The Story of Skoot
Growing up, I had always heard about Skoot. As the family dog of my father’s childhood, he obviously was a beloved pet. However, it wasn’t until I found a notebook of my grandmother’s and a memoir written by my grandfather that I truly began to appreciate the significant part he played in their lives.
In October of 1941, my grandfather went from Houston, Texas to Chariton Iowa to pastor a church there. This photo was taken for an article in the Chariton paper, which introduced the town to the new pastor and his family. My dad, David, was the older of the two youngest boys, the youngest being my Uncle Paul. One thing I find interesting is that in the newspaper caption it mentions that Rev. Johnson had served 14 months overseas during “the World War”. Little did everyone know that in a few short months the US would be involved in what was to be the second world war.
And so, sometime during their years in Chariton, Iowa, Skoot entered the picture.
It seems as if Skoot was David and Paul’s constant companion. One can only surmise that he became part of the family.
The fact that anyone would keep this dog license receipt from 1949 should be proof enough of that! But back to the story.
“The dog” in this letter from David to their older brother Dan isn’t named, but I’m assuming it was Skoot, since I never heard about them having any other dogs. Nice to know Paul wouldn’t part with him even for the whopping sum of $5.00. The postmark on the envelope was 1942.
The end of 1944 found the Johnsons on their way to take another post, this time in Bakersfield, California. My grandfather, Emil, wrote a memoir called “The California Days” which detailed the family’s cross country drive from Chariton, Iowa. Apparently Skoot’s future was the subject of much consideration.
The idea of sending him by “express” was rejected due to the boys (especially Paul) not wanting Skoot to get the required shot and be put in a cage for the trip. (To be honest, the rather stern Grandpa Johnson I remember wasn’t the type of person I would have expected to bring a dog on a cross country road trip, but I digress.)
On October 1, 1944, David, who would be twelve in a couple of weeks, asks Dan’s opinion about the question of Skoot. He doesn’t mention the part about Skoot needing a shot in order to be “shipped”, and I don’t have Dan’s answer, but at least we know how it ended up.
I’m only guessing, but I think these photos are from rest stops along the way from Chariton to Bakersfield. It seems like back then they weren’t too concerned about the photographer’s shadow getting in the way.
According to my grandmother’s notes, Skoot had a few mishaps on the way to California. On the left you can read that the day after they left Ft. Stockton, Texas, “Skoot broke or chewed his leash again & Daddy spanked him properly. He is squelched now.” The page on the right tells how “Skoot got banged up during the nite & the boys figured he jumped into the empty swim pool.”
Grandpa also related a few of Skoot’s “adventures” in his writing. Apparently he was a well-behaved pooch for the most part, staying quietly under the table in restaurants while the family was eating. Unfortunately, he was not so happy to be left in the car at night. It sounds here like he tore up the car’s upholstery, and Grandpa had to take him out for a walk on the leash.
Fortunately the hotel manager was kind and humane, and allowed Skoot to stay in the room at night.
Finally they began the last leg of their journey: the perilous trek over the “Ridge Route”. Grandma describes in her notebook like this: “Trip from LA to Bak. is one long climb up to Mt. Pass & then down all the way. Very exciting, tho it sort of got us. Wreckers – ambulance all ready.” They arrived in Bakersfield at about 6:00 pm on December 5, 1944.
But Skoot’s adventures were far from over. Shortly after they moved into their house on Lincoln Street, Skoot “got into bad company” and strayed away. After several days, the prodigal returned, and was welcomed home with great joy. I can only imagine my grandma’s chagrin at the thought of him being let into the house, “saturated” with dirt, grease, and motor oil. (I’m guessing he wasn’t let in until he was squeaky clean.)
David and Paul with Skoot in Bakersfield.
Grandpa Johnson wrote that Skoot’s life may have been shortened by some of his (mis)adventures, adding that he lived to be nine and a half years old. But you can be sure he packed a full life of fun and excitement into those nine and a half years!