Tahoe Pine Nuts: A good man and his dog
July 8, 2015
Howard Bell was a neighbor of mine. We lived next door to each other in the Waikapu valley on the Island of Maui. Howard was one of Maui's finest, a peace officer of the blood royal.
Everybody loved Howard, he was a man's man and a true gentleman. Howard, in turn, loved his community, his family and his dog.
One sunny Maui morning I got a call from Howard. "Mac-E-Boy, can you come have coffee with me?"
"Of course, Howard, I'll be right over." I could tell something was wrong.
We sat down to a pot of Kona Coffee in the shade of his patio.
"What is it, Howard," I asked. "You look like you just lost your best friend."
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"Actually," he said, "I'm about to lose my best friend." And he reached for his service revolver.
My first thought was, "Help me Jesus, Howard is going to shoot me." But it wasn't me Howard was about to shoot, it was his dog, and I knew how much he loved that 14-year-old dog, Shorty.
"He hasn't eaten in two days." Howard said with a heavy heart.
"I'm sorry, Howard."
He got up from the table, called Shorty, and the two of them walked out the screen door into the mango grove behind the house. I heard a shot, crossed myself, and lifted my cup to Shorty.
Howard came back onto the patio, laid his revolver on the table and let out a long sigh. We sat in silence for a moment before I offered, "May Shorty rest in peace." And we hoisted our cups on high.
At that moment there was a scratch at the screen door, and I thought Howard was going to jump out of his skin. "I'll answer that!" I said, with no little urgency in my voice.
I was not looking forward to answering that door, but I did, of course, and as providence would have it, there was Shorty, wagging his tail, with the hair on the top of his head perfectly parted as if by a barber. Tears welled up in my eyes and I had to laugh.
"Howard…Shorty is fine."
Shorty ran to Howard and you never saw such a lovefest. I don't know if dogs can cry, but Howard had tears in his eyes, I had tears in my eyes, and I have to believe Shorty had tears in his eyes too.
Well, Shorty would live another day and die a natural death, but he lives in my memory like a shot tower.
Larger than Shorty, however, Howard Bell lives in my memory as characteristic of the good-hearted men and women who represented the Maui Police Department back in the '70s.
It is my conviction, after three decades removed now from Maui, that Howard Bell, Solomon Lee, Dexter Dixon and the rest of Maui's finest, mentored their prodigies and taught them to relate to their community in such a way as to command respect and yes, love. I have to believe, they could today be role models for all of America.
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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