Knocking at Vance Foutz’s Door


Vance Cleveland Foutz 1963

Colt's great-grandfather, Vance Foutz, on the steps of the apartment at 428 Race St. (rear) in Dover where he lived in the years following the death of his wife, Laura (Zeigler) Foutz.

Deeds, Domiciles and (More) Dogs…

Where were we again? Where’d we leave off, when last we gathered around the whispering flames?

Ah, yes. Headed east along U.S. 250, crossing the border of Tuscarawas and Harrison counties in Ohio and bound for Route 151 and its winding course toward Scio, where the Palmers farmed, not far, incidentally, from the Foutzes (and Pfoutses), oh, a century and hefty change ago.

And when, specifically, were we? An August Monday in 1947, observing the passing of Colt’s great-great grandfather, Clement Johnson. The Johnsons, of course, hailed from Guernsey County, around Middlebourne, though Clement would move his brood to New Philadelphia, and work in the coal mines alongside his oldest son, my great-grandfather, Charles. (And Charles is how we get from the Guernsey County Johnsons to the Harrison County Palmers.)

And that’s where we were headed in our exploration of the lives of our ancestors, through the obituaries and other various and sundry artifacts turned up during a brief visit home in March.

The course I plotted had already taken us through the Leys, was winding through the Johnsons/Palmers and bound for the Foutzes and, eventually, the Weibles.

The booty? Considerable. Photos of final resting places, obits commemorating lives well-lived (and, at times, tragically ended), stories from  the history books, documents from the official record, tales from the road. All tidbits hitherto undiscovered until teaming up with distant (Foutz, by way of Moreland) cousin Dawn James for a bout of “full-contact” genealogy.

And what delayed us? Life, as it happens, in the present day. And, more specifically, a new family dog for this generation of Foutzes/Leys/Johnsons/Weibles.

Bark Once if You’ve Heard this Before….

Growing up, dogs were always part of our family (if not our family tree — though members of our tree on Geni.com will notice all the furry siblings and children my cousin Sarah has added (happy birthday, Kipling!).

A post earlier this year shared a letter from 60 years ago detailing the training of one my great-grandfather Robert Ley’s hunting dogs. In the comments section for that post, you can find evidence of how two distant Ley cousins display their love for dogs and the wilderness. Richard Ley and his 20-odd hounds outfit expeditions hunting bear and cougar in New Mexico. Also operating from the Land of Enchantment, cousin Huie Ley runs a general store and riding stables.

When I was growing up, the Ley family dog was named Shadow. A friendly, smallish black and white mutt kept by my grandparents. She was allowed to roam up and down the hill, stopping inside for a juicy meal of Gainesburgers. Legend has it she was dropped off at the Dover Dairy Queen (later, Softies) during my mom’s shift there, and Mom entrusted her to my dad before bringing her home. And home she stayed until she was a doddering teenager (in people years) and I was almost a teen myself.

In my house, we had a fun-loving — but splendidly trained — golden retriever named Chase. We picked him up, as my memory goes, after a trip to Sea World on or about my fifth birthday. (Mom has insisted it was before my birthday, since I could still get in free.) I remember we brought him home in some sort of carton he was chewing through, and when we let him out in the yard he chased us around (befitting his name), nipping at our ankles.

I learned to care for Chase. It became one of my chores, later on, to feed him, and take him on the odd walk. He was more of an outside guy. Stayed in the kennel and run my uncle Bob Ley used to have for their dog. (Princess?) Chase was with us a good 13, 14 years. I was home from my first year of college when I went out to feed him, lifted the lid of his doghouse, and found him, peacefully at rest. A good, long life for a “cedar dog” fond of heading out for an adventure the moment our attention was occupied and returning, usually muddy to the hips from a swim in the Tuscarawas River, a day or several later.

We added a cocker spaniel when I was in high school. Maggie, a black, jittery dustmop, but she got along well. An homage, perhaps, to Mom’s cocker, Corky, when she was a girl. And later, Summer, a female golden, joined the mix. We’ve watched her go from a spindly pup with a white “jewel” splotch on her otherwise impeccably purebred forehead, fond of crawling under legs, through her jumpy, fetchy teen years to her doddering, jewel-faced seniorhood, during which she is still fond of crawling under legs.

All of this is preparatory, perhaps, to introducing the latest addition to our family. And explaining, partially, my absence.

We’d been talking about welcoming a dog into our family for awhile. Whether or not our 13-year-old cat, Lucy, would tolerate his presence was something of a consideration. In the end, I was dogged by an absence. An itching in the palms that begged a bit of canine cranial to fit, softly, naturally there.

I began to research rescues. Labs were considered, researched, applied for. In the end, I was taken with the image of a gorgeous golden picked up as a stray in northern Illinois and saved from death row by Illinois Animal Rescue. We applied for him, got ’em (to the chagrin of maybe a couple dozen others who, as luck would have it, called after I did), and have been spending the last four months getting to know him and integrating him into our bustling home.

We renamed him Macallan — in honor of the Scottish birthplace of goldens, and a pretty fine single-malt — and he has warmed our hearts with his headlong pursuit of tennis balls and all the affection we can give. Been a pretty wild four weeks, so far, and a considerable consumer of attention.

And yeah, of course we love it.

You May Resume Ball Rolling Now

It would be decidedly unartful to render all of the above as a mere excuse. (Though perfectly fine.) Instead, I’ve been thinking about what it would have been like to walk up to some of our ancestors’ homesteads in years far fallen from the calendar. And what sorts of folks — and four-legged companions — we may have been greeted by.

Strolling down the dusty main drag of Port Washington, Ohio, circa 1850. Would Charles Ley (the former Karl Gottleib Ley), resident saddler, also have housed a dog or two in his stables?

Picking through the hilly acreage of Gideon Foutz, say, about 1895. Would we first be met by a pack of farm pooches, racing from the main cabin or else alongside (great-great-great) uncles Nelson and Nathaniel where they worked? Perhaps trailed by visiting grandkids Vance and Charley and a Moreland or two?

Or that packed Johnson household, circa 1930, in New Philadelphia? Ten mouths to feed and perhaps a dog besides. I bet we’d still find a place at the table. And stories enough to last.

Or from a shady porch off Wooster at a Weible address. We’d sip our lemonade or iced tea and have our palms wet from condensation and licks besides.

You can tell a lot about somebody by the company they keep. Homo sapiens and otherwise.

Wouldn’t it have been something to find out?

Ah well. The former porch of an aged Vance Foutz is empty now. But if I could, I’d ask him — did your grandpa own a dog? Or your dad? Or you? Ever wanted one? If so, what kind? And what would you name him? And where could we take him, given an afternoon, and time? What adventures could we get into?

Boys, even 90 or so years removed, have their favorite themes.

Foutz Vance apartment Dover 2011

Vance Foutz's former apartment, seen on a rainy March day in 2011, opposite from where he stood in 1963. We know he enterained his card buddy Jacob Lentz. Did he ever have a dog?

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Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Knocking at Vance Foutz’s Door

  1. Pingback: Vance Foutz Home Hit by Lightning | Whispering Across the Campfire

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