Defending Barney

Sometimes I retain some really useless information.  Stuff that only comes in handy if I’m gettin’ my nerd on with a rousing episode of Jeopardy.  Other times, what I’ve retained is useful.  Like personal responsibility and when I learned it as a kid.

Maybe I was about seven-ish or so?

We had these neighbors I’ll call the Stevensons.  That’s their real name.  No need to protect the innocent since they’ll probably never read this.  But if they do? I’m cool with that because I really don’t care.  I knew what was up and I’m proud to admit it.  That doesn’t mean I was smarter, mind you.  Anyone with a reasonable number brain cells and a nose knew what was up at Casa Stevenson.

They had a dog named Barney.

They also had a daughter called Jan who was big for her age, scary and really, really good at softball.  Jan may have actually been a boy who was just pissed that they gave him a confusingly feminine name but I can’t be sure.   [Don’t quote me on the Jan-could-have-been-a-boy thing. My memory has been compromised by things I choose not to mention here]

Anyway, Barney was a basset hound.  And that is something that I do remember very clearly because basset hounds are very memorable dogs and I only knew one family in my entire half century who ever had one.   Barney was a sweet dog but even as a kid I wondered what kind of Island-of-Dr.-Moreau breeding went into putting this poor animal together.  A dog who is eighteen inches high should not have 30-pound ears for fuck sake.

Sorry….odd anatomy gets me sidetracked….

Barney Stevenson’s  house smelled like farts pretty much all the time.

Fred, the dad, blamed Barney for the poor air quality in the house but he always delivered it in a Don Rickles kind of way. “You smell that?  Goddamn dog ate too much saurkraut for lunch”…gnut, gnut, gnut.

I knew, of course, that dogs did not eat saurkraurt for lunch.  My dad would smile politely at Fred’s “joke” even as we kids stampeeded toward the door.

Later when we got home?  I would hear my dad discreetly tell my mom that “Barney” was at it again. She understood the importance of speaking in code, after all she lived through wartime. No one spoke of such things louder than a whisper behind closed doors  in our house.  We did not fart.  E.V.E.R..  It was an unspeakable offense probably punishable by death but since no one ever did, all us kids remained alive.  We carried the fear with us, though, passing it [no pun] to our children around the eerie light of a campfire…second only in scariness to the man with a hook for a hand who terrorized campsites.

Yeah, poor Barney took the fall for his flatulent master but I learned a lot about blame and personal responsiblility because of it.

Thanks for the lesson, Fred Stevenson.  Wherever you are.