“Doug Craig”, from “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”.

Roses East 3

About twelve years ago, I started writing “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”.  I don’t remember why, but for some reason I needed to get down those memories before age made them disappear.  I have read some of these to my father’s family, and some friends, and they were encouraging.  I think it also became a way of therapy, as childhood wasn’t an easy time with two parents who were ‘acting out’.  

Doug Craig became an important person in my earlier life.  He was a devoted friend who deserved better in life.

Lady Nyo


We met one fall, now years ago, when we were no longer young. I was running from a mean early marriage. Doug was just running.

It was 3 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and Doug had plenty of ghosts to run from. He was to be shipped out, and the night before his platoon, company, whatever it was called….was attacked. Doug woke up to gunfire in his tent, and got shrapnel in his torso, mainly his stomach if I remember right.

Doug was a kid I grew up with in the wilds of New Jersey back in the 60’s. His father was the large animal vet in Princeton. It was always a chancy issue to open the two refrigerators in their 1740’s house on Stockton Road. One held food, and the other specimens. It was a fearful thing for a child unaware of which door held which. I can still hear the booming voice of this Scottish man yelling at all of us. We lived in terror of his voice, but he was one of the kindest and gentlest men we knew. Clearly a case of his bark worse that his bite.

Doug’s mother was the picture of elegance: two shelties on two matching settees in the sitting room, a glowering portrait of some infamous relative over the fireplace, and his mother warm and welcoming. We all loved this family. Doug came from good stock. Too bad he was so crazy.

We had a bluegrass band back then, called Marrowbone Creek Vagrants, made up of neighborhood kids. I believe this band, in some form…with different name changes, still is viable. Sort of like a vampires convention when the kids come back to the stomping grounds of the New Jersey countryside.

Music wasn’t the only thing we had in common. Motorcycles, and the attendant accidents, horrible, property destroying stunts, and basically goofing off. But music was the river that ran through us. Today for many of these guys and gals…it still is.

I came home that fall day with two shotguns. One a 20 gauge Mossberg, and the other one a 12 gauge Ithaca. My father gave me a weird look when he picked me up from the airport. He was a pacifist and wouldn’t have a gun on the property, except for a Benjamin Franklin air pistol, which shot rivets. That he kept for shooting walnuts out of the crooks of walnut trees. He was a marksman during WW11 and besides a bow, he would not have weapons near him. Perhaps being in a B-24 for most of the war was deadly enough.

Doug and I decided to go hunting. I just wanted a chance to shoot off those shotguns. Living in urban Atlanta didn’t give me many chances. And the woods where it was legal to shoot off guns were miles away.

We ‘hunted’ all over the back of my parent’s property. Mostly cut down soybean fields, and what we were looking to kill, I didn’t really know. I DID know that I was a failure when it came to birds. We have those big pheasants up in New Jersey, the ones who come up low in front of you, and wheel into the sun so you can’t see or follow them well. And I had the problem of automatically flipping the safety on the gun after every shot. I never could break myself of this, and don’t know where it came from.
But hunted we did. I should have realized Doug ‘hunted’ differently than any other person I knew. He crouched down, held the gun low and crept through the underbrush. I didn’t realize then what I was looking at was a man who had just come back from the wars. Apparently Doug was trained, now irreversibly, as a soldier.

He was a very brave man. He hunted with me, a real nincompoop when it came to hunting. We scared up a young rabbit, and I kept shooting at it as it jagged away. Unfortunately, I was mostly shooting at Doug’s boots, and it is still a wonder that I didn’t add to his shrapnel wounds. Doug got the rabbit.

Then we decided our luck would turn better if we trespassed on Old Man Staats land. Full of woods, and we were bound to find something. Doug found a pheasant there, and bagged it on one shot.

Then we got stupid and decided to go ask Staats if we could hunt on his land. He thought about it a moment, and said ‘no’. Fine with us, we had bagged that pheasant on his turf, stowed it behind a tree, and besides, we were tired of hunting. It was turning colder, and we were hungry.

We went home, Doug to his house on River Road. He was living with other varmints and it was an old farm house, looking none the better for Doug living there.

I remember skinning the rabbit. I had read something about this, so at least I knew what to do. Mostly. I do remember cutting off the rabbit head, and throwing it out over the ravine. It slowly revolved in the air, looking at me reproachfully, with every revolution. Thirty some years later and I still remember that stare.

I cooked the rabbit for my father. My mother wouldn’t have a thing to do with my rabbit stew. My father said he hadn’t had rabbit in thirty years, and pronounced it ‘good’. The pheasant was another issue. I plucked the feathers, saving the tail for some future decoration, and draped bacon over the back of it. Problem was this: pheasant was full of birdshot and dried up quickly. Eating it was a problem, so I threw it into the ravine for the raccoons.


I threw the rabbit pelt up on the copper kitchen roof. Why, I don’t know. I do know that my mother bitched about it for about a year until my father or someone retrieved it. Should have been well cured by then.

Doug and I didn’t see each other again until my father lay in the hospital with a stroke twelve years later. Doug would take me late at night to visit him, and spent hours just talking. I was there for a week, but it took my father nine months of recovery to die.

