DC Writing Index

Noah - Tassajara dog

Alain Crockin is now called Donn Deangelo and I'm most grateful to him for taking this photo. - dc


DC remembers Noah

Others respond (below)

Nancy Lay came in from Big Sur with Noah in 1967, a dirty blonde, medium build, slight frame canine. Nancy was there for a year or so and Noah stayed when she left. The only dog we had in those days was Noah who never barked at people or dogs, only other animals. Noah would have his feelings hurt if a visiting dog wasn't friendly. Noah may have loved people and dogs but he enthusiastically tried to kill anything else small or large. Once saw him take on a ten point buck at Grasshopper Flats. Everyone loved Noah too. He seemed to me confused not knowing who his master was. He'd stay with someone for a while then move on. Noah stayed with me at night for about three months and I enjoyed that. Then one night he didn't come and never came back, moved on to another person. He was an orphan with too many parents.

The mornings were cold, the afternoons hot, and although the creek was running high for that time of year, there was a desert dryness in the air. The upper and lower gardens were flourishing. Amidst the flowers and bees, one could find in those beds sweet potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, peppers, gobo, daikon, lettuce, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, pumpkins and turnips. Our trusty dog Noah guarded the crops, roamed the woods, and longed for just one master. - from Tassajara and Suzuki at the Time of the Sandokai Talks.

The first summer, ’67, I walked to Big Sur with Noah. It’s the hardest nine miles I ever did. Starts upstream from Tassajara past Grasshopper Flats, scouting round the waterfall, up over the Tony Trail which a ranger told me was the steepest in the whole huge Los Padres National Forest. Got down to Willow Creek on the other side at about ten in the morning. Sank to my knees and drank desperately from that and every creek crossed that day. Hadn’t brought water. Young idiot me. Noah lapped it up like crazy as well. Looked up. Struck by the experience of being in a place of such remoteness. Had only talked to a few people who'd gone this way.

Looked for signs of Indians. Had found an arrowhead on the other side of the Hogback at Tassajara. Did a double-take when I caught site of a heavy iron contraption. Remembered eccentric Putsy, the ranger who’d been tending to these trails for decades. Said he’d used mules to bring gear, that there used to be mule trains with supplies and gear for prospectors. They never found any gold to speak of. Told me if we ever do find gold in those parts to hide it, bury it, keep it a secret – “Unless you want the place overrun and torn up.”

Onward toward the Pacific through oak covered valleys and meadows and up and down. Just Noah and me. Got to the ridge looking down at the ocean as the sky was darkening. I couldn’t find the trail down. It got really dark. I found a bit of rope off the trail, tied it to Noah who led me down blind, through brush, down the steep hillsides skirting menacing drop-offs until gloriously coming to a road. Then down the road to the first light. Exhausted, parched, staggering to the door.

A tall, thin old man with a white beard answered my knocks. I knew him. It was Dryden Phelps whom I’d met at Tassajara. He was some sort of Buddhist scholar who’d lived for a long time in China. Went there as a Baptist missionary in the twenties. He was quite old. I stood there just trying not to collapse as he talked on and on to me. Eventually his wife appeared “ Who is it?” she asked and after a look at me, “Oh, you poor dear, come in. Have something to drink and eat and rest”. She gave Noah food and drink as well.

March 1968. The phone was out. The road was out due to storms, slides, downed trees, deep snow on top, so I couldn’t drive out to Fred’s Camp to see if it was our problem or Pac Bells - or to the Horse Bridge across the Arroyo Seco River, the halfway point of the ten mile line, to see which direction the break or ground was. Had to walk it keeping my eye on the line. I'd already checked the first few miles the day before. What remained was more than could be done in a day if the problem or problems were far. Had to walk to Horse Bridge going up from the path to the Narrows to the Horse Pasture Trail.

