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July 25, 2014 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Then, there were poodles

We snickered and elbowed each other.

Mother’s unseen scowls branded the back of our heads. (“Everyone will think I’ve raised heathens.” We did our best with that.)

Contagious wiggling on the split log benches wasn’t due to mosquitoes this time. The campfire popped and snapped.

The scene was set.

A solemn announcement,”If you have dogs, please keep them silent. Any dog howling during the ceremony, will be immediately killed.”

mid 1950's Vintage postcard. Grand Canyon's Rim Road.Intermountain Tourist Supply./Personal collection

Everyone on the tour bus for Grand Canyon’s Rim Road. No, we didn’t. Dad hated being behind tour buses. We tried to “wish them off the road.” Worked awfully well. OK there were lots of scenic lookouts where they stopped. (postcard/personal collection)

Smugly, we watched the neatly dressed hotel stayers hustle Fluffy back to the car.

It wasn’t like the perfumed pooches woke up one morning and said, “Hey, I’m a-hankerin’ to rough it. Let’s go out into the wilderness and pretend to be frontier setters.”


Each night in the National Parks there were Ranger Talks with a HUGE campfire in a natural amphitheatre.

A night of history of the park, archeology, or geology. Or the park’s natural environment and animals – with objects passed around! Thrilling local stories and legends. Sometimes a sing-a-long. Maybe a performance of some sort.

Then the program rotation started over. (And it was time for us to move on to another park.)

Upon arrival, we raced for the program listings folder at the Ranger Station’s Visitors’ Center.

Looking. Hoping.


Yes! There it was!

It was educational.

It was something to brag about back home. Fodder for the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essay.

Suspension bridge over the Colorado River. Grand Canyon. Intermountain Tourist Supply/vintage post card from personal collection

They did a big business in tourist cowboy hats. And we didn’t get to ride the horses either. Excuse was that we did that at home. (Postcard/personal collection)

A real ceremonial dance by real Indians!

Couldn’t get any better

Better than seeing Lassie or Trigger or getting that stuffed Smokey Bear with the hat that was always whined for but never ended up going home in the car.

Honest to goodness Indians with headdresses. Moccasins. Drums. But no war paint. (Whew!)

The drums and chants would roll and thunder off the mountains.

Bigger than any movie theater sound system.

Some of the dancers would leave after performing, but a few would stay.

Kids would scramble forward excitedly blurting out questions to the men as tall as the shadows.

Awkwardly at the back, I was silent.

Shield dancers in Oklahoma.View Gram/Bob Taylor/Vintage post card from personal collection)

School children desperately dreamed of seeing this for real. No stupid school essay about only reading books from the library all summer. (Oklahoma.Postcard/personal collection)

Now if it had been Lassie or Trigger or Rin-Tin-Tin, it would have been different.

But these were people.

Not some trained performance animal.

Not foolish tourist attraction.

The silent old man seated to the side with the drum startled me.

“You may touch it.”

Cautiously I inched forward.

Wiped off my fingers on my shorts (like that would do any good). And with great care, reached out.

He softly explained the deer hide and adornments tethered.

Eagle feathers. Real ones. Ceremonial.

He smiled softly.

Didn’t know whether to curtsey or not. Not having been around many aristocratic elders.

Whispered something. “Thank you. It’s very beautiful.”  Or something.

He looked up and nodded – at my dad behind me.

My dad as tall as the shadows.

(Zion National Park. North Fork of river. Intermountain Tourist Supply/ Vintage postcard from personal collection)

Never camped on a canyon floor. No matter how pretty. Flash floods are exactly that. (Zion National Park postcard/personal collection)

Then a return to ordinary: flashlights, fading chatter, and the night’s dark echoes.

Walked the dirt path back to camp in imaginary moccasins of the softest rabbit skin.

Under that blanket of stars that warms across time.

