An unusual company requires an unusual mascot, not just any hound dog. Turbo fits the bill. He comes from a long line of large, handsome, and dignified Rhodesian Ridgebacks, also called African Lion Hounds. One of his distinguishing traits is his stylish ridgeback, a line running down the middle of his back with hair growing in the opposite direction of the hair on the rest of his coat. That ridge is said to be inherited from ridge-backed dogs kept by the Hottentots, a native South African tribe. The Hottentot hounds were crossed with Mastiffs and Dearhounds that were brought to Africa from Holland by the Boer settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The resulting Rhodesian Ridgeback breed, recognized in 1922, was effective in hunting lions, and well-suited to the climate: the agile and powerful Lion Hound can handle temperature extremes and can even go for 24 hours without food or water.
Turbo knows all this. It's in his blood. He's a proud dog with a deep chest (with a trace of white), strong hindquarters, and all dressed out in a beautiful, sleek, wheaten coat.
Turbo's great great uncle Cecil was the first in a line of Fire Mountain Gems mascots associated with the company's owners, Chris and Stuart Freedman. (To say that these dogs were "owned" by Chris and Stuart wouldn't quite ring true--they were more like people, more like family.) Cecil was born in southern California and named after Sir Cecil John Rhodes who founded the De Beers Diamond Company in Rhodesia in 1880. (Rhodesia, also named after Sir Cecil John Rhodes, gained its independence from Britain in 1980 and is now known as The Republic of Zimbabwe.)
Two of Cecil's outstanding achievements were winning Best of Breed at a dog show (Stuart was very proud even though Cecil was the only Ridgeback in the running) and writing his own column, "Cecil's Corner," for Fire Mountain's catalogs. It became apparent that Cecil was both a canine activist and a philosopher. When the Olympics were hosted in LA in 1984, Cecil wrote, "Horses are the only animals in the Olympics! Dogs should unite and demand events for dogs like Frisbee catching and lion stalking . . . and we should be awarded wreaths made of bagels and cream cheese, and doggy bones."
The philosopher Cecil wrote: "It makes me downright sad to think how many humans are runnin' around out there thinkin' nobody loves them when all they need is an ole hound dog . . . They're doing research that proves that dogs are good for people because they reduce human's level of anxiety. Dogs have known that humans need us for thousands of years! That's why we teamed up in the first place . . . We don't care how much money you make or what religion you are or what color you are, or if you are beautiful or not. You can count on us to be there for you."
Cecil turned over his column and his mascothood to his nephew, P.C., who was born in a little house at Venice Beach, California. He was the pick of his litter, and Chris gave him to Stuart for his birthday. Because as a baby pup P.C. was just a fist-sized brown oval with stubby legs, Stuart said he looked like an "animated potato." When Chris called him "Potato Cakes," Stuart said that was an undignified name for a soon-to-be 100-pound lion hunting dog. Potato Cakes was shorted to just P.C.
In his own Fire Mountain column, "P.C.'s Corner," P.C. proved himself to be a social commentator and an adventurer. On the differences between dogs and teenagers, P.C. wrote, "Dogs are not always tying up the telephone. Dogs never blow up for no apparent reason, and run off and slam the doors to their rooms. But both teenagers and dogs sometimes at night need to sit next to your chair with their heads in your lap and have you pet the back of their heads and tell them they're OK." He also saw teenagers in a unique human light: "Teenagers can bring you home grandchildren who look just like you and are your link to eternity. And they give you precious memories that gleam upon your path through time like a rope of diamonds."
On the lighter side, P.C. wrote this comment on playing tag with Chris and Stuart's horses: "If a horse ever tags ya, you're a dogburger!"
P.C. wrote: "I got skunked once in the Siskiyou National Forest. I ran up to play with this cat, but he turned around and I saw his white stripe and then he just exploded! Stuart, Chris, Rosie, Sam and Tex all suggested ways of de-skunking me: using bear grease, lemon juice, gasoline, tomato juice, baking soda and even burial in dirt. I've never smelled anything that bad! I had to ride home in the horse trailer and it took four big cans of tomato juice and then shampoo to get me back into the house."
"Traveling by seaplane, Stuart and his grandson Alex and I landed at Haika Falls, a Canadian fishing village. Once, our small fishing boat was surrounded by four killer whales (I would have been just a snack!). On another day, I got tangled up in fishing line and was dragged overboard and underwater by a large hooked coho salmon. I thought I was a goner. Stuart saved me by breaking the line and Alex fished me out of the water in a fish net!" wrote P.C.
"When Sassie got pregnant, I could see myself with puppies!" said P.C., "Showing them how to explore. How to follow a trail with your nose to the ground. How to greet another dog properly. How to sucker goodies from people. There's a lot of things a dog has to learn and who better to teach it than their daddy?"
Turbo is our reigning mascot. P.C. was his maternal grandfather and his mother was Dyna. He earned his name when he was a puppy--a very fast puppy. Chris said, "He'd shoot through the house as if he were turbo-charged!" He grew up on the ranch with Chris and Stuart in southern Oregon near Cave Junction. It's a special place, where at night Chris said, "We often get a star show, untainted by any city lights. The night sky here looks like a bucket of diamonds that have been sprinkled over black velvet." Turbo was never lonely. He lived with dogs (P.C. and Sassie, Dyna, Jewelie, T-Bone and Happy; and Jasper and Breaker the Belgian Sheepdogs), horses (Joe, Tanya, Acari, Misty), George the mule and Skyrocket the donkey, Monkey the cat and Chandra, a female teenager person. He grew up in dog heaven, tagging along on horse rides down to the creek, running around the countryside and taking delicious dog naps.
Here at Fire Mountain, Turbo's favorite spot is his pillow set up between Chris and Stuart's desks. He is always at watch over Chris, following her with his tail a' wagging as she makes her rounds of the departments. When Chris is busy, Turbo loves for Administrative Assistant America to take him on walks. (She gives him beef jerky and milkbones!) His favorite day is General Meeting Day, our company-wide monthly meeting where he makes the rounds of our co-workers, row by row, sniffing out the donuts! He loves the attention and gets hundreds of scritches and scratches. Although pastries are definitely not on his diet, Turbo is expert at occasionally snagging a glazed donut and instantly inhaling it!
Like his great great uncle Cecil and his grandfather P.C., Turbo seems destined for the permanent archives of dogdom. Although he hasn't yet started a literary career, he can come, sit, lie down and roll over. As a symbol for Fire Mountain Gems, he made the Grants Pass Courier on January 29. It wasn't the mayor cutting the ribbon at the dedication of our new street, Fire Mountain Way; it was Chris, Stuart and Turbo!