October 27, 2009
I named him Winky because – thanks to some unclever taxidermist – one of his eyes was more shut than the other. To see Winky the Bear’s winking eye, you had to look him right in the face. That required lying down on the ground, mashing your face up against the wall, or other strange contortions equally entertaining to watch other people perform. You see, they all wanted to know why on earth we named our bear rug, and why in heaven we had named him Winky.
Winky might never have received a name if he hadn’t happened to be shot by my father. In any other home, Winky would have been just another bear rug. In our home, however, Winky became the newest addition to our collection of be-named inanimate objects. Our fascination with naming things began while on a day trip during my childhood on the East Coast. It was one of those surprisingly delightful camping trips that start out terrible until the sun comes out and Mom passes around bubble gum. I announced that our car should have a name. Everyone jokingly threw out their prospective names until I suggested “Happy.” Because we were happy in it. The Toyota Camry was Happy from that day forward.
Most of my stuffed animals had names. All of my Barbie dolls had names. When we moved across the country to West Linn, outside of Portland, Oregon, our new SUV was christened “Smoky.” I still can’t remember why we named her Smoky. We named our Oregon canoe “Willy,” after the Willamette River she first floated on. When we received our orders to move to Alaska, the newly acquired Toyota Sequoia became “The Beast” while cruising West Linn in search of Christmas lights on houses. Our first male car.
“The Tank,” was what we named our short-lived, Alaskan six-wheeler. After the Tank, we attained three animal pelts that somehow exist without being named: the beaver, the coyote, and the caribou in that chronological order. The Red Peanut was our most fiscally significant Alaska obtainment. When my father brought home the twenty-four foot, aluminum Hewescraft Searunner with its flashy red stripe down the side and powerful outboard motors, we unanimously consented that it should not have a name. After all, we would probably get orders to move soon, and then the gorgeous boat would have to go. That mindset melted away when the orders fell through. But two boating seasons came and went, and all proposed boat names were eventually thrown into the progressively mounting pile of refused names.
Then, after a long winter devoid of boating, we pulled the boat out of hibernation to ready it for spring bear season. Our backdoor neighbors – aside from their fixation with buying huge, obnoxious, multi-colored yard toys for their sole daughter – had a fixation with feeding squirrels. They purchased industrial-sized sacks of peanuts to feed to the squirrels. The squirrels were named, incidentally, Prince and Princess. When we pulled out our unnamed boat, ripped back the tarps that had protected it, and excitedly unlocked the door to the cabin, we found every shelf in the cabin full – packed, crammed, loaded, wedged with peanuts. We also found two squirrel nests and a hole in the insulation of the bow where the squirrels penetrated our shielding tarps. During the painful moment that our family stood and looked at the disaster, I decided what the name of our boat would be. No one else has yet accepted that the Red Peanut is an infallible name, but when I name something, it sticks.
Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom arrived at the Boodee household amid plenteous trumpet-sounding and parading through the streets. Johnny established his residency first – on the left side of the television in the basement. He was a caribou cape mount that made our SUV look small. Johnny was my little brother’s first caribou and immediately took up his place of honor in the cramped room. It wasn’t until Orlando’s arrival that Johnny even received his name. Orlando’s rack came from the very first Alaska caribou that my father shot. When Johnny came home from the taxidermist, however, Dad decided that his own antlers needed to be on a cape mount as well. The taxidermist sold my father one of the leftover capes and put Dad’s antlers on that cape. Highly creepy.
Understandably, we wanted to name Orlando “Frankenbou.” Dad didn’t like that at all. We had to come up with another name. All they had to do was turn to me, the great and glorious purveyor of names for inanimate objects. I quickly settled on “Orlando Bloom” and “Johnny Depp” because of the obvious characteristics of our two ‘bou.
Orlando was very light blond and effeminate (even with his antlers) but still good looking, and didn’t have the spark of intelligence in his eyes.
Johnny was very dark and always wore a universally confused look that flattered him to no end.
