The doggonedest names
Some call me the Dog Name-Whisperer and I cannot deny it.
I had the coolest dogs ever and named them Huck and Finn after my favorite character in the book of my childhood. They are not mine anymore. Instead, they run the fields of some Illinois farm, at least I imagine and pray they still do, wild and free. My favorite thing was to watch them run. Their feet barely met the ground. Their strides were long and graceful and their ears and tails, like furry kites in a mighty wind, sailed behind them. They were beautiful and rambunctious.
True to his name, Huck was a bit of an asshole. He never saw a pot he didn’t want to stir, a lap (or a sofa, for that matter) he didn’t want to jump, or trouble he didn’t want to start. He was rugged and fearless. He had a black patch over one eye like a pirate. I could imagine him on a raft with his namesake sailing through Mark Twain’s imagination on the mighty Mississippi.
Finn, on the other hand, was a gentleman’s dog. He was proper. If he lived in Downton Abbey, no one would say he shouldn’t. When a bird or a dragonfly piqued his interest, he would strike the hunting dog pose so perfectly you would want to grab a camera or a canvas and capture it forever.
Cisco is Lacey’s little half-breed barrel-bodied, bow-legged Chihuahua mix. I named him, too, and one could not imagine another name for him. He is a bandit and a bully. He is roughly 1/10 the weight of his running buddy Gus, who is a St. Berdoodle, but he is the elder of the two and he parlays experience and orneriness into domination. When they play fight, he is only playing because half of his teeth are missing and the ones left couldn’t pierce Gus’s hide anyway. If Gus nips him or somehow fails to follow protocol, Cisco goes toothless Pirhanna on the big fellow.
Gus is everybody’s favorite. All of my kids, my grandson, my wife, me…we all love Gus. He is big and powerful because he is half St. Bernard. He is graceful, a tremendous leaper, and a great swimmer because he is half Poodle. Poodles are known to be a bit proud and haughty breed. Not Gus. He is humble and playful. His heart beats like a bass drum with loyalty and love.
I named Gus after my favorite Larry McMurtry character, Augustus (Gus) McCrae, of Lonesome Dove. McCrae is far and away McMurtry’s most lovable character, full of wit and humor, fiercely loyal, free with advice, and deadly with a gun. He values respect but cherishes friendship even more. Gus enjoys a good conversation. He learns and he teaches without condescending. He’s fun and faithful. That is McMurtry’s Gus.
That’s my Gus, too. His name is perfect.
What’s in a name? I will tell you what is in a name: what you put in it. That’s what.
The Dadgumedest Name
I grew up hating my name. Eugene. I asked my Mom more than a few times how the heck she settled on such a goofy name for me. My Dad said she named me after an old boyfriend. Dad liked to aggravate for the sake of aggravation.
Part of the problem with Eugene is the way they say it in rural Texas. They say YOUgene. It sounds like a backwoods shack, like corn whiskey, like sneakers with floppy soles that have come unglued. It sounds like a hobo dipping soup from a boiling cauldron. It sounds like homemade soap, like biscuits and sorghum, like a toothless grin. Just country, man.
Somewhere along the way, I dropped the YOU and became Gene and that was so much better. Heck, go ahead and make fun of Gene Autry, Gene Wilder, or Gene Hackman, if you want. But if you do, you’re dumber than a sack of hammers.
Even Eugene doesn’t bother me anymore. When you say it euGENE, it sounds regal. The name is of Greek origin and means “noble,” or “well-born.” Little did I know that my country momma, who grew up on a West Texas cotton farm where the nearest town was named Noodle and the school she attended was in Merkel, a dried-up, one-horse burg, was dreaming big dreams when she named me. She was giving me nobility and pride of heritage.
Thanks, Mom. I love my name. I love you more.
The Highfalutinest Name
I go, of course, by my middle name.
My first name is David, which is my Dad’s middle name and the name by which he was called. Now, that is a name. There was a famous shepherd boy by that name. Also, a famous poet went by David. So did a world-renowned songwriter, a fierce warrior, and a great king. All of these titles belong to one man, who happens to be my favorite Bible Character.
Israel’s King David, like America’s Benjamin Franklin and only a very small handful of others in history, was among the most brilliant of his generation in numerous categories.
David Eugene is my name. I like it.
What’s in a name? What you squeeze out of it. That’s what.
A rose by any other name might smell as sweet but who could imagine a rose by any other name? Who could imagine Romeo or Juliet or William Shakespeare by any other name?
Take that name your momma gave you and go out there and make a name for yourself.