When the lunch rush is getting down to its final crumbs and the smell of hot food is replaced by the suds of dirty dishes, a familiar figure can be seen walking across the railroad tracks at Depot Bottom.
It’s 75-year-old Robert “Shorty” Britt making his daily trek to Depot Bottom Country Store for a plate before the restaurant stops serving lunch specials at 2 p.m.
In his wake, about five paces back, is Jerry the dog. Tired and plodding, Jerry appears as spry as a concrete block, his shoulders hunched, his body clearly showing the dents that come from years of chasing cars and getting hit at least six times along the way.
“They do this every day,” said Depot Bottom Country Store owner Sandy Young. “Robert will come walking up for lunch and get here right at 1:45 p.m. every day. Jerry will be right behind him following him along. If Robert walks up and Jerry is not with him, Robert will leave his coat out here on the bench. Jerry will see it and know Robert is inside. He’ll sit outside and wait for him to come out. It’s really sweet. Robert will talk about Jerry like he’s another person.”
Added nearby resident Pam Schoenmann, “Jerry should be the mayor of Depot Bottom. Everybody down here knows him.”
Britt has been an employee at McMinnville Manufacturing for nearly 40 years. Best he and other folks can remember, Jerry was dropped off at Depot Bottom 14 years ago as a pup at the request of some employees at BRC who wanted a pet.
After a few years of dividing his attention between BRC and McMinnville Manufacturing, Jerry developed a fondness for Britt and began to stay primarily at McMinnville Manufacturing.
In his younger days, Jerry’s bones brimmed with energy as he bounced around the two lumber yards with exuberance. Jerry would be unable to contain his excitement when an emergency vehicle breezed through Depot Bottom with its siren blaring.
“He’d chase anything with a whistle,” said Britt. “Ambulances, police cars, he’d chase them all and he’s been hit by them all too. I’d say he’s been hit at least six or eight times. One time he got hit so bad, we had to jack up the truck to get him out. He doesn’t do that anymore. He’s about worn out. He won’t chase anything.”
The chase has been reversed and now it’s Jerry trying, unsuccessfully, to stay one step ahead of Father Time. It’s a race that appears to be nearing its finish.
“He used to walk around with me all night,” said Britt of his second-shift job at McMinnville Manufacturing where he fires the boiler, cleans, and serves as a night watchman. “Now it’s one round and he’s done. After that he goes and finds him a good spot.”
Britt himself is an interesting story as he walks to work, rain or shine, every day from his home on Bell Street. Even though he doesn’t have to be at work till 4 p.m., Britt likes to arrive at Depot Bottom Country Store by 1:45 p.m. so he can grab lunch and gather some food for Jerry.
“I’ve saved some hotdogs for you today,” Young says and she gathers some treats for Britt to take with him so Jerry will have plenty to eat.
Britt revealed Jerry has quite the appetite. His portly figures tells the tale of a palette that’s none too discerning.
“He doesn’t go hungry,” Britt said. “He likes Beanie Weenies, Vienna sausages, cookies, peanut butter crackers, Slim Jims, and cheese biscuits.”
As Britt gathers his coat and turns to leave, he knows Jerry won’t be far behind. The dog may have lost his spring, but he’s faithful to the end.