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Doc and the Big Cat…

Story ID:8713
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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Doc and the Big Cat…
By Chuck Dishno
February 2013

About 35 years ago my wife Roz and I lived in Fresno, California. We usually went to dinner at least once a week. One of our favorite restaurants was the Yturri a Basque restaurant located in the Basque Hotel.

The hotel was located in downtown Fresno, as they say, “on the wrong side of the tracks”. Actually it wasn’t that bad but the area was the older section and a little rundown. The outside appearance of the building wasn’t that great but for being almost 100 year old not bad. I don’t know how long it had been a hotel but I think it was built and still being used for, the Basque sheepherders. in the area.

The inside was just about as quaint as the exterior. The lighting was dim but the smell of good food more than made up for it. The dining room was fairly small and mainly used for family style seating. Along one wall were a long table and at a certain time, someone would ring a hand bell. When this happened you could hear a lot of thumping coming from the upstairs rooms, as this was the cue for the sheepherders to come to dinner. They would sit along the wall and wait to be served. Usually several bottles of wine were placed along the table. If you happened to be there, your dinner might be a little slow in coming as they took care of their own first.

The rest of the tables in the dinning room seated four or more and since it was family style tables could be pushed together and you might be seated beside anyone. It made for a quaint but friendly atmosphere. The menu was a 5-course meal and the main entrée being a choice of pork chop, steak or fried chicken. Once you had made your decision, they would start by bringing our huge bowl of soup, iceberg lettuce salad beef stew and some kind of garbanzo bean dish. The most popular was the fried chicken. It was literally a half chicken cut lengthwise. To me it looked like it had run head first into a band saw but it was deep-fried to a golden brown and tasted delicious. Roz and I always ordered the chicken and it seemed to be everyone’s favorite too.

One night, Roz and I were seated and had just placed our order when three people were escorted to our table and asked if we minded if they shared the table with us. There were two men and a lady. The older man looked kind of familiar. Was short and was wearing a bolo tie. The man and his wife introduced themselves and the older gentleman as “Doc”. It then hit me and I said, “Are you the real “Doc?” He said, “Yep, that’s me, my name is Milburn Stone, Doc on Gunsmoke.”

What a delightful man, Doc was. He sat right next to me and we had a great conversation. After a while he put his hand on my right arm and pointed to his two friends. He said, “Chuck, these people are my friends from San Francisco. They are here for a cat show at the Fresno Convention Center.” He then said, “Chuck they have this big cat that they say is worth several thousand dollars, but, Chuck, it looks just like and G--.D--- cat to me.” We all had a good laugh at Doc’s description of the cat.

Too soon our dinner was over and we said our goodbyes. Doc had been living in Fresno for a couple of years and died a few years after our meeting. What a great memory of my meeting of this fabulous man.