Tuesday, June 9, 2009

50 Years Of Dojo Rat: More than you ever wanted to know


Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be Dojo Rats...
Well, well, well... your ol' buddy Dojo Rat has finally hit the big 5-0. Believe me, I'm starting to feel 50, too. I heard once a man doesn't get wisdom until he is 40, and doesn't know how to use it until 50. Still waiting.
The above pic with my Dad was taken in November 1959, so I would have been about 6 months old. My mom said my first word was a sentence; "Turn out the light", and they haven't gotten me to shut up ever since.

In the fall of 1973 the young Ratlet started High School. One rainy afternoon, I opened the door to the gym and peered in. In the background a record player was echoing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" while beautiful young women in tight leotards were doing gymnastics. Girls, with real breasts! "That's it", I said, "I'm joining the gymnastics team". The following year, when the seniors had graduated, I was the only one left that could do every event, so I became "all-around". Floor-ex was my specialty though, I was pretty good at handsprings and flips. Oh, but the girls...

Then there was the wrestling team. As you can see, the young Ratlet started at the 136-pound weight class. I put on a lot of muscle, and eventually wrestled 157 and occasionally 178. The coaches sit at the bottom of the picture. On the left is Mr. Austin, who was the coolest teacher in school. He wore tie-dye shirts and walked the halls playing a Banjo. On the right, the big dude in grey sweat pants is Mr. Nettles. One day in the cafeteria, I made the mistake of smarting off to Mr. Nettles. During wrestling practice that afternoon, he took me away from the team and into a seperate room with mats, and beat the shit out of me. I deserved every body slam he gave me, and figured I had learned my lesson. The next day, Mr. Johnsrud, a huge Norwegian-type guy that was not even a wrestling coach, came into practice in a wrestling uniform. He took me out of practice, into the side room and he beat the shit out of me too. They had double-teamed me. I love those guys...

I'm on the left, my best friend John Montague is on the right. We grew up together, shared everything; cars, guns, Beer, girls, more Beer.
Thats a shack we built and lived in up in the Coast Range of Oregon. We were deep, deep in the woods, hunting, fishing, drinking creek water every day. Every so-often we would hit town to stock up on rice, butter and alcohol, or drive to the University of Oregon to visit the girls we knew there. One night we were sitting around the campfire, reading books by lamplight. Up on the ridge above us, we heard a blood-curdling scream - just like a woman who was being stabbed to death - it was horrifying, and seemed to go on and on. Our dogs were freaking out, and we grabbed our rifles. We were so far back in the woods, nobody knew where our camp was, and it couldn't have been a person. I believe it may have been a Bigfoot, a Sasquatch - even cougar's don't sound like that.
We lost John in a logging accident several years later, he was pinned by a log and drowned. I'll miss him forever.

Here my friend Wes, on the right, is thrashing me in a stick fight. This was at the Farm in Oregon, on Sauvie Island between the Columbia and Willamette rivers. It was 300 acres of White Oaks and farm fields. I was caretaker there for over eight years, where I would plant corn, wheat and millet around the Duck hunting lakes the owners had. I grew a huge garden, we canned food and had chickens, turkeys, ducks and goats. We lived simple and free, and I learned a lot about farming.
Later, a super-multi-millionare bought the property, but kept me on as hired help. He started one of the largest Ostrich ranches in Oregon, and I worked there for another two years. Man, those Ostriches are dangerous, I almost got killed a couple of times. Sauvie Island was the first island I lived on, until I made the move north to my undisclosed remote island hideout in Washington.

Ace Hayes and I met in Portland in the mid-1980's. We became very close friends, and Ace was one of the most influential political Guru's in my life. He was a walking encyclopedia of government cover-ups and conspiracies. Ace had run guns to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, worked as an activist, in prisons, and as a labor organizer. Ace ALWAYS had a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun with him. We worked together on cable-access TV and published "The Portland Free Press". At that time, I was running a series on a CIA contract airline in McMinnville, Oregon. In the course of my research, I cultivated two CIA sources, and a third that threatened my life.
Ace ran informational seminars that attracted people from across the political spectrum; some were packin' guns, some were packin' pot pipes. He died of a brain aneryusm on a Friday the 13th in 1998.

