The Dog Trot

The first phone call had come from Texas. I was asked if I knew what a dogtrot was. I affirmed that I did. They needed one for the History of Texas Museum being built in Austin as we spoke. The dogtrot was to be a permanent installation. I wondered why they weren’t looking for one closer to home. Of course, I said I could provide one. They needed it complete with windows and doors and old flooring, even a small fireplace, just as if it was being lived in and quite authentic. “No problem. That’s our stock in trade.” I said.

I was told another call would come from California. Then another call came to me from New York. It seems I was dealing with a committee spread over the breadth of the United States. I was pleased with their budget once I received their specifications. We were also expected to bring it to Austin and assemble the building—actually two buildings with a connecting breezeway. Fortunately, we had two buildings that fit the bill with minimal adjustment. It sounded like an interesting venture for sure, and perhaps a chance to take in some of the music the city was known for. 

It was only a day or two later we got another call from some other state in the USA. We got the job. We began construction in our yard right away. A month later we were ready to send the buildings and our four trunks of equipment. Four of us departed for Austin to re-erect the Texas dogtrot. After a harrowing trip through O’Hare airport, we finally got to Austin and checked in to a nice hotel.

The next day we were shown our space for the dogtrot. We didn’t realize it was many flights down into the deep depths of the museum basement, just what my knees needed. The stairs took their toll after three weeks on the job. The work proceeded pretty much as planned. We did get a few evenings to check out a few of the best blues bars. Some streets were lined with them, although each would have another variation of country, cajan, hillbilly, etc. You only had to move one door over to get into another groove.

As we neared the end of the building process we discovered one log that wouldn’t pass inspection. We couldn’t start the roof until we found a replacement. What to do? Where to look for one? It had to be an old hand-hewn log. After asking all over we were tipped off about an operation on the edge of town that did similar work. We rented a truck and went off to find them. They weren’t hard to spot. Their log houses stood out just as ours did in our yard back home. Surely they could spare one old log. 

It seemed incredulous to us that we were given this job when there was a crew right in their own backyard that could have done the job, and surely quicker and cheaper. Just the airfares alone added a tidy sum to the expense of it all. I guess they’d heard of us because they did seem a bit cheesed off about it. Nevertheless, they sold us a log. It turned out that most of their inventory was found in Ontario. Yes, our Ontario. It’s just one of the reasons our early log houses have almost disappeared. We could only surmise that their bid for the job was much higher than ours.

Before we left, Ed our master mason, signed the back of the so-called “mantle board” with a big red heart and ‘Made in Canada.’