community service he had to do for missing curfew. He hung out with us for the better part of the afternoon and took us up to Old Shep's burial site. Before we dropped young Tom off, he pointed out the Sunrise Bluff Retirement Home, where he said we would find Kenny Vinion. Legend had it that Mr. Vinion played "Taps" at Shep's funeral in 1942. We decided to pay him a visit and sure enough the delinquent's story was true! When the human asked Mr. Vinion if he still played the horn, he mumbled, "Not since I lost all my teeth!" 

We checked into the town's only motel where we met the owner who also happened to be Ft. Benton's own version of Paul Harvey. It was here that we learned "the rest of the story" about Old Shep. My earlier version of Shep's story might have been a little off. The story goes like this: Shep's human was a sheepherder. After he passed away they put his body in a casket and sent him out of town on a train. Old Shep knew his master's body was in the box and waited for him to return for the next five years! Faithful Shep checked every train that came in until one day when he slipped on some ice and under a moving train. Makes enough sense, right? Well, here's "the rest of the story": 

Times were tough back then.  America was at war.  We were just coming out of the depression. There wasn't a lot of money floating around and dogs were getting the short end of the stick. They weren't necessarily "affordable" so to speak. Old Shep was a smart dog. The day he went to the station to see his master off he was given some scraps. Seems Old Shep connected the train with food. After that point on, everytime he heard the train-whistle blow he went to the station because he knew someone would give him food. The porter would give him the leftovers from the ride. The locals would think he was there as a loyal dog and feed him out of sympathy. Old Shep had hit the jackpot! The day he died he was supposedly trespassing on some property with some other dogs. The farmer pulled out his shotgun and started shooting. Old Shep was hit in the shoulder and managed to make it back to the station where he laid down and died. Could this really be...the rest of the story? The town's Paul Harvey enjoys getting a rise out of the other locals. "They just don't want the controversy," he claims. While it's logical enough to be true, it seems to me that Old Shep's original story will keep tourists coming for years and years to come. By the time we left Fort Benton on Saturday I'm pretty sure the entire town knew who the three of us were. Then we waved goodbye and got outta dodge. 

We spent Saturday afternoon driving east all the way across Montana. Again, the sky so huge! And the wide-open road - you feel like you're going 65 only to look at the speedometer to realize you're going 90! By the way, our rental van guts out at 106 mph. They say there's no speed limit in Montana, but ours is obviously 105, but I don't recommend hanging your head out of the window at that speed!

Today(Sunday) we drove through a little town called Marmarth, North Dakota.  Here we sought out a family with a dog. We found two families who were related and had two dogs each. This town had 151 people in it up until last week. Someone died so now they're down to 150. The dog the human chose to photograph was 16 years old! That's 112 or something like that! Can you imagine! I can only hope to last that long, but I don't think my breed has the genes, which is why I live for today! Anyway, the family was a kick. One of the kids was six years old and his uncle was four! 

Now we're at our fourth Motel 6.  If you didn't know, Motel 6 is sponsoring our trip. It's pretty funny because no matter what city or state we're in all the rooms look exactly the same. Don't tell my human, but for awhile there, I thought we kept returning to the same motel every night, which would have made for a lot of extra driving. That's it for now. The Badlands are next! 


P.S. Seamus approves all of these e-mails before they go out. The only thing he wants to add is that the human is wearing tightie-whities. In the human's defense, it's only because all of his boxers are dirty and he needs to do laundry. I'd offer to help, but I'm a damn dog.

Here's me and Ol' Shep. I couldn't get my tail to curl up like him. Otherwise it's a pretty good imitation on my part, don't you think?

This is where Shep is actually buried, way up high above the town of Ft. Benton. Pretty nice spot to end up. I wonder what the human will do with me. 

This is Old Kenny Vinion, who played "Taps" at Shep's funeral. He was a nice man.

Here's the story before "the rest of the story"!

Welcome to North Dakota and yet another photo-op!

Here's a snap of the family of the 16-year-old dog, Spook. The little one on the far left is the uncle of the kid next to him.

Here's the kind parents of those two kids. If I'm not mistaken, and I could be cause I'm only a dog, the woman in the red shorts is the daughter of the woman in the jeans and the man in the cowboy hat. The woman in the red shorts is the mother of the 6-year old and the sister of the four-year-old.  The pooch under the table is as confused as I am.

And here's Spook, the 16-year-old wonder dog!

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