Pud’s journal still presents a handful of mysteries that we haven’t been able to solve: names of people we could never identify, fishing regulations we couldn’t ascertain, even the precise source of the nickname “Pud.” During the early months of the project, perhaps the one that bothered me the most was our inability to identify that “cursed” Jack.
For the most part, Pud’s entries reflect a generosity of spirit and a good-naturedness that may seem almost precious to today’s readers. Sure, there are flashes of annoyance, such as when the younger Boy Scouts bring too many supplies to camp and not enough blankets, or when Bobby plays the radio all night. But they’re always short-lived, and then the tone assumes the same equanimity that permeates the majority of the pages.
And that’s why the one exception stands out, the one seeming fit-of-pique that Pud allows himself to express. On Friday, May 8, 1942, he writes:
“Came to camp with Bobby and Jack (curses) at 4:30. The river is high and has a very peculiar yellow color.”
And with that, the hint of anger is over. But who was this “Jack,” who had elicited such an uncharacteristic response?
I asked everyone I could find. I asked my cousins. I asked the graduates of the long-defunct Lawrenceburg High School at their annual reunion. I asked the two surviving members of Pud’s core group of friends, Rinky and John Allen. Thankfully, as it turned out, no one could recall a “Jack” who would have been at the camp. It was enormously frustrating not to be able to identify who prompted Pud’s unrestrained reaction.
Then one day, deep into the research process, I finally got to sit down with Bobby Cole’s son, Bob, at his house in Salvisa, Ky., not far from the site of the camp. I had a long list of questions for him. He had spent a lot of time on Salt River with his dad, and he certainly knew more than anyone else about the fishing holes, the neighbors, his extended family, and the stories he had heard about Pud and his father. I worked my way through my list, madly scribbling notes. Then I looked at him and asked, “Do you have any idea who Jack was?”
And he didn’t hesitate. “Oh yeah, Jack was dad’s dog.”
And there you have it. Never once had I considered the possibility that Jack was not a person. Jack was Bobby Cole’s dog who loved to frolic in the river, and thereby ruin the fishing for the two young men. On May 8, Pud was looking forward to a good day of fishing, but as soon as he saw Jack he knew the chances of that were slim. And, for possibly the only time in the journal, he allowed himself to document his frustration.
As with nearly all facets of life, I finally had to accept that I wasn’t going to get answers to all of my questions. Some mysteries would remain. And perhaps that’s as it should be. The Last Resort was, after all, the boys’ private hideaway on the river. We weren’t supposed to have full access to all that went on there. But I sure am glad that Pud left behind a multi-pane window that lets us glimpse just a little of what those boys were up to.
Special thanks to Bob Cole and his son, Evan, for providing these video clips.