We didn’t see anyone so I climbed a few feet into a tree to look around, and spotted some movement in the distance. We kept going deeper into the park where we ran into house painter Gary Davis. He was wearing a trash bag and holding his chihuahua Boo-Boo.
He told us he and the dog rode out the storm in Davis’ trailer as it was being blown apart, then scrambled to his truck during the hurricane’s eye. He said he was praying on the passenger seat floorboard as wind tugged the pick-up three quarters of mile, burning rubber, until friction burst the tires.
When we found him, his home, vehicle and painting equipment were all gone. His other chihuahua, Little Bit, was missing and presumed dead (but was found later hiding under debris).
The photo ran not only in The Post, but also in Time magazine and newspapers around the country. We caught up with Gary a month later, when he was living in Homestead, had just gotten his truck replaced by insurance, and was doing restoration work. When Davis went to bid on a job the previous week, residents asked him to autograph copies of the picture. “I got famous for being stupid,” Davis said.
Even better, later, letters with checks, some for $50 or $100, reached him from strangers in other states. It was nice to find out that one of my photo subjects had benefited from my work.
“I lost just about everything I owned in a couple of hours, and I almost lost my life,” Davis said in an interview a year later. “I’ll never put myself in that situation again.”