Richard F. - Short Stories>
Jocko and the Wagon
by Richard F. Stratton

(Author’s Note) The little dog Jocko became a figure of particular interest to the readers of my books on Pit Bulldogs. I am often asked if the stories were true. The fact is that they were told to me many years ago, in the forties, when I was just a youngster. These stories were told to me by Howard Baker. He was the owner of Howard’s Steak House in Boulder, Colorado. He was quite a colorful character, as he had a career doing all the things I thought were important. He had been a boxer, twice fighting for the world’s championship and losing by decision each time, the only two he ever lost. He had also been a race car driver. During the second World War, he had been recruited by the government to help develop a physical fitness program for recruits. He later sponsored a boxing club, and it was through that organization that I got to know him. Much later on, I worked as a bus boy at his restaurant. While I was at the University of Colorado, I worked at the Imperial Tea and Coffee House, which was actually a supply house for all the fraternity and sorority kitchens. The owner, Sam Woods, was a good friends of Howard’s, and they had been in the dog game together, and he could also tell me stories about Jocko and all the others. So, my presumption, skeptic that I am notwithstanding, is that they are true. The following is from my first book This is the American Pit Bull Terrier.

As a youngster in a small town in Colorado, I used to listen to stories about Pit Bulldogs that were told by two "pillars of the community" who at one time had indulged in a little sport with the dogs. Although neither of these two successful businessmen had any Bulldogs at the time I knew them, they obviously had never lost their love for the dogs and seemed to be happiest when they were telling stories about them.

A central figure in many of their stories was Jocko, a 28-pound brindle dog with white markings. Although Jocko was small in size (typical of the Irish dogs brought over to this country in the last century), he was 28 pounds of dynamite! Although he loved people and was friendly with everybody, he had a roguish personality and a penchant for mischief that was forever getting him and his owner into trouble. For one thing, Jocko stalked other dogs the way most dogs stalk cats. He wasn’t allowed to run free, of course, but he had an intelligence and an absolute lack of morality that compensated for that fact. For example, when kept on a cable, he would stay at one end of the cable, pretending he was secured at that end. As soon as a dog was lulled into range, Jocko charged like a shot! He would also lie on his back, pretending to be asleep, and wait for a dog or cat to come within reach of his chain. Jocko, ahead of his time, had set up his own animal control center.

Jocko had several owners because, with his roguish personality and penchant for causing trouble, nobody could stand him for too long at one stretch! Everybody admired him, though, and some people, gluttons for punishment even owned him more than once.

In a story I remember as being practically classic in that it described a typical Jocko antic and at the same time revealed his total love of fun and complete lack of conscience, Jocko was the proud possession of a professional boxer. This fellow was extremely fond of Jocko and obviously felt a certain community of interest with the dog. The two enjoyed each other’s company immensely, and Jocko even got to do roadwork with his owner. Our story concerns how Jocko managed to terminate this happy arrangement.

It seems that Howard (our boxer) had taken Jocko in his buckboard wagon (this was around the turn of the century) to the outskirts of town (where there were no dogs) and the two had done their roadwork. Returning to town in the buckboard, Howard passed his friend Sam, rounding the corner on foot in the opposite direction. Howard, a friendly sort, waved a hearty greeting. And this was the moment Jocko had been waiting for! Apparently, he had been fascinated all along by the reins that moved and snapped so tantalizingly! True to his nature, Jocko concealed his interest in the reins until an opportune moment. Now, with Howard’s attention diverted to Sam, Jocko seized the reins in his teeth and commenced a series of shakings that made those reins snap as they had never snapped before! The horse’s head received the brunt of the punishment that Jocko was administering, and, of course, the animal bolted, completely out of control.

All that Sam knew was that he was waving to his friend Howard when, all at once, the wagon seemed to be enveloped in a whirlwind, then the vehicle disappeared in a dash around the corner. Concerned, Sam ran after it. Rounding the bend, Sam blinked incredulously at the sight that was now before him. The wagon was on its side in a heap, one of its wooden wheels sticking up above it all and still spinning. Howard was in a smaller heap a few yards away from the wreckage. Although slightly dazed, Howard was glowering in the direction of that still-turning wooden wheel. For, there, perky as ever and not a scratch on him, was Jocko, biting at the spokes of the wheel as it turned!