Story and Photos by Jodi Camp
Walking down Main Street in Hopkinsville, an average looking man on the sidewalk has people honking and waving at him from their cars or stopping to get out of their cars to talk to him.
The man seems normal, but when he opens his mouth to respond to the honks or waves, he barks. Literally.
“I bark at a bunch of people,” Bird Dog said. “I don’t even know who they are.”
Bird Dog, born 66 years ago as Charles Steven Page, was given the nickname in his early 20s. Over the years, he has become a well-known character in Hopkinsville.
“Everybody knows who Bird Dog is in this city,” Hopkinsville Police Chief Clayton Sumner said. “Good, bad or indifferent, they all know who he is.”
Walking around town, Bird Dog talks to many different types of people.
“I see policemen, firemen, Amish people, lawyers, judges. Everybody waves and hollers at me,” he said, looking out the library window trying to remember them all.
He walks around Hopkinsville every day because he doesn’t own a car. While walking, he hears street news and local news. He stops by several businesses sometimes to talk, but other times just to bark.
He stops by the Christian County Historical Society several times a week. Sometimes he goes in to talk to William Turner, the county historian.
“Generally, it is a smattering of what I know and street talk, but he always knows more,” Turner said with a laugh.
Other times he stops by the Historical Society to check on LaDonna Anderson, the executive secretary who is in the building by herself most of the day. She says that he won’t step away from the door until she waves at him or walks around from behind a partition in front of her desk so he can see her.
Anderson and Turner both appreciate the time he takes each day to check on her.
“That means a lot to me,” Turner said. “It shows me his character.”
Around town, Bird Dog has a reputation for always smiling about something. The people that talk to him regularly enjoy his sense of humor.
“Every time I see him I just smile and shake my head because he always seems to be happy,” Sumner said. “He seems to be carefree almost, so when I see him I smile a little bit.”
On sunny days, he is seen walking around town, sometimes pushing his lawn mower, or sitting on benches near the library.
He leaves his lawn mower at Jim Moss Electric Contractor during the year and picks it up when he needs it. Jim Moss was an old friend of his and Jim’s son Chip, who runs Moss Electric now, helps Bird Dog out when he thinks he needs it.
During the summer and spring seasons Bird Dog has a job mowing yards, though he doesn’t charge most of them because they are older and cannot afford it.
He is “always more than willing to reach out his hand to help somebody,” Turner said.
Though Bird Dog has been walking the streets for decades he has become more cautious over the years about where he goes around town. The one street he will not walk down is 18th Street.
In September 2014, Hopkinsville citizens were shocked when Bird Dog was attacked on 18th Street. He was robbed and beaten almost to death.
According to the police report, Bird Dog was attacked on Sept. 2, 2014 around 8:30 p.m. on 18th Street. He had severe lacerations and other major injuries.
Bird Dog explained that he was hit over the head with a 9 mm pistol, then his money was taken. He didn’t understand why the guy came back to hit him a few more times after taking the money. He had to have 20 or so stitches and 22 staples in his head.
If it hadn’t been for Lucius Hawes, of Lucius Hawes Law Firm, and his secretary, Pamela Bell, walking out of the office to leave for the day, he would have died, Bird Dog said.
“They come out of the door at the right time and he tore off running,” Bird Dog said.
According to the police report, Hawes and Bell heard yelling outside and went to investigate. When they saw what was happening, Hawes helped Bird Dog into the building while someone else called the police.
After the attack, Chip Moss, who has known Bird Dog for 50 years, tried to find him. He looked around town and eventually found Bird Dog at home.
“That beating that he took, he didn’t do anything to deserve that,” Moss said. “I don’t think he’s done anything in his life to deserve a beating like that.”
Two days after the attack, police arrested John Lewis Farley on charges of robbery first degree, possession of a hand gun by a convicted felon, receiving stolen property (firearm) and tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 17.
Sumner explained that when there is someone like Bird Dog, that everyone likes and knows, witnesses came forward which resulted in the police work getting done faster which resulted in a faster arrest.
“Not just me, but everybody in town was mad about it,” Moss said. “Everybody likes him.”
Many people who know Bird Dog said that he has become more cautious after the attack, but they also said he is more caring and shows concern for people.
“He is even more sincere than he was, and he was sincere to begin with,” Turner said.
After the attack, he started going to church at First United Methodist Church. At the church, he is known as Charles.
“I really think that here he just simply wants to be a church member and another person seeking to follow God,” Jeff Calhoun, associate pastor said. “That’s why everybody here calls him Charles and not Bird Dog.”
Calhoun said Charles comes every Sunday, though he will bounce between the traditional service and the contemporary service. Calhoun oversees the worship at the contemporary service.
“He will come in early to listen to the music and even listen to us practicing on Wednesday,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun said Charles is not shy with compliments and tells him he is good at playing guitar. He will stop by the church throughout the week to talk about the service or what he has heard around town.
Bird Dog said that you won’t find a better place to talk to Christian people. He is particularly fond of the senior pastor, Paige Williams. He would visit her mother at the nursing home when she was alive.
Bird Dog stopped by a few days after her death to check on Ms. Paige to see how she was doing.
On a sunny, cool day in Hopkinsville, Bird Dog can be seen walking down Ninth Street after visiting the library. Occasionally, a person driving on the road will recognize him and honk to get his attention.
When he nears the business of Moss Electric he starts barking near the train tracks so they know he is on his way.
It is said that his barks can be heard from two blocks away.