Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunny at Priest Lake - Part 1

Mr. Jenny has been wanting to write creative stories for some time. Last week he shared his Paul Harvey story with you and this week he is sharing again. He says he is "taking over" the Sunday spot on my blog and so we shall begin a new weekly feature here - Sundays with Steve. There will be a button and a tab eventually but for now just visit each Sunday to enjoy his words.

Growing up, my best buddy was a mongrel pup named Sunny.

He was a mutt – one of those dogs that are a jumble of at least three or four different breeds. I was five or six years old when we got Sunny from the local city pound, and I’m not really sure how old he was then. He probably wasn’t too old because the only telegram I ever received in my life arrived when I was a freshman in college telling me that Sunny had died, some 12 years later

Our family could not resist this yellow-haired dog at the pound. He stood maybe two and a half feet tall with some golden lab and beagle included in his mutt mix. We thought he was the color of the sun, hence the name. He became the best friend to three rambunctious brothers.

For many years our family took a summer vacation to Priest Lake, Idaho, starting in about 1953 or so. Priest Lake, up north on the border with Canada, is a deep lake 12miles long and a few miles wide. It is isolated, near no towns, and an hour and a half drive north of Spokane, Washington. The lake is surrounded by heavy pine forests and the towering rocky mountains of the Selkirk range, and it is stunningly beautiful.

The family rented a cabin for a week each July at Hill’s Resort on Luby Bay. Hill’s was operated then by George and Lois Hill, who founded it after WWII in the 1940s. Their family still operates the facility today. Click here to read about Hill's Resort!
I remember the Hills well, not only from our 1950’s family vacations, but from other visits in later years. Even when I visited in the 1980’s, George and Lois always pretended to remember me, and they were spectacular hosts.

When you walked into the main lodge, there was a distinctive smell about the place. A very pleasant, sweet, sort of wood smoke smell. A smell of old leather, old fireplaces and log walls and ceilings, all combined into a scent almost like bubble gum. I smell it now, writing this.

And that unusual scent also makes me vaguely recall my earliest memory of the first family vacation at the resort… I could not have been older than three or four. I was running pell-mell out onto a boat dock, then jumping the distance between two of the docks that were chained together. I didn’t realize the docks had drifted apart a bit and I over-estimated the distance my sturdy little legs would carry me. I found myself plunging deep into the cold, clear lake water. And I clearly recall my father’s strong hands grabbing my arms and hauling me back to the surface and to safety.

But this story is not about that memory or that time. This story is about a later vacation and about Sunny.

In the earliest vacation years, Dad rented a fishing boat for the week at the resort. In later years, after his new small-town radio station business became more established, he brought his own boat along. I think we vacationed there for eight years or so.

That lake was a boaters’ paradise and presumably still is. Protected by the tall mountains and surrounded by that incredible beauty, it was filled with fish that taunted our feeble attempts to catch them. The lake surface was typically smooth as glass in the summer morning hours, and the boat ran fast in those waters, to the delight of us all. There are private houses on the east shore of the lake, and Mom and Dad spent hours slowly motoring the boat by them, commenting on the attractiveness or weaknesses of each and, I suspect, dreaming of owning one someday.

The Southern end of the lake had several tree covered islands with intriguing names –the largest was Kalispell, named for an Indian tribe that resides in Western Montana.

It was at Kalispell Island where I learned to water ski one summer. The family enjoyed frequent picnics on the Kalispell beaches, and I remember the daughter of one of the visiting family friends teaching us to water ski. I quickly learned that it was much harder to ski than it looked. It took an endless number of tries for the boat to jerk me out of the water and for me to stay vertical on those wide ski- boards for any length of time. But in the end there was success, and for many years thereafter, water skiing was a favorite sport.

Sunny, the dog, loved Priest Lake as much as us kids. There was so much to do. There were a lot of new young friends to meet, big wide beaches to explore, a lake to splash in, and many different and unusual scents to chase through the woods.

We spent the days fishing with dad in the early morning hours, hunting trout and landlocked salmon locally called silvers. Afternoons were spent in a variety of activities: Swimming in the lake at Hill’s Resort beach, having a picnic on one of the islands, or exploring a nearby abandoned and boarded-up gold mine about a mile down an old narrow-gauge railroad bed.