Niels, our Danish carpenter, came along to carry the heavy pack of line gear to the creek crossings - four near Tassajara and one just a half mile or so before the Horse Bridge. We always had ways to get down toward the Narrows on makeshift bridges and skirting along the banks to avoid crossing. Didn't have to go in the water but I don't remember how we did it. The fourth crossing we relied for years on a tree that fell across it. Niels had incredible balance and walked with heavy pack on the log crossing the creek. Noah came with us. The current was too swift and rough there for him to cross so Niels carried him over walking that log next.

We three stopped to rest and drink water when we got back to the creek at the crossing spot a few hours later - having carefully checked the line up to there. I only brought a small container as I’d fill it from the creek. Now days people aren’t supposed to drink from creeks because of Giardia. I hadn’t heard of it back then. Niels unloaded the heavy backpack and sighed. Noah was barking not far off. Niels opened the pack and started questioning the wisdom of bringing each item while I defended my choices. Our banter was broken when Noah‘s insistent barking and an eerie cry got our attention. We ran back on the trail to see what was up.

"Look!" Niels called out. “Noah got a deer!”

I could see through the trees uphill Noah’s teeth and a small deer’s front legs. The deer cried out like a baby. Noah lunged for its neck. Pathetic cries continued. We yelled at Noah to stop and ran up but it was all over. A young doe. Some blood. Noah was panting, unconcerned with our objections. He lay down.

The creek was wide there so we could get across. I put my clothes on a rock next to my Red Wing boots, handed one end of the rope to Niels, walked the bank upstream for as far as it would let me - about 120 feet. I stepped naked into the creek and gasped, then up to my knees and gasped again. It was winter! The next step sank me in above the waist and I screamed involuntarily.

“You sound like you’re having an orgasm!” he called out.

I struggled and stumbled but didn’t fall down, Trying to go straight across got to the other bank opposite where Niels stood. We secured each side and I went back holding the rope which made it a lot easier.

Niels took off his clothes, lifted the pack over his head, stepped in the water on the upcreek side of the rope so it would push him toward it. He was taller than I so it hit him just above hip level. “You call this cold? This is like a hot bath compared to a creek in a Danish winter!”

“Niels It can only get so cold before it’s ice,” I said.

“No! In Denmark the water is so used to the cold that it takes another ten degrees to freeze it!”

He carried on and without screaming or exhibiting any difficulty. I followed him with my clothes over my head. Noah jumped in and was swept downstream. We didn’t worry. By the time we were both on the other side, Noah came running up to us. I stepped back in.

”Why are you going back?” Niels asked.

‘To get the doe”

“That is complete crazy!”

I ignored him and got the deer which I struggled to get across.

“Now you are on your own to carry the 90 pound pack and the dead deer,” Niels said. “And any other dead animals you find. There are probably a lot of dead insects in the bushes you could get!”

I realized I couldn’t go any further with the deer. The Willow Creek trail was just above the embankment. He brought the pack and I the deer up there.

“I’ll leave it here and tell the rangers” I said. “Maybe someone will eat it.

“It will be eaten for sure” he said “But I bet it’s not by people”

Both still naked I watch as he crossed and held on to Noah, also naked, so he wouldn't be carried away again. We stood on opposing banks yelling insults at each other while we got our clothes and boots back on. Noah stood by Niels’ side shaking off the water.

“You’re complete fucking crazy!” he called out.

“You’re complete fucking Viking!” I yelled back, pronouncing it like he did - Wiking.

We left the rope there for posterity which might well include us.

The happiest I saw Noah was when a big somewhat shaggy dog came wandering in from the woods one day. They got along so well we gave in and relaxed the one dog rule. Two dog rule is better. Noah and that dog shared a passion - killing. They'd go running in to the woods and we could hear them barking in the distance and knew what that meant. Sometimes they came back smelling of skunk, sometimes painted in blood. This made us feel uncomfortable to varying degrees.

Some people wanted them fenced, felt responsible. A Buddhist monastery bringing a reign of terror to the realm. Sometimes they stayed out for days to come back and sleep and lie around for days. Then one day Noah came back sad and alone. He’d still go out now and then. One day Noah didn't come back. After some stretch of time - months I guess, a memorial was held.

