Willie Nelson Goes To Church
Last fall, the weekend the time changed, I was outside with my fellas on a Sunday morning. Bad dog owner that I am, I had them off leash. We live at 8th and Commerce and there is a little strip of green grass, next lot over. They were sniffing and peeing and tussling and rolling around and just being dogs, you know? And this guy came walking down the street, across the street, carrying a transparent bag full of bread products. Loaves and buns and scones and croissants and dinner rolls and maybe even an English muffin or two. You have to take it on faith that Hank is well trained. I mean, he’s a field trial champion. Well, Willie Nelson, he's just a leggy, know-nothing, goofy puppy yet. Once the bread man got past us, across the street mind you, Willie got interested in him and ran across the street after him. The man stopped and Willie was dancing around him, jumping up on him and sniffing the sack. I told Hank to sit where he was and I crossed the street, apologized to the bread man and got Willie Nelson by the collar and we went back to our grass lot where Hank was waiting for us. The bread man carried on.
The next corner, toward downtown, is 8th and Rock. First Lutheran Church sits on that corner across Rock Street from me. As the bread man drew near the corner, Willie Nelson bolted again and ran the length of the block out in 8th Street, angling across the pavement, toward the bread guy who was now rounding the corner onto Rock. This time he did not stop and Willie kept walking with him. I had Hank on my hands back at the grassy strip. Honestly, I really needed to put him in the back yard before I took off after Willie. But I needed to move quick, so I told Hank to "sit" in my front yard. Hank knows what "sit" means. I mean, he's a solid sitter. The technical term for it is "steady". We have spent
countless hours training which always includes some formal "sitting". So Hank "sat" on his steady ass and I took off after Willie and the bread man.
As I was going up 8th on this nice October Sunday morning, I noticed the doors to the church were wide open, inviting. Not only the big heavy outside doors but the ones to the sanctuary, too. From outside, I could see the backs of the faithful, gathered there to worship. As I came to the corner, Hank bolted from my yard and ran the length of the block, out in the street, angling across, and joined me on the corner. I reared back and sternly boomed "SIT" as I whacked him hard, open handed, on his butt. To my concern, Willie and the bread man were turning onto Seventh. I made about five steps when a red pick-up screeched to a halt at the corner where I had just left Hank, sitting pretty as a picture now, across from the church. The guy in the truck said threateningly and loudly, "Hey, buddy, hit that dog again." I yelled back, "Excuse me?" He yelled, "Hit that dog again and you go to the hospital." I said, "Man, you don't have any idea what's going on here. This is a well trained dog, and he's my dog." The guy yelled, "Well, it is my world and I don't want to see that kind of ugliness in it." I yelled, "How about @#$%$# you!" and looked up to see them closing the sanctuary doors to the church. The guy in the truck peeled off and I resumed my chase of Willie and the bread man who were now out of sight up Seventh Street. And Hank just sat.
I got to Seventh and when I turned the corner, to my relief I saw that Willie Nelson had gotten involved with some dogs on leashes being walked my way. The bread man was a speck on the horizon, now, way the hell up Seventh, and no longer of interest to any of us. The dog-walkers became hip to my chase of Willie and collared him and held him until I got there. I thanked them, gathered up Willie and headed back for Hank and then home. Traffic was coming, and we couldn't cross the street so we walked the block on the same side as the church but across from Hank. Some more cars were coming so I was eying Hank and praying that he did not dart out in front of them to cross to us. He did not.
And, when it was our turn to cross, I made a step into the crosswalk but then, I looked up to see Willie running up the stairs and in through the big outside doors of the church. I figured, okay, they closed the sanctuary doors, I'll just slip up in the foyer and get me my puppy. Oh, no. Not that easy. They had not closed the aisle doors, and to my horror, when I got to the foyer, I saw Willie Nelson prancing down the side aisle. I have no idea whether the congregation was looking at Willie or giggling at me or what, because I only had eyes for Willie Nelson. I stood at the head of the aisle and in my loudest stage whisper called, "Willie.... Willie.... Willie Nelson." And about halfway down the aisle he stopped, and startled, looked around at those few good Christians scattered around that sacred sanctuarial space, and he spooked. Maybe he’d heard me. May be he’d heard the Word. Maybe he heard the Word and spooked. Maybe he heard The Word and imagined himself lolling forever on some vibrant grassy strip with those faithful Lutherans, gorged fat on broken fishes and multiplied loaves; wasted, on once water wine. Maybe he heard the Word and he did not want to be washed in any blood from any lamb. Whatever. Willie Nelson turned his back on the preacher, tucked his tail, and came slinking out to me in the foyer. I grabbed him by the collar, bounced down the outside stairs, crossed the street, collected Hank and ran home without any further ado.