On many evenings the resort showed family movies on the beach accompanied by a large bonfire and roasted marshmallows. Some evenings we skipped the movie because Dad would drive us in the Jeepster a few miles to the open-air county dump where the bears would feed overnight on piles of garbage. Sunny encountered a bear one night at the dump, and it must have been a grizzly bear, a mad grizzly bear, but that is also a story for another time.
It was a grand vacation for us high-energy, high-curiosity kids.

But it was more so for Sunny.

To say us kids were curious was a serious understatement when compared to Sunny the dog. Sunny explored everyplace and everything. There was one day when his inquisitiveness led to his near demise.

One morning my parents, brothers and I were walking the path paralleling the Hill’s beach when we heard a racket coming at us from farther up the trail. It was Sunny howling bloody murder! He was going to die! He was crying! He was shouting that he had been attacked, and may not survive! “Help!” he howled. He cried in the loudest barking voice we had ever heard!

Poor Sunny! Obviously a bear or cougar or bobcat had attacked him and he had barely escaped with his poor little doggie life. He was telling us all about it in the most dramatic way. Death was knocking at his door and he was howling and whimpering in terrible pain. Oh, the horror of it all…the poor dog obviously was not going to survive. He was ready to depart this life shortly.

But wait a minute here, just a cotton-picking minute.

There was no blood.

There were no scratches.

There were no broken bones, nor skin torn asunder.

Wait a minute. What was that?

What in the world was that stench? What was that stink? What was the horrible smell? This dog stunk to high heaven. And there is only one animal that produces that kind of smell … a skunk.

Sunny had encountered a skunk, a skunk that probably didn’t want to be smelled by this pushy pup. And obviously the skunk had let him have it.

That dog stunk! He just reeked.

“Well,” said my father, the former Army major with command leadership skills (avoidance skills might be the better description in this case). “There is only one way to really clean the skunk smell out of a dog. We have to bath and then scrub the dog down in the lake with tomato juice…canned tomato juice… and a lot of it.”

Off we went. The adults went to the resort’s small store and cleaned out the entire supply of canned tomato juice.

We boys took Sunny to the lake shore and dragged him into the water. Then we liberally applied tomato juice and scrubbed him with a kitchen sink brush.
And scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed.

It was a lousy job, for both us boys, and for the dog.

Listening to the dog you would think, really, the end of the world was coming just about then…howling, crying, whimpering, and barking! The dog was just ready to die right there in the lake with us surrounding him and applying our insidious torture treatment.

But we were having some success. The washing seemed to be working, the smell was receding, and Sunny was calming down.

Unfortunately, one of the spectators on shore wasn’t calming down.

At that point there may have been 10 or 12 people watching from the beach. Then an older lady came ambling along the path and she was sure, she was very, very certain, that we were murdering the dog. She was sure that all of that tomato juice was actually blood, and that a horrendous crime was being committed right in front of her horrified eyes.

“Oh!” she cried, “Save the dog, save the dog, those children are murdering the dog, someone, please HELP! Save the dog from those delinquents.”

She threw a fit, an even bigger fit than Sunny had been throwing. She became the spectacle as she became hysterical. She yelled, she cried, she was on the verge of fainting dead away.

Until my father, the Major, stepped in to calm her down. He explained the skunk encounter and our attempts to rid the dog of the odor.

“Oh,” she said in a very quiet voice. And then she slunk off in embarrassment.

Sunny lost his skunk smell after that thorough scrubbing. We boys vowed that if the dog encountered a skunk again, we would refuse to give him a tomato juice bath -- the adults would have to do it, because we were definitely through!

Sunny died some 12 -13 years later, and I don’t think he ever tried to push a skunk around again.

I do know, though, that he was a best friend to all of us brothers. Even though we tried to massacre him with tomato juice one dramatic day at Priest Lake.


ImagiMeri said...

Good Morning Steve,

Great story! I especially loved the part with the lady getting hysterical...what a hoot! I'm really enjoying your Sunday don't stop. I'm trying to get my husband to read them if he'd just stop working and take a look! I'm so glad you guys seem to get along and I hope we can all get together soon for a game night. Take care.


Vicki/Jake said...

Haha, what great fun that must have been.

