Lessons From a Life on the Road
as printed in The Message, April 9-15, 2008
Story and photo (will be added) by Robert F. Smith, editor
Doug "Ten" Rose has had a
truly unique life - and you can read all about it in Fearless Puppy on
American Road, the first volume in a proposed trilogy chronicling
Rose's adventures and misadventures over the last half century.
Don't be fooled by the title, this is definitely not a book for
children. Rose writes about his life like a man sitting next to you at a
bar recounting the tales, and his often salty style is open and free with
no part of his life off limits. There are some adult passages in his book,
After a volatile childhood in New York City dealing with parents addicted
to hard drugs and selling pot on his own part to make some money, Rose hit
the road at 15, hitchhiking all over the country with hardly a pause for
the next 35 years. The book doesn't just recount the events of his life.
Also woven throughout the interesting narrative are the lessons and
philosophies Rose learned and developed during his life on the road.
It seemed fitting that Ten and I should meet, after exchanging a number of
phone calls and e-mails, at a bar in his current hometown of Brattleboro.
A tall, ruggedly built man in his mid-50s, Ten's conversation matches his
How the book came about at all is indicative of the unique way that Rose
has lived. He said the book began as a way of getting his thoughts out
when he was living at a Buddhist monastery in Thailand for several months.
Unable to speak the local language, Rose began writing in the evening.
After a few months he looked through his pile of writings - he describes
them as "vignettes and episodes" - and realized there might be a book in
there somewhere. It took a year to write, but two years to edit into
publishable shape. Rose's editors and pre-publication readers are like
much that has come his way during his life - people volunteering their
time and skills to help him with his project.
And that's what the book is - part of a project.
"I have no desire to be a writer," Rose
said. "It's quite by accident that a book got written. I just saw it as a
means to an end, a way to make money for the project."
This "project" Rose talks about is to use the money from book sales to
establish temporary living quarters - think a hostel or hotel - near some
of the great wisdom teachers Rose has encountered in his travels. The
concept is simple and brilliant: if humans can spend billions of dollars
teaching soldiers killing skills and creating warriors, why not spend some
money to help pass on humanity's wisdom and create more wise people?
The first two hotels will be built near Buddhist monasteries in Thailand,
including the one where the concept of the book developed. But Rose is an
equal opportunity wisdom appreciator and he would like to see the same
type of facilities built near some of the folks, particularly Native
Americans, who carry on their wisdom traditions here in America.
While Vermont has been the base of his operations for the past 25 years,
Rose said he hasn't had his own apartment since the 1970s.
Homeless and carless - he has never learned to drive - Rose has lived with
friends, girlfriends, house sat or survived on the street when everything
else fell through. Much of his time over the past 25 years has been spent
working with various environmental groups around the country, plus stints
as a youth counselor and an extra on HBO's Oz series about life in
"Fearless Puppy," Rose wrote me, "from what people tell me, is a
great book. I wouldn't know, myself. After 30 edits it looks more to me
like a runaway tree with ink on it than a book.
"Besides, it never really was a book to me. I always thought of it as the
funding vehicle for the project behind it. The project itself has
incredibly great potential. That's usually enough to excite readers, but
if not, there's enough off-color weirdness in the personal story to raise
a few blood pressures."