I've had lots of dogs. Dogs that bit people. Dogs that killed things. Dogs that I'd have to bail out of Doggy Jail. But I have to say, this is the best dog I've ever owned. She's Border Collie-Blue Healer-Austrailian Shepherd. She stays around the property, goes to work with me every day, doesn't fight with other dogs, and is a pleasure to own. My dog has two rules for humans; sticks are to be thrown, balls are to be kicked soccer-style. You don't kick sticks or throw balls. That's it.

And this is my beautiful wife, the love of my life.
We finally decided "what the heck, we might as well get married" a few years ago. It was a full-blown backwoods Hippie wedding, 5 kegs of beer, countless cases of wine, and lots of really bad campfire music. There was probably around 200 people, and it went all night. I'm wearing an Elk-skin tunic that my Dad had made when I was about ten-years-old. My wife made her wedding dress out of a pair of Carhart bib overalls.
She is so beautiful, she's my best friend and partner for life. I'm one happy Dojo Rat!

And yes, this is me. Watch out kids; this is what 30 years of drinking Beer and practicing Martial Arts will get you - a crotchety old hippie who knows how to swing a shovel!
The rest of the story is filled in on the right side of the page, with pictures of my various instructors and training partners, who have inspired me, helped me grow, and given me the confidence to tackle life.
Damn, kinda makes me feel old...

18 comments:

Patrick Parker said...

That is some fine history!

BSM said...

50 is the new 40 so you got many more years of martial arts!

Brown Dragon said...

A toast to 50 more big bro!!!

Steve Perry said...

Great post.

Sean C. Ledig said...

Ha ha! I'm still 5.5 years younger than you!

Seriously, here's to another 50 years, DR. Great bio. I enjoyed reading it.

Arkangel said...

Master They once told me that a martial artist comes into his prime in his 50's, so things are looking up for you I guess!

madamestrange said...

Great story my friend - tis your life. The more I read your work, the more I am determined to cross paths, drink fine beers with you, flirt with your wife, and learn the ways of the dojo rat.

Till then, happy birthday - you old ass rat. Funny you don't look a day under 60.

You are blessed.

madamestrange said...

The above comment was from Sensei Strange - on my wife's account.

Andrea said...

Auguri! that is definitely a gooood story..
A dojo ratto from Italy

Kostas Tountas said...

That was you best post to date! A wonderful account, full of life. Hope your next fifty will be just as filled with great times, and friends.

A Belated Happy 50th Birthday !

- Kostas

Formosa Neijia said...

Great post! Happy belated birthday!

Martial Arts Mom said...

Your life sounds so colorful that one might think you made it up like that Chuck Barris movie a few years back where he said he worked for the FBI or CIA and his Gong Show run was just a cover up for him being a hit man! Seriously, Dojo Rat, interesting story!

Michele said...

Happy 50th Birthday!

JoseFreitas said...

Hey, I'm 45 and haven't seen any of that wisdom you're talking about! Have a great anniversary, congratulations, and let's drink to another 50 years of "packing guns and packing pot"!

Mighty said...

Congratulations John. Happy Birthday. May you see many, many more and in fine health. Great retrospective and yes, you are a lucky man to have your unnamed Dojo Rat Wife. You guys are great together. Next time we meet I'll buy you a birthday Oly' or two!

Littlefair said...

I'm *aspiring* to be a crotchety old hippy when I turn 50!

Happy birthday!

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Happy belated birthday, John. Sorry I've been out of touch for awhile.

I enjoyed reading your story immensely, and I'm looking forward to the day when we can cross hands for a few hours and have a beer after.

I'll bring some Chimay.

Dojo Rat said...

Bobbe;
Definately, let's get together. I'll drop a note to your website.