Priest Lake sounds like a fabulous wonderland for anyone, especially the dog. I've heard T-juice takes the smell away, guess it's true.

Our dogs always seemed to find the porcupines. We'd have to grab the pliers and start the ugly process of pulling them out. But at least there wasn't as much blood :)

Bet that woman had a good story to tell the rest of her life too..

Keep sharing!

Brenda said...

This story is wonderful. I can see it all happening. Put a smile on my face. You paint a picture of your stories so well.

Terra said...

great story. Encountering a skunk spray, to me, is way worse than a bear. Ewww. I would have howled for my life too!

Terra said...

great story. Encountering a skunk spray, to me, is way worse than a bear. Ewww. I would have howled for my life too!

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

This is fabulous.....and punctuating it with the photo of a woman's horrified face was perfect!

I can picture you boys, the dog and the tomato juice.

Excellent, once again. We're glad you took over Sundays because we love a good story!

Jocelyn said...

Love this story and what a wonderful friend Sunny was!!!!

RoeH said...

Mmmm...Priest Lake. What a beautiful place. North Idaho must be at the top for gorgeous scenery. Well, except for the desert between Idaho Falls and Boise. I want to stick a fork in my eyes driving through there.

Kat said...

This was such a wonderful story. I can feel those cool breezes off the lake as I read this. And your description of the horrified woman was priceless. Working for a vet, we have had more than our share of skunked dogs and cats some in. I do NOT envy you that day at all. Although, I have a magical concoction that works much better than tomato juice. But it's still no fun. Thank you for sharing these wonderful little snippets from your life, they are a joy to read. Kat

Viki said...

Good story. I suspect Sunny may have gotten sprayed in his eyes that's why he was making such a fuss. Fortunately, I've only been there with the skunk smell once on one of our dogs. That was enough for me too. Great post this Sunday ;-)

Susan Anderson said...

I, too, enjoyed both the story AND the lady's face.



Jeanie said...

What a great story about Sunny and once again, very well told. There was something about the style of you writing today that made me hear your story being read in the voice of the narrator of the movie "A Christmas Story".

Life@Cee said...

Those mixed breed mutts from the pound make the best dogs. Great story. I especially enjoyed the part where the woman thinks you're killing Sunny because the tomato juice looks like blood. I look forward to more of you Sunday "Takeovers"

Nancy's Notes said...

Oh what an awesome story of your times at Priest Lake and of your friend, that special Sunny! What a gorgeous place to spend a vacation, stunning photograph! Thank you for sharing, I was captivated by your great story!

Have a great day!


Pondside said...

Good story!
I really enjoyed your description of your lodge holiday - especially the smell.
I have family in Creston BC, just across the border from Sandpoint and within going-out-to-dinner reach of Coeur d'Alene, so I know that beautiful area.

Terri Steffes said...

Simply said, I would be hysterical too.

Tell Jenny I have a giveaway on my Christmas blog for today only.

Thank you!

Tina said...

I'm enjoying your stories, Steve. LOVED the bit with the angry lady! I can just picture that so clearly. Nicely told.

Unknown said...

I love your stories Mr. Jenny.You and the Mrs are so .. well matched.

Country Wings in Phoenix said...

Good Morning Mr. Jenny...
I so enjoyed this story you have shared this morning. I can see you boys in the cool waters edge of the lake just scrubbing away poor Sunny and the smell being so awful that you all practically gag as you do this chore that the Major sent out.

You write so vividly. Just like Mrs Jenny. Remember she teaches school so I know she gives each of your writes a thorough going over.

I love this share. Thank you for taking me along to Priest Lake today. I love cabin camping. It is the BEST.

Have a wonderful Sunday sweet friends. Country hugs and much love, Sherry

Jenny said...


H said...

I've never smelled skunk, but reading your story and all of these comments makes me think that I'm lucky! Great story :)

The Words Crafter said...

I'm still chuckling! The hysterical lady was priceless!!!! Terrific story Mr M, thanks for sharing it. I'm glad you're doing regular posts, now. You have a great talent and lots to pull from...looking forward to many more adventures...

Lourie said...

I don't know who to feel more sorry for the dog, the boys, or the poor old lady who embarrassed herself.

aimee said...

great memory. wow, now i get to read the great works of two fabulous story tellers. that is just so awesome! you two are a great team.