I used to own a white 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan named Brenda Jo Stevens. Brenda had a plywood bed built in the back of her with locking compartments for gear, thanks to my daddy. I put about 150k miles on her before i sent her off with two Mexican dudes, who planned to fix her up and give her a new life south of the border.
I slept many incredibly cozy nights with Brenda Jo in Wallmart and Wafflehouse parking lots, as well as campgrounds and neighborhood streets. The sketchiest place we ever temporarily called home was in Yuma, AZ. I slept for about 5 hours before moving on. Yuma is not a city i would care to sleep in again. I wish i had more photos of Brenda Jo and her entire set up, but my computer died after downloading a year’s worth of tour photos once. Such is life.
In 2007, i went on one particular tour with John Elliott and Howard on support, from Texas through the Southwest, up through California, to Portland and back to Austin. It was April, or May if i do recall clearly. We played in Taos for $150 and a couple of green chili & turkey burritos (oh, green chili, how i love thee) and then left right after the gig because Howard had read about ancient ruins outside of Phoenix, Arizona, which was where our gig was the following evening. He offered to drive through the night, he wanted to visit them that badly. John and i slept in the back, bumped about by the New Mexican roads, in bad need of repair. Brenda Jo arrived at 6am. I awoke to Howard “Hey Raina, i found a dog”. I shot straight out of bed and said “THAT’S MY DOG”. The dreamiest pink and orange sunrise on the horizon of dusty Arizona mountains, saguaro cactus flowers all in bloom.
A few months prior to this, i had begged a puppy off a homeless dude at the old BouldiN Creek Cafe in Austin. The guy was pretty messed up and that puppy was precious. I grew up with dogs, and i desperately wanted a four-legged tour buddy. My Chinese astrology sign is the Dog. I am a dog person, deep down and through. I named the puppy Motown and carried him around for a few weeks in a makeshift baby carrier. Later, i ran into the homeless guy again at the Kerrville Family Tuesday night hang, the open mic at Trophy’s; a truly shitty dive bar that no longer exists. He had been bereft without the pup and needed the him back. I acquiesced. Years later, i was to find out that the puppy was hit by a car and killed mere weeks after i gave him back.
Hopi was tied to a tree behind the cultural center near the ruins, where one acquires a parking pass to visit the ancient city. She was covered in ticks, thirsty and starving. She was so much more than happy to see us. We gave her water and some granola, which was all we had in the van at that moment. We spent about 2 hours pulling ticks off of her, they were in her ears, all over her back and even between the pads on her paws. After her makeshift grooming session, we put her in the van and her life as a FolkHound began. In Phoenix, i took her to the Vet who gave her a few shots and a clean bill of health and then barely charged me after i promised to take care of her. How could i not make such an easy promise? This dog was my soul mate, my familiar, my new best friend.
Hopi Ophelia Desert Rose has seen more states than most people, she has enough self control as to refrain from eating a burrito sitting unwrapped in the cup holder of a van, she is the more patient than any of us with her new little brothers, she is kind with everyone except squirrels. The best road find ever.