Off the Porch: Evander and Bill and the Christmas puppy

Nov. 27, 2013 @ 10:17 AM

My Uncle Evander had a lot of friends. Most of them had been the recipient of both his kindness and generosity and of his ability to get the best of them in one way or another. Probably, his best friend in the world was Bill Lagle. Bill and Evander had hunted, fished, worked together, shot together, and had all sorts of mishaps and near misses with disaster, mostly due to the fact that when they were together, each sort of trusted the other to keep them out of trouble.
Bill had gotten Evander interested in duck hunting and Evander had taken Bill to Cape Hatteras for red drum on his first trip. Bill was a really good shotgunner and Evander was a rifle shooter of some note. They were as different as any two guys that were best friends, but they were so similar in some things that if you talked to one of them, there was no sense in asking advice from the other.
They often wound up driving the same kind of truck or using the same kind of fishing reel and then suddenly, the next time you saw them each had an entirely different idea of what was the best truck or fishing reel. If one of them decided he liked something, he’d try to talk the other into buying one and about half the time it worked. They both agreed that the best boat for them was a Carolina Skiff, but their boats were an entirely different approach to the same purpose.
Evander shot only side by side shotguns and Bill liked semi-autos. They would spend hours ridiculing each others guns, but if you asked Evander why Bill shot a semi-auto, he would spend a half hour explaining why it made good sense for Bill, but not good sense for him. Bill’s nine year old son Billy, loved side by sides and there was no way Bill would have ever bought him one. Evander always promised Billy that when he got big enough for a full sized gun, he would find him a nice double. Bill rolled his eyes. One thing they agreed on was that Billy was quite a shooter for his age and if one was more proud of him than the other; it would have been hard to determine.
One day when we had just left Bill’s house, Evander sighed and said, sort of to me and sort of to no one, “I sure am glad Bill’s talking to me again.”
I was flabbergasted to think that these two close friends had ever had a serious falling out. “You mean there was a time when you were mad at each other?” I gasped.
“For almost a year, Bill wouldn’t speak to me.” Evander said softly, like saying it loud might make the situation come back. “He was really mad, and I guess I deserved it. Do you remember old Gunner, Billy’s yellow lab? Well I gave him to Billy for Christmas and if Gunner hadn’t turned out to be such a great dog, Bill probably wouldn’t be speaking to me now.” It took the rest of the trip home, but I heard the story and it’s a good one to tell at Christmas.
Evander had an old lab named Bob and Billy loved old Bob who happened to be almost the same age as Billy. Billy would spend hours playing with Bob when both were younger and as he got older, he wanted a dog of his own. Bill didn’t think Billy was ready for the responsibility, but Evander did. When Billy wasn’t around, they argued about it for hours. Since old Bob went everywhere Evander went, Evander would think of how nice it would be for Billy to have a great dog like Bob and constantly tried to convince Bill it was a good idea. Bill argued that there was a lot more to it than Evander saw and told him politely to mind his own business.
On the next hunting or fishing trip, the subject came up again and with the same results. Evander pledged that he would buy the dog and pay the vet bills, but there was no convincing Bill. The running argument would sometimes last the whole length of a fishing or hunting trip, and when it died down, it came up again when something reminded Evander of how Billy would enjoy having his own dog.
Evander was right on this one and once Billy got Gunner, he proved a responsible owner and trainer, reading books on dog training while Gunner was a puppy and working out every training problem he encountered as Gunner grew. In fact, raising Gunner had a remarkable effect on Billy. He became more responsible about other things as well and matured with the responsibility. Bill had loved Gunner as much as Billy had and when Billy went off to school, Bill kept him until, like all of our canine companions, he aged faster than his human counterparts, died and took a little piece of their hearts with him.
As we rode east on Highway 64 and I listened to Evander’s story, I just couldn’t get my mind around why someone as reasonable as Bill Lagle would have gotten mad over Evander giving Billy this puppy that they both enjoyed so much. “I still don’t understand why Bill got so mad at you over Gunner,” I asked.
Evander sighed, wiped his hand down his face as he often did and replied, “Well, I guess he wasn’t all that mad that I gave Billy the dog as much as how I gave him Gunner. You see, I never convinced Bill that Billy really should have a dog, but when old Bob became a daddy and one of the pups looked just like him, I couldn’t let that dog go to someone who wouldn’t appreciate him. It was close to Christmas and I knew Bill didn’t lock his doors, so at 4 AM on Christmas morning, I slipped over to their house and left little Gunner in the living room!”
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. He loves to cook and does cooking segments on WXII TV. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at or