No poodles died that night.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Related posts and Summer Vignettes

Also of interest:

  • James Garner (From The Rockford Files/Maverick, a western in the 50’s) Died recently at 86. Man of style and wit. Oh, he was Cherokee heritage. NYTimes
 (San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM. near Santa Fe/ CT art-colortone/vintage postcard from personal collection

San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM. Near Santa Fe. (postcard/personal collection)



  1. roughseasinthemed / Jul 25 2014 2:16 pm

    A safe camp site is a priority. Never camp too near to water. Or cliffs. Or whatever. I have a tale about cliff tops but too long for a comment. Suffice to say we were still standing, after the storm, unlike others.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 2:42 pm

      Frantic fathers and mothers trying to shove toddlers and kids up steep canyon walls during a horrendous thunder storm and flash flood. You don’t forget. We were up on high ground but saw the aftermath once daylight. It wasn’t good. Best for some to be on the dude ranches. Adventures should be fun. Thanks for settling in by the fire to chat


  2. bulldog / Jul 25 2014 2:39 pm

    If you had a look at my last but one post, you will see how we love to camp…


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 2:44 pm

      I sort of picked that up from your blog posts – part of why I enjoy them so much. Thanks for settling in by the fire to chat a bit here.(Hope the work is going well for your!)


  3. Jay E. / Jul 25 2014 3:04 pm

    This described nearly every vacation I’ve ever taken, even as a “responsible adult.”


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 3:39 pm

      Everyone’s the same age when camping. The great equalizer. Thanks for going down this highway


  4. katecrimmins / Jul 25 2014 3:13 pm

    Not a camper myself but it sounds like it there are some great childhood memories there.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 3:38 pm

      Think I’ve packed up all those summer bits for a while now. Just tired of being stuck inside with the heat and weather, I guess. We always did get a laugh over the tiny puffy dogs – poodles were the rage then in yards as well as on skirts. They were quite serious about barking and howling dogs. Not an empty threat. Thanks for traveling along


      • shoreacres / Jul 27 2014 10:24 pm

        Poodle skirts! Mine was gray felt, with a rhinestone collar on the pooch. And some crinolines beneath. We starched those every Saturday. Oh, gosh.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 28 2014 1:57 pm

          Crinolines? Iron? Nope – enough of that already. Scratchy net ones locally – atleast 3..different colors if mom was cool


  5. PiedType / Jul 25 2014 4:25 pm

    As I’ve noted before, we never camped. We were always in rented cabins. But I think we did everything else you describe here. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet it was 60 years ago, give or take ten.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 4:54 pm

      Nobody with any sense camped in some places like Yellowstone. Bears. Lots of bears back then. Loved those Yellowstone cabins even if they were rustic: walls, roof, beds – and usually a cast iron stove for heat and cooking .It was like living in a little village there. Every morning you had to hurry to the Ranger station and request/pay for a cabin for that night. Good reason not to sleep late.
      Tetons also had a lot of mosquitoes. If we didn’t have a cabin there, we moved on before dark.
      (Saw Estes was featured this morning on the Today show as a “pay it forward vacation” with opportunities to volunteer for projects at the park/town that suffered from the flood. Nice to see the suggestion on air)
      Thanks for traveling over


  6. HelenSaying / Jul 25 2014 4:25 pm

    So the contagious wiggling was due to the beat of the drums? Glad I came to find out how the story progressed. Sounds like one exciting Summer. I loved the recount of the timid interactions of the old man and yourself.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 4:58 pm

      All the kids rushed to the front to be close to the ranger action each night. Squirming with anticipation (and delight at being away from parents…). We traveled every summer for weeks – it was more economical than staying home – and no one got bored. Probably learned more on trips than in many classrooms. Hard to be stuck inside walls each summer now. Just doesn’t seem right. Thanks for hiking over to chat

      Liked by 1 person

  7. colonialist / Jul 25 2014 6:31 pm

    Magnificent. If a bit ‘canned’, that is inevitable. It is hard to find the real thing, these days.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 7:26 pm

