Eric's search for shoemaking supplies while a student at Humboldt State leads to an encounter with the Junkyard Dog. He emerges alive, and creates the shoes first know as the "Eric Shoe", and later as "Dlings" - right up there in notoriety with "Birkenstocks".

There has never, in the history of junkyards been a more perfect junkyard. First, the Junkyard Dog. A huge dog that sat at the very entrance...waiting...for me. I almost left, but the pile of rubble and metal and whatever else that I had to have lying beyond the huge brown dog convinced me to carpe diem and seize this, albeit unwanted, adventure. Placing my mighty chrome-alloy 23" tubular mountain bike between me and the perceived danger I began to advance towards the entrance. The "perceived danger" slowly raised himself from his muddy, oily bed and began walking toward me, slowly and with no signs of peace or happy care free attitude coming from his tail. He had on a poker face - no growl, no wag, nothing. Was it to be a sneak attack? He soon found the weakness in my shield - the big hole that all bikes have in the middle, and I was thinking about an old song "well it's bad, bad Leroy Brown, baddest man in the whole darn town, meaner than ol' King Kong, meaner than the junkyard dog".

He put his huge head right through the hole. Be cool, Eric, bo cool, dogs can smell fear. I guess this dog wasn't smelling to well because I was plenty scared. Ever since Sasha, the devil dog, used to terrorize me every day when I delivered newspapers on Hillside Drive I haven't been too peaceful around dogs.

Still the poker face, so I put out a sacrificial hand - a peace offering. It was accepted, the dog sniffed me out and I patted it's great dusty pelt and we were friends - my pulse began to slow and I entered the Junkyard. I told the guy there that this was no junkyard dog 'cause I still had both legs. But then he explained the dog wasn't on the clock. So it was cool. I splashed through mud puddles and stumbled over piles of motorcycle bodies and rusty iron searching for things I needed - the bad news was I had class in two hours and had to speed things up. Obviously one needs a whole day when one passes the dog into the best junkyard ever.

I emerged from the maze of passage ways created by walls of twisted aluminum and rubber some time later as the fog came rolling through the brown grass and over the rusting crane with the big magnet on a cable and in my hands I clutched my finds - two worthless chunks of metal - just what I needed.

The guy waved me on - no charge. I got onto my big bad bike, and, after escaping a massive rottwieler that, with teeth unsheathed and muscles tensed ran straight at me (this is the dog the Romans used in war!) I was prepared to balance my whole body perched on my bike seat with one foot - however, this dog ran across the street, right at me and continued right on beyond me to an unknown victim - I didn't look back - I rode as fast as I could, ran the stop light, and was again on north G Street where they sell whole grain rice and have good used book stores.

I'm risking my life like this to build myslef a pair of shoes - or sandals - really a mix between huarachies, Birkenstocks and clogs. Tonight I completed the left shoe and it is very beautiful. It is composed of leather, steel and rubber. The upper body is a nice earthy red leather cut from a bag I got for $1.50 at the recycling center. I wet this and stretched it to form on a mold I carved from a block of redwood (blisters in my hand), nailed it on and let it dry 48 hours. The inner sole is cut from a scrap I bought from a man who makes industrial leather belting - a dying art, only about six belt makers left in the country. (he had a vicious dog, too).

The sole, better than vibram and free, I got from the used tire store - non-radial tires are rare. I cut it and skinned it with a linoleum knife. I sewed all the right parts with my rough new awl "that does it all". Then, using blued steel carpet tacks I nailed top to bottom, using my junkyard metal scrap to bend tacks back into the sole. It won't come off. To be sure, it's also glued on with Barge cement.

Now I have one (soon to be two) very fine, handcrafted leather shoe that fits just right, was extremely satisfying to make, and the pair cost $8.00 - not including the awl and linoleum knife - life-time tools.


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