The Slab City Series–#4 The day the dog died

burned door

“Did you hear what happened last night?” Scot was on his bike outside my trailer.


I had heard some ruckus by the hot springs, but I locked my door and went to bed.

“A bunch of kids beat up Jerry got pretty bad. I tried to stop them. By the time we got back to the bunker, they had torched my place.”

Apparently, Jerry had said something the kids didn’t like, and Scot was collateral damage. Bunkers don’t burn easily, so the damage was limited to the door and his clothes and a portfolio of pictures—including those of his wife.

This is so-called hippie justice, except there is nothing just or even rational about it. It’s mean, blind, and immature. It feeds on revenge and imagined slights. The randomness and irrationality of the attack made me tense and vulnerable. Lightening strikes just this way.

I was on my way to a little Bible study that met behind the Haven, a drug- and alcohol-free hangout in the Slabs. Scot had been a regular and decided to come along.

the Haven

As we walked the half-mile to the Haven, the morning sun warmed even this blighted patch of earth and brought a sense of cheer and normalcy. Lance, Scot’s dog, trotted ahead, renewing acquaintances. A young bird dog loped over with the fluid grace characteristic of the breed. A few miles north of the Slabs, I had seen the hunters that flock to the shores of the Salton Sea to shoot ducks and geese. Sometimes a half-dozen or more bird dogs were in the back of their trucks. It was easy to imagine that this one had run away or become lost.

“Beautiful dog,” Scot said.

A green truck rattled by. Too fast, I thought.

Some noise, I’m not sure what, made us turn around. The truck had stopped, and the dog was laying on the road, a pool of red, viscous tissue splattered around its head. The man stomped and cursed, got back in his truck, and roared off, leaving carnage behind him.

Another man came out of his trailer yelling, “That’s Bill’s dog. He killed Bill’s dog. That’s hit-and-run, man. I’m calling the police.”

Scot walked over to the dog and knelt beside it, stroking it. He prayed a little and laid his head on the dog’s side.

“Hey, man. That’s hit-and-run. You can’t just run over a dog and leave,” Loud Mouth had an audience now as people gathered. “I know who it was. I’m calling the police.”

Scot picked up the limp, bloody dog and walked over to Bill’s trailer. Bill stuck his head out and yelled, “That isn’t my dog. Get the fuck out of here!”

So Scot carried the dog back to the road. A woman brought some precious water and set about cleaning up the mess. Another woman offered her personal pet cemetery, which already held four dogs, as a final resting place for this one. So, Scot and the woman went off to bury it.

cleaning up

I continued on to what was left of Bible study. Later, walking back to my little trailer, I passed the watery, discolored patch on the road and realized I was feeling nauseous.

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13 Responses to The Slab City Series–#4 The day the dog died

  1. Colleen Boe 19 March, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    That’s exactly what happened to my beloved border collie/lab companion of 7 yrs. on a little used backroad in Quartzsite…..that guy never stopped either. It breaks my heart to see so many dead dogs on the back roads around Coachella…..AND the highways as well!

  2. Shawn 14 March, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Is it time for you to leave Slab City yet?
    It sounds like the bad side of Detroit, living next door to you.
    Bless Scot.

    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      Yes. Bless Scot and the pet cemetery lady and the water lady. And yes, it was time to leave.

  3. Cyndy Pietronico 13 March, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I was wondering what proximity is Slab city to the Salton Sea? I was out there yesterday.

    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      Slab City is just east of Niland. From El Centro, head north on 111 and turn right at the first grocery store in town–into the desert. Cross the railroad tracks and the landfill. You’ll see Salvation Mountain shimmering in the distance.
      Good luck!

  4. Sandy Christensen 12 March, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    “Except for the grace of God goes Oreo”, is my first thought. And as Marvin said, I feel fickle… Wanting to be at The Slabs, and then not wanting to face the naure of people who live in that mode, especially if they are easily offended. It seems to me that you are seeing both brutal roughness, and also the sweet kindness of souls to help one another… What a journey, God be with you. Sandy c

    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

      Thanks, Sandy. God IS with me. And yes, brutality and beauty–almost at the same moment.

  5. Marvin 11 March, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Ouch! The best….and the worst of human-kind….in an instant/in a day/ in a small enclave in California…..

    I feel so fickle: tuesday I wanted to go there (Slab City), today, I do not……

    I´d ask ¿are you ok?….but, of course, you are; and certainly others who cross your path are equally inspired, challenged to believe , perhaps in themselves, talvez en un poder más allá de esta tierra……

    Gracias, como siempre

    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      Certainemente, un poder mas alla…

  6. Julie Claire DeVoe 11 March, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    That human behavior can encompass such extremes in a given situation is a constant source of fascination for me. What an exhausting cluster of emotions for you to process…As trite(and selfish !) as it sounds, the first thing that came to mind was”oh my goodness I would have needed a nap after that”…..

    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

      I DID take a nap. And stay in the rest of the day…how did you know?

  7. Julia pulia 11 March, 2011 at 12:44 pm #


    • Kate 18 March, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

      Goodness, Pulia!