      Can the poodles? Peta would object. They were the dahlings of the era. But they weren’t kidding about the howling. There had been incidents. But when in Rome get along or get out…that used to be said…not so much anymore.
      (Now a rather obvious/predictable direction for the experience, but uncommon conclusion during those times…gypsies never really fit in with the rest.)
      If only the weather wasn’t so brutal outside here this time of year… Well, it is time to pack the postcards up for a bit – poor substitution for actual road trips, but must make do.
      Thanks for drumming up a comment


      • colonialist / Jul 25 2014 7:59 pm

        Wouldn’t dream of canning poodles. The ones of my ken are better served with tennis balls.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 10:06 pm

          It’s so hot here today the tennis ball would be melting and flat. But the Poodles would be smart enough to be lolling inside on the couch being served chilled tidbits. No need to melt that nail polish by going outside!


  8. angelswhisper2011 / Jul 25 2014 8:26 pm

    You sure won’t find all of that here, Philmouse. We don’t have such beautiful mountains and Indians, it must have been so much fun. Pawkisses for a Happy Weekend 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 10:10 pm

      But we both had windmills. The ones there prettier. I hear bike riding is a great way to see the countryside….here, better stay in a nice car with air conditioning during the summer. Alike but different.
      Thanks for joining the tour along these roads. RC Cat sends a soft cheek pat…(Molly is much too stinky hot doggy smell to even be allowed to wave)


  9. Ally Bean / Jul 25 2014 8:28 pm

    Like Kate I am not a camper, but your stories are fascinating. A glimpse back to a time that I know nothing about. Except that poodles were a big deal. The rest, news to me.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 10:12 pm

      I found this long forgotten box of old postcard and started remembering summers of wandering. Realize now those were quite a gift. Wasn’t sure I’d be able to get what it was like down in words. Thanks for taking a seat at the campfire


  10. Paul / Jul 25 2014 9:42 pm

    Neat post Philmouse. *paused to think a bit* You stirred something inside. I remember the feel of dirt when I was young, the awe of the fresh natural world around me. The interaction with non-manmade reality filled my days. As I mature, they ways of the Aboriginals seem cleaner and clearer with each passing day. I know it is me changing – not the world. Your description of the elder and the drums seems so right. When I was a younger adult, I made my business with the manmade world around me – seeking but never quite finding. In your post I was returned to the childhood days where manmade was a sideline not a consuming interest. Somehow I need to go back there, if only as a perspective.

    Thanks very much Phil for the dipping into simpler times.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 25 2014 10:17 pm

      LIfe is messy – no matter what perspective. I think you are right, as we step away from the natural world into what is considered normal and appropriate lifestyle, things shift oddly – hard to get the angles back aligned. Is the mirror broken or simply our reflection seen as cracked and distorted?
      (There. That ought to be a puzzlement for a while…)
      Thanks for pitching a tent in these wood for a while


      • Paul / Jul 25 2014 11:45 pm

        Haha! I think it is both simultaneously – like Schrodenger’s Cat (wave of the paw to RC Cat), both until the box is opened and then only one actualized. How do ya like them apples?


  11. EllaDee / Jul 26 2014 7:45 am

    Wonderful postcards, and memories that stay with you forever. Take away stuff, add space and… tada less is more 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 26 2014 3:53 pm

      Those postcards have managed to survive somehow – what’s amazing is the older ones are hand “colored”/painted. (and they don’t take up much room, so probably will survive many more years. Thanks for cruising along


  12. Beth / Jul 26 2014 12:04 pm

    I really love this description “…as tall as the shadows”. You just have such a beautiful way with description. Also, it sounds like it’s time you went on a road trip – a few weeks roaming the state in a station wagon – weekend nomads visiting a few parks, being back under the sky, hearing the ranger talks over a crackling fire.

