On July 10, 2024
Columns

How he came to “Wallace,” a post-wedding disaster, and several more Charley mishaps

Courtesy Bruce Bouchard - Charley and Bruce Bouchard at Harvest Moon.

Charles Wallace The Magnificent: A tribute, part 5 

Editor’s note: Bruce Bouchard is former executive director of The Paramount Theatre. John Turchiano, his friend for 52 years, was formerly the editor of Hotel Voice, a weekly newspaper on the New York Hotel Trades Council. They are co-authoring this column to tell short stories on a wide range of topics. 

Author’s note: A short recap – Part 4 ended after Charley’s thievery of pizza and ice cream from the hands of children at Friday Night Live nearly landed him in the pokey. 

We thought we had everything covered

In August of 2012, I produced my daughter’s wedding on the property. We had a beautiful ceremony spot with an arbor by the pond and dinner for 125 guests in the barn.

The week of the wedding we felt that it would be far too chaotic to have Charley around, so he was dispatched to 10-year-old Kayleigh Brown of the Brown family in Poultney for the final three days of preparation. Kayleigh’s mother manages a foster home for dogs in adoption transition for Golden Huggs. Kayleigh had met and bonded with Charley, and she had become his occasional babysitter. She called him Charles Wallace (mostly when she was cross with him). Kayleigh learned that Charles Wallace was a character in a beloved novel/film, “A Wrinkle in Time,” a family story in which the youngest child, Charles Wallace, something of a savant, can read and write at a high level and is known to be highly intelligent, loyal, prideful and psychic.

The wedding came off beautifully; the exquisite surroundings and views of a late summer day were fine compliments to a special occasion. It was a magical midsummer night dream, concluding with a dinner and a raucous party in the barn. Two pigs were smoked on the lawn of the house (Charley would not have survived that distraction) and there were four exotic sauces for the pork.

By Bruce Bouchard
-“Quick, gimme two tickets to Dogs Gone Wild, my Dad doesn’t want me to see it.”

The next day’s strike and cleanup was a gigantic task and luckily many friends stayed to help. Charley returned at the very end of the strike/clean-up and was amazed and delighted at the number of people and the swirling activity on the property.

Remember, I told you about those four sauce options for the barbequed pork? Well, for some confounding reason, four 16-ounce full containers were left under one of the tables in the barn, with insecure tops and in an unsecured plastic garbage bag. And you guessed it!! 

One hour after (we thought) the last of the garbage made it into the pickup trucks headed to the transfer station, one of the young helpers ran down the hill, in something of a state. “Oh Bruce, you better come quick, there is a BIG problem in the barn.” 

I sprinted into the barn and was frozen in horror at the (seeming) blood bath on a wide swath of the floor…and Charley in a good deal of agony trying to expel the contents of his guts through entry and egress simultaneously. YEP! He had gotten into the sauce bag, opened all four containers, and consumed 70% of the contents, the remaining percentage was smeared all over Charley and all over a circle on the floor 20 feet in diameter. We now had sticky sweet, smelly red sauce, and Charley expulsions, mingling grotesquely in the air — and a dog in misery. I thought dreamily for 1/10th of a second of the calm and tragedy-free times of life before a dog. 

It took him four days to recover, and these were decidedly unfortunate days for all concerned. 

Now, I don’t want you to think that Charley was a constant troublemaker, a thief, or a serial juvenile delinquent. He wasn’t. This dog, as loving, attentive, gentle, and kind a creature as you could find, sees the best in people and wakes up each day to “Eat, Pray, and Love!!” I chose to highlight some of the more energy-charged moments of our time together — you know what I mean, the unplanned tyranny of young children and dogs. 

I forward a few additional of my favorites:

Charley tries to get a leg up

He came running down the hill one early evening and it was clear that he had something in his mouth. In the diminishing light, I could not make it out until it was right in front of me…he had one-half of a deer leg in his mouth.

“Hey, look at this right here, a real treasure, huh, huh?  Ain’t it great?”