I returned to Tassajara as Head Monk in ’74 and in '75 I was director. One day I drove over to Fred's Camp to check the phone line connection. I made a phone call from there to Niels who was married and living with his wife, Maggie Kress, in Muir Beach. He had a carpenter's shop in the city and was making exquisite furniture.

"Hey Niels," I said, "guess who I ran into?" It was Noah. I’d seen him behind a picket fence that went around a white wood slat home. Visited with him a while. “He's living with a family. He's happy."

"I bet he met a hiker and followed ‘em out," Niels said.

In the early eighties I went with my son Kelly, then about eight, to  the Arroyo Seco River at the Horse Bridge and walked and swam upstream through the pools and narrow canyons, sometimes a couple of yards in between the walls. On the way out we stopped by Fred's Camp to say hello to Noah. A woman came out in the yard and told us what I’d expected, that Noah had died a couple of years back. "He was getting' old" she said. “Lay around a lot. One day he'd didn't get up then wouldn't eat and finally wouldn’t even drink. Looked up at me as if to say 'Let me go,’ and so we did.” He's buried in the yard here. I thanked her, gave a bow, and we drove back to the Bay Area.

Others remember Noah

Daya (Dianne) Goldschlag

Just read your piece about Noah.  Oh, I loved that dog.  We took many a hike together.  He protected me on one hike from a coiled rattle snake on the trail.  He'd gone ahead of me around a curve and started barking. Then he cam back to me and barked a few times, ran ahead around the curve and barked and came back and barked.  So i went around that curve very cautiously and slowly and there was that snake.  If it wasn't for Noah I might have stepped on it.  I have a picture of Noah and me in my overalls sitting together on the road going past the cabins.  i keep it on my desk.  Great to read your stories. 

Alan Block

Nice story about Noah. I do remember Milder, the cat, another blessed being.

Barrie Mason

 I came to T. In 9/71, & Noah was there until I left in 9/72. I’m not sure if he was there when I came back for the summer of 73.

Ken Sawyer

He shared our cottage for a training period, but seemed to suffer from not having a continuous human companion.

Ann Overton

 I remember, during the 1972 winter practice, Katagiri Roshi talking about how humans had the capacity to become enlightened but animals did not. He told us a story of a monk or a bodhisattva who turned over a log or a stone and found many insects crawling around. The monk or bodhisattva wept when he saw this because knew that these insects could never become enlightened. One young Tassajara Zen student disagreed with idea that animals could not become enlightened, and said to Katagiri Roshi, "I think Noah is enlightened."

David Silva

 thanks so much for these stories. They brought back fond memories. Very much appreciated.

Elizabeth Sawyer

 I woke up in the middle if the night a few times and saw Noah sitting quietly facing the wall. Once he was given cortisone for a skin condition by a vet, he became incontinent. Dr. Al Tribe told us he was given way to large a dose of cortisone! Noah was entrusted to us but Tony and Darlene were alarmed that we were not concerned re hs skin condition, so they took him to a Vet.

Then he ran away. Several years later he returned to Tassajara!

DC: Was discovered living in Fred's camp and Elizabeth thought she'd heard he came back but it was just that he was still alive and living elsewhere.

Tony Patchell

I vaguely remember the cortisone problem. What I also remember is in the summer of ’73 Dylan, our collie, & Noah (or was it Zori?) took off & disappeared for two days. Dylan returned alone the evening of the 2nd day. He was covered w/ burrs & ticks & was very excited, & he had lost weight in that short time. I never saw the other dog (Noah? Zori?)again & assumed they had run into some coyotes or a mountain lion. But I’m now very glad to hear that Noah ended up in a safe place.

DC: Let Tony know it was Noah. Zori came later. So Noah disappeared after an outing with Dylan. Oh. Neat to know.

Tassajara dog Noah with Daya Goldschlag

Daya (Dianne) Goldschlag with Noah