    When I was around three or four, my parents took me to a Native American pow-wow in Dallas. There was a gigantic drum. When the drumming started and the dancers took the floor, I was overcome. I jumped up and danced with them. My mother was mortified, but didn’t feel like she could run out there and pull me from the circle, so she had to wait to grab me on my next pass. She remembered the event as being somewhat socially embarrassing. I remember it as being the best time ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dogear6 / Jul 27 2014 4:28 am

      Beth – thanks for sharing! It nicely complimented the post. My Mom would have done the same thing and I would have wondered why too.


      • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 28 2014 1:28 pm

        There must be something about the music that calls to the free spirited and kids. She does have a nice story. Thanks for drumming along


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 28 2014 1:27 pm

      That dance was the best time ever! (You were kinda like snatching the golden ring as the carousel circled.) Sometimes you are just moved by the moment.
      I have a BW old old pix of a local TX pow-wow, but it’s hard to see. (Might have to try and tweak that image for use sometime). Those are period pieces. (Was wondering if anyone would mention the noun usage. I strongly fell that in writing word choice should be determined/reflected as usage at the time – and viewed in the framework/context of those times/era. Wouldn’t use “Injun” as that was considered ignorant and rude then. “Redskin”? We thought that usage was Hollywood/fake – obviously skin isn’t red unless sunburned – and “white’? only one poor kid with Swedish grandparents had white skin…only it really wasn’t white, more creamy after the summer…Something or Nothing? Words and things change over time.) Thanks for dancing along!


  13. shoreacres / Jul 27 2014 10:28 pm

    We never got the postcards – but remember the decals that went on the car windows? And the felt pennants. Those were the best. Now? I have no idea what happened to them. I suppose I decided somewhere along the line they weren’t “important.” Silly me.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 28 2014 2:01 pm

      We begged for decals and pointed out all the other cars. People could see how much you traveled. Dad never put any kind of decal or sticker on the cars. Never.Mom vetoed the pennants (cost too much, faded, and no place for them in car or at home….probably something about poking out eyes or stabbing each other in the car with the sticks, too ) Sigh. So deprived. Thanks for waving a comment this direction


  14. jannatwrites / Jul 29 2014 2:46 am

    The flash floods are scary because you have no (okay very little, if any) warning. Living in Arizona so long, I am quite familiar with them. They are fascinating from a distance, but I do respect their power. I saw quite a few Indian Pow Wows as a child. I lived in New Mexico in the ‘heart of Indian Country’ and very near the reservation. Quite a different culture – and yes, more fun to see than read about, for sure 🙂


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 29 2014 12:50 pm

      With cell phones, perhaps there’s a bit more warning about flash floods. There were sirens in some places. But better safe than sorry. There are flash floods around Austin and Palo Dura Canyon in west TX. sometimes – new people don’t realize those low water crossings don’t work well in bad weather.
      You are in the heart of Indian Country with a whole different perspective from growing up there. Very cool (except the dust storms…something I’d have to get used to) Thanks for hiking over


  15. jmmcdowell / Jul 30 2014 11:56 pm

    We were at Glacier some years back (staying in one of the lodges, not in a tent) and went to their Ranger evening programs. They were really entertaining and interesting. That was before the Internet really took over our lives, and I wonder how much kids today enjoy them. One of your comments in your previous post about disconnecting one day a week struck me as something we really should be doing. There really is more to a healthy, happy, well-adjusted life than technological toys.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 31 2014 11:58 pm

      Have yet to make it to Glacier, we always traveled until half our trip money was gone, then turned around.(Nothing was ever charged, so no bills waiting once home). My brother made it there last year and sent pix. The lodges look wonderful. Ready for that step back in time – ranger talks and all.
      (Sorry for the slow response – have been unplugging a bit. Rather refreshing.Hope your unpacking is done and calm settling in.)
      Thanks for tossing a comment in this lodge.


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