Mom, Dad, and little brother weren’t too sure about these names. I determined their minds by, when the TV was turned off and everyone was leaving for bed, looking up at the ‘bou on either side of the TV and proclaiming, “Good night, Johnny. Good night, Orlando.” The names stuck.
So now Winky the Bear was here to join our austere ranks of named things. In the beginning, we hung him up on the wall in the living room. The wall was a good place for Winky because the wall was big and usually blank. The wall was a bad place for Winky because my father insisted on hanging him sideways with his head facing to the left. I thought we should have hung him to the right, because we were Republicans, but they hung it while I was gone. The way it was hung meant that when you walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, you stared straight down into Winky’s gaping maw. And if you walked out of the foyer and into the living room, you stared at Winky’s flat rear-end.
My father made an executive decision that Winky had to be moved. We silently cheered, thinking that we would hang our bear rug at a diagonal, like normal people hang bear rugs, or that we would just put him on the floor. Because he was a rug.
“No,” proclaimed my father. He had made up his mind that Winky was going to go in the basement TV room. He left for a work trip. We groaned. The basement TV room already housed Orlando, Johnny, the caribou pelt, the coyote pelt, the beaver pelt, a pair of snowshoes, a chain-saw salmon, and two pieces of artwork – landscapes. One of the four walls was covered with ceiling-high bookshelves. Another of the walls supported our 6012” LCD compensation television. Dad declared, though, that Winky would go in the basement and be hung sideways, facing to the left.
We got down to the task. Taking Winky down from the living room wall was easy enough. All Mom and I had to do was lift him off his nails and pull out some tacks. Winky was folded up on the living room floor before my mother could shout a curse.
She did shout, because whatever black dye went onto Winky at the taxidermist’s place was now all over her living room wall. We took a break from the living room wall predicament to bring Winky down to the basement. Orlando aggravated our mood by clocking both of us on the head as we staggered in with Winky. We smacked Orlando nastily and went to remove the caribou pelt from the wall – the ‘bou’s place would shortly be assumed by Winky. We pulled out the caribou’s nails in no time at all. Faster than my mother could yell another curse.
She did yell, because grease from the back of the un-felted caribou pelt was now all over her basement wall. We took a break from both Winky and the caribou to get spackling, primer, interior paint, and all the necessary accessories for repairing the living room and basement walls.
The spackle went on and dried. The primer went on and dried. The paint went on and dried the wrong shade. A retraction: the basement wall paint was fine. It was a dark khaki (or as some recognize it, “booger”) color that matched the original shade to a tee. The living room wall paint dried entirely too light for the neutral cream shade our house was. Not only was the living room wall polka-dotted with the lighter paint, but all the other walls around the house that we had touched up were also plagued with the mark of the wrong paint.
Mom headed off to the hardware store, where they informed her that the company that made our house paint color had gone out of business. They sold her another brand of paint that was the wrong luster. It was egg-shell instead of satin. Thankfully for our collective sanities, my mother just decided to paint the entire wall wherever she had touched-up before. We went back down to the basement to hang Winky.
Younger Brother now from his Boy Scout trip, so he agreed to help Mom do the actual hanging. We all jogged downstairs and got knocked on the head by Orlando. I stood on the other side of the room and told the two bear-hangers things like, “Ah…a little higher on the right side. Nope – your other right. Now down a bit. Up again. Okay, can you bring the whole thing down three inches?” Another ordeal altogether was enacted in the form of our fervent search for the staple gun. We eventually found it in Dad’s shooting bag.
When Winky was on the basement wall, we hung up everything else. The only things that wouldn’t fit were the two landscapes. That was convenient for the empty living room wall. It now sports two picturesque and highly realistic landscapes.
Orlando still beats us on the head with his freakish, Frankenbou chin every time we walk into the basement. Nonetheless, we still say “goodnight” to him and Johnny every evening. But no one makes eye contact with Winky. Firstly, Winky owes us for what we went through to move him downstairs. Secondly, he’s facing to the left, and my family is Republican.

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