I talked to Stretch a couple of days ago. He told me the news that Burlington Dog, his longtime railriding companion, has caught the Westbound in Louisiana. Burl was born on a freight train, and grew to maturity accompanying Stretch in his trainhopping lifestyle. He was an excellent companion, very intelligent, and compassionate.
One time Stretch and I and Burl were riding the UP west from Boone, Iowa to Clinton, Iowa on the Mississippi River. We rolled out not far from the tracks, above a access road underpass that went under the UP doubletrack main.
A huge storm blew up, and it started to rain really hard. Both Stretch and I had sleeping bags and tarps, but Stretch had just rolled out on top of his tarp, whereas I had arranged my bindle "taco style" with me in the sleeping bag, with the tarp folded over me.
When it started to rain, Stretch woke up, and getting soaked, grabbed his pack and all his gear and crashed through a bunch of brush to get down to the access road underpass. Burl went with him, but I wasn't getting wet, so I stayed there. It was raining like the end of the world with lots of lightning and huge claps of thunder, but I was all rolled up in my tarp. Suddenly, I realized that Burl was trying to pull the tarp away from my face. He started barking at me, and making little short runs back and forth between me (rolled up in my gear) and the brushy slope, as if to say "Come On! Come On! You're in danger!" and barking furiously.
So I got up (NOW, I'm getting soaked) gathered up all my shit (now IT'S getting soaked) and followed Burl down to the underpass.
He was a good dog. I'll always remember the night Burl "saved" me from a thunderstorm, It was a kind of "What would Lassie do?" moment.
RIP BURL, YOU WERE A GOOD TRAMP RIGHT TO THE VERY END.
Burl cleaning up the last of a gunboat meal
Burl and me on the trip from Boone to Clinton, Iowa (photo by Stretch)
Stretch, Burl and me in the jungle at Tupelo, Mississippi
\"I\'d rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than any city on earth\" Steve McQueen