|Harold Hogan, a son of John and Bridget's son William, was born in Troy, MT. When Harold was five, his father William, who had gone west to mine and prospect for gold, relocated the family to Spokane with the help of William's brother John Carol. Harold worked in mining and logging camps in Montana and Idaho with his brothers Arthur and John Joseph Hogan when the three were young men, later moving to Seattle where he worked as a housepainter. This is one of his short stories.
Take a man's hands and twist them into meaty, fingerless shapes. Take a man's head and give it a leonine mane, a beak, and eyes fierce and graven as an eagle's. Add a thick chunk of body bent to legs with animal balance. This was the physical semblance of Dog Joe, a man whose life closely paralleled the existence of the mongrel dogs in whose path he strode and who, indeed, were his companions, no more wild, savage or driven than the man himself.
Of his mind or, more properly, of his wild, untamed soul, I have only the word of the sheepherders and miners who lived in the primitive area. They told me in all sincerity that Dog Joe had no soul, that he was no more human than the animals. He ate with them, trotted along the mountain trails with them, snarled at them and with them; made his bed with them. Of course, he was always their master, perhaps only because his smell was different than theirs; he consulted them and listened to their whims with no apparent will of his own. If the pack wished to hunt down a deer, he would balance his strength and skill with theirs to track the prey down, running until his great strength was exhausted. If they failed, he failed, and he accepted his defeat as indifferently as they; or if the hunt was successful, he exulted with them, gorging himself on venison to satiety, guarding his portion carefully from the unkempt beasts who were his friends. He did cling to the civilized pastime of partially cooking the meat, possibly because he admitted to a degree of sanitation; or it may be that his mind still held some indistinct pattern of human behavior.
There was a cross, a crude spiritual emblem, hewn of rough pine, that once marked the spot where the bones of Dog Joe are interred. Since his burial, a fairly good mountain road has been cut through that Idaho wilderness, destroying all traces of his grave.There remains only the near incredible story of his half-human, half-animal life.
You might wonder about the cross as I did. For his death ended an epoch of savagery, and the manner of his dying seemed almost an anti-climax to the story of his life. I have the word of a spectator to his slaying that he died as any other hunted, wild beast. The slugs from his tormentor's guns tore him down to his knees; then he was on all fours, crawling toward them, a thick snarl in the back of his throat, his teeth bared in animal defiance. Altogether it took seven shots from their Lugers to kill him; even then, after his body had been nearly cut in two, he survived until the following dawn. He had almost nothing to say in his last moments of pain and triumph, no reproof for his murderers. His animal eyes, shadowed with pain, mirrored the uncompromising dignity of a dying animal. My friend, who was with Dog Joe when he died, told me that the wild creature said only one thing before the end.
"Billy," he said, "where are you, Billy Boy?"
Yet the real and awful human anxiety of that last question is a clear indictment of those who said he had no soul. It explains, too, why the child who saw him die placed a cross on that lonely grave. It was little enough to do.
"Little enough," the child told me when he was grown to be a man, "when you understand the extreme deprivations, the seemingly fated mischances that led to the final tragedy of Dog Joe's life."
"Dog Joe's death," he reflected, "was the final chapter of an early era of violence. It was, in fact, the beginning of a comparatively peaceable period for that part of the west."
At the time when Dog Joe wandered through these wild hills, there was a kind of madness in the hearts of men. The fever was blamed, of course, on the lust for gold. But I wonder sometimes if the hunting of gold was not secondary to a feeling of revolt against the inhibitions imposed against men by convention. I suppose all of us get a little fed up on petty moralities.
At any rate, the country was wild. Murder was common, although sometimes disguised as justifiable homicide. Unpleasant choice of language often led to quick liquidation, and not always by gunfire. In the middle of winter, at sixty below zero, it could be accomplished neatly without a single shot fired. The storekeeper for the community could do it. All he had to do was refuse a down-on-his-luck prospector a grubstake. A powerful figure like John Meades could and did accomplish this feat more than once.
Big John, as he was known, was tough both physically and mentally. Worse, he had a sadistic streak. It didn't come out very often, but when it did the axe fell and came up bloody. That is the way it happened with the man we came to know as Dog Joe.
His real name was Joe Marshall, just a young, green kid in his early twenties when I first knew him. He came to the country like most of the rest of us, I suppose, looking for adventure. Well, he'd found a pretty good claim, a placer that paid off well the first summer he worked it.
The first snow came and Joe was well fixed to last the winter out. He would have been alright except for the woman. Guess he made a mistake there. Easy enough to do, though, in a country where the sight of a woman maddened men worse than gold.
Her name was May. She had a lot of wavy chestnut hair and a dimple when she smiled, and that was pretty often. Trouble was, she was Big John's woman. Everybody knew that, even Joe.
Joe and May hit it almost too good the first time they saw each other. He'd come in for some supplies, and Big John was up country a ways on business. That's what I mean by Fate. It was a perfect booby trap and Joe walked right into it. I remember how she kind of turned around to look at him when he came in. She smiled, dimpling up at him. It was a very special kind of smile, like she was inviting him to a chivari instead of asking him to please sign his own death warrant.
He sparked right back. He was a pretty good-looking chap in those days and he was going over big with her. They hadn't talked ten minutes when I knew they were practically lovers. Before Big John