“Spit that out right now!!” I said, horrified.

“Uh-ah! Nope, no way, Nada, Amigo, Nyet! You will have to fight me for it…”  

Fought for it I did. 

We ran in circles for a short time and then wrestled to the ground — the last of it was both of my hands locked around the deer hoof end, and his around the grizzly other end. 

“No! NAH. Uh-Unhh, hey c’mon!”

“Let go right NOW!!” I yelled.

“No way! I wanna put it next to my bed in our room!!”  

The struggle continued, like two drunk cowboys duking out in a spaghetti western, until I had him on his back and had firm control of two hands’ worth of deer leg. Finally YANK! I had it, and in a flash, in as close to a tantrum as a dog could manage, he bolted around the garage and disappeared. A little later he showed up, moping around and shooting me ugly looks. 

Circular artwork in hens

On an occasion of a large dinner party at the Orchard Road farmhouse, there were 12 game hens, cleaned, stuffed, and tied, and left outside in a cooler on the back porch. When I moved outside to bring the cooler into the house, my jaw dropped; the cooler was opened (how in the name of logic did that happen?) and behind me, the hens had been placed in a perfect circle on a mound of snow — each one lovingly and gently displayed there by a now smiling and tail-wagging Charles Wallace.

“See?! I got ‘em better ready for ya…nice n’ cold, no teeth marks even!!” 

He was not only proud (orguloso in Spanish, seemingly a fit), he was right.

Gimme shelter or “Feets Don’ Fail Me Now!”

Then there was fear. I only see Charley balk at two things: lightning and thunder. One day at the Paramount, we had a lightning ball come down Center Street — a shocking flash of light followed by what sounded like the explosion of a ton of dynamite, KLA-BLAM!!  Charley let out a few high-pitched yelps, ran in circles, and tried to stand on his back feet battling the air with his paws. His eyes were wild! Then he bolted underneath my colleague Eric Mallette’s desk, shaking and quivering. 

“Oooooooooh, ahHHH, Eee – Me No Likey!!” 

Subsequent storms always made him nervous.

Charley alters his consciousness at Harvest Moon 

Harvest Moon, the tribal lovefest deep in the woods in Middletown Springs, was held each Labor Day weekend. For a small entrance fee food, beer, and music from Friday evening through Sunday brunch, made for a fun salute to yet another Vermont summer. It was a magical time, in a magical place, and late in the evening on Saturday night, everyone danced to “Harvest Moon.” For Charley it was an occasion to play with other dogs …and he always hit the ground running, checking in from time to time. 

On such a Saturday, later in the afternoon, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Charley for some time, when a friend said, “Hey, isn’t that Charley over there, coming this way? He looks like he isn’t feeling too good.” 

I looked to my left and about 100 feet away Charley — low to the ground, legs splayed to the left and the right — was moving slowly toward  more like a crab, or a marine crawling under barbed wire in basic training. He was accompanied by a young man with a kerchief around his neck, who said “Is this your dog?” 

“Yup…” 

“Well, he just ate a small plate of strong marijuana brownies, off of the picnic table outside my tent.”  

Charley found his way to me and collapsed at my feet, bleary-eyed, breathing heavily, and moaning slightly. I got down on the ground and hugged him. Someone fetched a vet, who came and looked him over. After listening carefully to his heart, he said, “He’s not in jeopardy, nor does he need to be taken in, but he’s going to need your comfort for a good long time, stick with it.”

I stayed in the “spoons” position for the rest of the day and into the late night hugging him, whispering to him, and giving him the old cheek-to-jowl. The story spread quickly and a good portion of the attendees, many of whom knew Charley, were kind enough to drop by, check in and love him up. 

We will never know what went through his mind that night, but whatever it was, I found him the next morning with a wise old sage look in his eyes, sitting tall, paws crossed at the wrist. He seemed to be contemplating the mysteries of the universe — he is my Buddha — Charles Wallace the Magnificent – the guy that we know.

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