skipper hill

Skippers was our best friend.  He was kind, thoughtful, energetic, and excellent at retrieving frisbees.  Sometimes I’d throw one over the hill and he’d come back with two or three.  It was as if he understood them, fully understood them, you know what I mean?  He felt the inner essence of the frisbees and they trusted him completely.  It was a beautiful relationship.

We used to take him for walks, although he never really liked them.  He was always jumping around, never felt really comfortable on a leash, and so we eventually just started driving him out to the countryside where he could run free for a couple hours.  We’d watch the sunset together over a few root beers, and then casually meander back to the car, kicking up seeds and dirt on our way, wishing the friction of the ground could slow our inevitable journey back.

Most times when I was sad, he’d walk over, jump up, and place his arm around me like he was giving me one of those side hugs that fake friends give. But he wasn’t a fake friend; he was a pure, real, true best friend.  I trusted him.  He had faith in me, too.

It crushed me when my girlfriend and I broke up, but it crushed me even more when she demanded Skippers come live with her.  Sure, they had a relationship, but I was the one who spent all my free time with him.  I was the one who carefully filled his water bowl right to the top and gave him pats as we watched Survivor together on the sofa. He was my best friend and I cried for hours at the thought of losing him. 

It wasn’t amicable at all.  She would not give in.  I begged, I pleaded, please let Skippers live with me.  Please let my little Skippers stay.  I’ll give you my Now That’s What I Call Music CD collection, I’ll give you my Playstation 2, anything!  But she would not hear it.  She wanted Skippers and she would not stop until she had him.

After a week of tossing and turning in bed, I came up with a solution.  Hey, I said, calling her up, let’s go to a neutral location and whoever Skippers runs to when it’s time to come home, is the person who can take him home.  Let’s do it fairly.  Reluctantly, I feel, she agreed.

The next day we set Skippers lose at the park and ventured to opposite sides. He leapt from place to place, bounding to and fro, gleefully unaware of the importance of his next decision.  I can not lie, I shed many tears that afternoon.

When the sun set, naturally Skippers began to grow tired.  He sniffed the air, barked a low hum, and then looked back and forth.  We slowly approached him, each eagerly waiting for him to make up his mind.  Who do you want to go with, she said.  Yes, who, I nodded, tears still streaming down my face. Skippers looked up at both of us with a wise look on his face, like he understood what we were each going through. 

Just then, a little boy tossed a frisbee right over the hill. Skippers, of course, dove after it.  We waited for an unusually long time.  I had begun to grow worried.  Just when I had decided to run after him over the hill, he bounded to the summit and produced two frisbees hanging from his mouth.  Slowly but purposefully, he plopped one in front of each of us and wagged his nice brown tail.  Skippers was our best friend. He was kind, thoughtful, energetic, and excellent at retrieving frisbees. 

It was Christmas vacation. Horty and I were returning to our hotel room after the theater. The clerk handed us a letter reading: Dear Dad. Ill be at Uncle John’s office. Call me there. They wouldn’t let me in. Found a “W” in my hat. IVe been through the mill but my middle name, Watson, found me out. Lovingly, your son, Orson. Bewilderment from Hortense. “Now what in the world is that mad boy talking about-?-?-!” To me, no mystery. Orson’s penchant for dramatics, on or off stage, is pervasive. He had wanted to get in our room. Maybe to use the typewriter I’m prone to travel with. Said he was our son. Was asked for identification. When O-W was discovered in his hat, he could have amended his claim to that of foster son and proved it by a phone call to my office. But that would have been too easy. And spoiled all the fun.
—  Skipper Hill tells a story about how Orson Welles was perpetually 8 years old