Doug was a good friend. We both were running from ghosts, many kinds of ghosts. He had an old Seth Thomas clock I bought from him. He carefully packed it up and shipped it months later. Doug was also a very fine Kentucky rifle maker. He was going to make me a gun. Doug, once he focused his scattered and fried, mind could excel in anything.

Two years after my father died, Doug died on the streets of Philly one night. He was mugged and lay in the morgue until identification was possible and Dr. Craig was contacted.

I think Doug was our first childhood friend to die. Perhaps there were others claimed by the war. But I don’t remember. I do remember that all of us were in shock: Doug, though living and behaving always on the edge, seemed invincible. Didn’t he survive Vietnam? How could something like this take him?

If it could take him, it could take the rest of us. Life has no guarantees, obviously.

I think all of us have a Doug Craig in our lives, somewhere. They are the people we miss the most because they have lived the fullest of lives. We know that they are part crazy, but that was also part of the times, and some of their charm.

We live through them at times because they are braver than us.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2017

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15 Responses to ““Doug Craig”, from “Memories of a Rotten Childhood”.”

  1. Frank Hubeny Says:

    Nice description of Doug. What stands out for me is that rabbit head looking reproachfully as it turned in the air down the ravine. I can almost see it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, I’m glad, Frank! I can still see it. It haunts me to this day. Doug was one messed up individual. Drugs and war did this, as his family were wonderful people. Dr Craig was the big animal vet at Princeton, a big Scottish man, with a booming voice. His wife was the sweetest, most calm woman at that time. They balanced each other out beautifully. Dr. Craig would try to scare us….”It’s those Goddamned Kohut kids again”….but he was a wonderful to all of us. His son lived in the shadow of him and I think it wasn’t good for Doug. There are so many stories of growing up in Princeton and the countryside and you can’t make these things up. They are rich with detail, though I remember how boring it was at times…we just wanted to grow up and become something else. We didn’t realize what riches we had out in that countryside then. Thank you, Frank. I’m thinking of that rabbit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bodhirose Says:

    What a story about a treasured but troubled friend. Certainly war can mess with your head and then drugs that are used to temper the pain only adds to the tragedy. I liked the vision of that rabbit head spinning and locking eyes with you. It might sit in my mind awhile now too. Good work, Jane.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Gayle, for reading and your thoughtful comment. Doug started his drugs in the 60’s. Vietnam War continued the self-abuse. The sad thing is this: he was looking for drugs in Philly in the dead of night and came across a murderer or murderers. They left him dead on the sidewalk, and took his wallet. Fuckers. He lay in the morgue for 3 weeks until they could identify him and called his father, Dr. Craig to tell him. poor Dr. Craig. His only son. Doug had the chance of a good life but so many things were against it. and him. Drugs and war. That rabbit head still haunts me, and Frank said it would be in his mind too. This happened in 1977, and I can still see that rabbit. First and last time I hunted. Poor little brown bunny. He was young. Deserved a life.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Gayle. Many things haunt us over our lives.


  6. Bodhirose Says:

    What a violent end and such sorrow for his family. Yes, many things do haunt us through our lives. Poor little brown bunny. Most of us are very different from when we were young and so much more unaware.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ladynyo Says:

    yes, I think that bunny on occasion. It still haunts . Perhaps that is why I feed a pod of stray cats for the last 10 years. on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. I ran over a kitten and then felt it was right to feed the rest. I adopted many from that group. Today I went and I have some really special kitties there and would love to bring them home but I have 10 of my own here. And no. I would never pick up aa gun and kill an animal again. You are right, Gayle. We grow in compassion or we are lost in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bodhirose Says:

    Your last line is so true. I have loved seeing how I’ve grown and let go of so much of my past. I am compassionate and kind and I’m grateful for a more softened heart towards those who have brought me pain in my life. I think you feeding those kitties is like a spiritual practice for you. I admire that in you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ladynyo Says:

    You got it, Gayle. . We try to be generous and compassionate, but with some it just doesn’t work. They are too far gone in their personal evil. I prefer the kitties….this morning I went out and fed them….and it’s a spiritual practice indeed. Thank you, Gayle. Growth is only seen in what we do for others I believe.


  10. Bodhirose Says:

    And our own growth in compassion and generosity trickles out into the world and does for others too, I believe, even if not directly.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ladynyo Says:

    I hope you are right. But I wonder. This weekend right behind us on the Beltline, two little bastards, 12 and 6, pulled a gun on some walkers and chased them off the Beltline. This is 200 steps from our property. I was looking forward to walking the Beltline for exercise, and now I am afraid to do so. What in Hell is happening to these people? School murders, and these little monsters with guns? I would take a dog or two but I can’t run fast and I guess you have to carry a gun on the fucking Beltline to ‘be safe’? Not worth the bother. Until parents are made to stand for the sins of these brats, none of us are safe. I am just so sad that this is happening right behind our property. They even have video of these boys. God Help us all.


  12. Bodhirose Says:

    A 12 and 6 year old carrying a gun??? I’m just totally freaked out and so sorry that this sickness is infringing on your space, Jane! I would be scared too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ladynyo Says:

    What can you do. This is Atlanta…the city of federal investigations into corruption, bribery and political scandal. A cesspool of political crime reflected in the social behavior of citizens…even the youth.


  14. Bodhirose Says:


    Liked by 1 person

  15. ladynyo Says:

    Yep and so damn common for decades here. Criminals in power.


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