Cry havoc and let slip the junkyard dogs
by Duncan Fry.
According to Jim Croce, Bad Bad Leroy Brown was meaner than a junkyard dog. That’s a bit harsh on junkyard dogs – we had one next door to us at ARX for quite a few years, so draw close you youngsters, and let me explain.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, we have dogs the way most factories have rats. There are always a couple of them roaming around looking for some action, annoying the passers-by, razzing up the reps and chasing the couriers! At the moment we have Charlie the WonderWhippet, AKA the Snapper, and Sultan the Doberman, in the position of Head of Security.
Our current factory is what we still call the ‘new’ factory, despite being here twenty years or more. Prior to that we were in what we call the ‘old’ factory (no prizes for guessing that).
This was around the corner a couple of streets away, and was one of a group of factories built early last century with concrete bricks and angled asbestos roof. Mmmm – smell the ambiance! On one side was a building wrecker’s junkyard, guarded day and night by a big black dog, and opposite was a large empty block of industrial wasteland.
The whole area was owned by the junkyard owner, who took a benign un-interest in anything we did, apart from collecting the rent from all the factories. This left us free to park any number of old trucks in various stages of disrepair on the vacant block, and also salvage anything useful to us like wood and partitions etc from the junkyard.
But wait, I hear you say, what about the junkyard dog?
Well, originally there were two dogs, the big black one previously mentioned, and a brown one, which just wandered off one night. Either that or the big one ate it, but one morning it just wasn’t there.
This must have made the big one a bit lonely, because a day or so later he wandered up to the fence to have a look at us, wagging his tail. I cautiously put out a hand for him to sniff. He gave it a good going over with his nose, and wagged his tail some more.
Must have been the McBreakfast I had munched on the way to work.
He wandered down the fence line for about 10 metres, poked his nose against the wire fence, pushed his way through a secret hole, then wandered up to have a good look at us, still wagging his tail.
When I say big, he easily came up to my hips. He stopped, and then leaned against me. I hung on to his neck to stop myself from falling over. An old leather collar around his neck had a metal tab on it with ‘Johnny’ engraved on it, so Johnny it was. From then onwards he would wander out anytime we were there, and come and lay down in front of the factory.
As a guard dog, he certainly looked the part, but had no idea what the job entailed. Anyone who came in could quite safely walk past him, around him, or even over him and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
We had been in the factory for about five years when the owner of the junkyard (and everything else) died. His widow sold out a couple of months later to some grasping developer who did a deal on buying the whole lot from her for some meagre pittance, intent on throwing up a whole lot more factories on our nice convenient vacant block next door.
Which he eventually did.
But what was going to happen to poor old Johnny?
When his owner died he had nowhere to go. All he knew was life in the junkyard, and having never been inside a house it was unlikely he’d settle down back home with the widow. But luckily Dom the panel beater next door to us took him in, and he became his factory dog.
It was a real tough life for Johnny then. Mooch around the factory, or yard, or driveway all day, sleep inside the factory in winter, and in an old car out the front in summer.
If I came back as a dog, it sounds like the sort of life I could get used to, especially as Johnny had not been subjected to the old ‘nip and tuck’ operation and had quite an impressive collection of family jewels!
A paint company rep came into the factory one morning.“I’m just looking for Dom next door,” he said. “I’m supposed to see him at 10 o’clock. I can’t see him anywhere – is he in today?”
“He can’t be far away,” I replied. “Why don’t you wait in his office – I don’t think he’ll be long”.
“Thanks,” he replied, and went next door. Thirty seconds later he was back, looking rather pale.“Jeez I can’t wait in there, mate,” he said. “There’s this bloody big dog lying there under the desk, and it’s eating some small animal!”
That sounded interesting, so I went next door with him to have a look. I peered under the desk in the gloom of Dom’s office, where I could just discern the shape of Johnny with something small, furry and pink clutched between his front paws. I bent down towards him.
“What have you got there, Johnny?” I asked. His tail thudded against the floor, and he pushed something round and glistening with dog slobber towards us
“Ah, jeez, he’s ripped the bloody head off it!” yells the rep, who promptly ran outside for a good heave in the gutter. I picked up the offending object, then started laughing. It was indeed a head, but not of an animal but some small child’s soft toy doll, which Johnny had found and decided to adopt.
I took the head outside to show the rep, but he was gone. Who would have thought that paint reps had such tender stomachs?
One day a friend of ours – let’s call him Rod (since that’s his name!) – came down to the factory to show us his new red Mazda RX7 sports car. We all wandered outside to go ooh and aah over it, then went back inside to have a cup of our infamous coffee.
About half an hour later, Rod gets up to go, climbs in the car and zooms off down the laneway at the front of the factory, while we enviously watch.
Suddenly the car screeches to a halt, the driver’s door flies open, and Rod leaps out, yelling “Shi-i-i-i-i-t!”
He stands there white faced, pointing to the inside of the car, then slowly Johnny’s head pokes out, looks around, then he climbs out and wanders down the lane, wagging his tail.
What had happened was this: after we had gone inside with Rod when he arrived, Johnny must have gone over to have a good look at the car too. Deciding that this was a whole lot nicer place to have a snooze than the beaten up old car he normally slept in, he had climbed in through the open driver’s window, wedged himself in the small back seats, curled up and nodded off. Not used to being in a car that actually moved, he had woken up when the car started, and stood up to see what was happening!
As Rod told us, “I looked in the rear view mirror to wave to you guys, and all of a sudden the only thing I could see was the Hound of the Baskervilles staring back at me! Scared the living crap out of me!”
Dom sold up his panel beating business, retired and took Johnny home to guard his grappa plantation, we moved to the new factory, and that was it. But next time a junkyard dog latches onto your arm and won’t let go, don’t worry – he’s probably just looking for a bit of company!