We moved out of that big blue house on Mechan­ics Val­ley Road to a drab cramped officer’s quar­ters at the Bain­bridge Naval Train­ing Sta­tion. I don’t think we lived there very long because I real­ly have to rack my brains to think of any­thing half mem­o­rable there. I’ll tell you a lit­tle bit about the base. It was like a col­lege cam­pus. There were many schools there; for Marines (NAP­Sters), Waves (Women Avail­able for Vol­un­teer Emer­gency Ser­vices), Navy Train­ing Cen­ters, where my dad was the Super­in­ten­dent of Schools, and a Naval Acad­e­my Prep School at the top of the hill in the Tome sec­tion. Élite mil­i­tary stu­dents prepped there before assign­ment to the Officer’s Naval Acad­e­my in Annapo­lis.

The base was at the top of a hill and you had to come and go through a guard­ed gate. Inside the fenced in facil­i­ty was a maze of roads, large train­ing build­ings, dor­mi­to­ries and officer’s hous­ing that sur­round­ed a sprawl­ing treed mall on a rolling land­scape. It includ­ed a foot­ball sta­di­um, ten­nis courts, a lacrosse field, a huge amphithe­ater and three church­es. On the far side of the base was a fence above a steep cliff that over­looked the Susque­han­na and the tiny town of Port Deposit below. Sailors, Jar­heads (Marines) and Waves were con­stant­ly on the move march­ing back and forth in their whites, khakis and blues between the schools, mess halls and the enlist­ed club, Fiddler’s Green. We ignored them for the most part and were kept seg­re­gat­ed in our quar­ter of the base. Being fenced in restrict­ed us from the free roam­ing we enjoyed in North East but we made the best of it. A lit­tle league base­ball field was a block away but I nev­er got to play in because it was win­ter. We took the bus to and from school and Black­ie would meet us at the bus stop every­day.

We had a big snow­storm that year and woke to find out school was closed and there was a foot of snow on the ground with more on the way. As had been the tra­di­tion at the base, just about the all the kids assem­bled into a col­lec­tive force at the park area. Like work­er ants we prepped the hill­sides, tak­ing turns pulling kid-laden snow saucers that flat­tened down the snow and oth­ers stomped and packed the snow and smoothed out embank­ments along the tight curves. After a cou­ple hours the ser­pen­tine sled path snaked to the bot­tom on the park and shot out into an open area.

The sled­ding was fan­tas­tic. It was fast and dan­ger­ous. Most of us had the depend­able run­ner sleds called the “Flex­i­ble Fly­er,” they were steer­able and you could slow them down by drag­ging your feet along the curves. We’d start off in a sprint and flopped down on them to get a faster start. The brave or reck­less kids had snow discs, or fly­ing saucers. They were met­al discs with hand straps and always an adven­ture to ride. It was only luck if you made it all the way down on one of them. Usu­al­ly, you’d end up rid­ing side­ways or back­wards, total­ly out of con­trol and end up shoot­ing off the path and face down in the snow. It was a blast. We returned home frozen, wind-chaffed and wob­bly-legged and would thaw out with a hot cocoa.

Anoth­er trans­fer came around and we packed up for a trip back to Cal­i­for­nia. With my par­ents and five sib­lings, suit­cas­es and bags, our sta­tion wag­on was packed tight as sar­dines in a tin. There was no room for Black­ie.

There’s no way we’re tak­ing that dog!” my dad announced.

We nev­er expect­ed that, it was too cru­el. That dog was like a broth­er to me, I saved its life for Christ’s sake! He ignored our shocked and des­per­ate pleas and pulled out of the dri­ve­way, all of us cry­ing. Black­ie stood in front of our house wag­ging his tail, expect­ing we’d be back lat­er. That was real­ly heart break­ing!

Months lat­er, in Cal­i­for­nia, I saw a kid who had lived in Bain­bridge at the same time we had. He told me Black­ie was still roam­ing the base look­ing for us. I was glad, incred­i­bly glad, to hear that and won­dered if there was a kind soul who fed him or he sur­vived on rab­bits or over­turned trash­cans to sur­vive. Bet­ter yet, maybe he escaped the guards and fences and re-joined his wolf pack in the deep wild woods of North East.