Hunting on Tanglefoot

TANGLEFOOT         Chapter three

” Three!, three! , Yes !, Do I have four! Give me four! Going once, Going twice … Sold! The man in the blue hat gets the axe handle. Now what’s my bid on this old skillet? Who will give me two dollars for this used and abused old frying pan?”

Here I am, bored out of my mind. Dad and Mother are Saturday farm auction freaks. They seem to enjoy buying someone else’s junk while I set on this hard old wagon seat collecting sand in my teeth. Old people sure have strange ways of enjoying themselves. Dad gets a big thrill out of irrigating during the mosquito hatch. Oh well, part of the reason I’m here is my fault, I guess. A month ago, my parents left me at the house while they went to an auction.  They got back just about the same time the ambulance was leaving…

It started out simple enough.  My parents were gone nearly ten minutes when I decided to go hunting up the canyon on Tanglefoot. Tanglefoot is a strong young stallion that needs to be ridden a lot and to have new experiences. It still amazes me that Mr. Schuster gave him to me just before he died. I am full of pride when people, especially Dad, brag on him . ” Look at how long and tall that horse is, look at those powerful hindquarters. What a dandy.” I am still getting used to his power,  I just about have him figured out. and he doesn’t run away with me like he used to.

Tanglefoot is a sucker for grain, so he is easy to catch with a bucket of grain and a halter. He is so tall that I still need to stand on a straw bale to throw the saddle on, but at least he didn’t bite me this time.

In the house, I got a jug of water and then unlocked the gun cabinet. Instead of taking my .22, I felt the need to borrow Dad’s antique .410 shotgun with the dark cherry stock. The last time I asked to use it , Mother asked if I had lost my mind. That convinced me not to ask Dad. So, at this point, I promised myself that I would be careful with it.

Tanglefoot was pretty spooky when I got on with a shotgun in my hand. He shied away from it until I spurred him ahead. He nearly jumped out from under me. We left the corral at a vicious trot, I had one hand on the saddle horn and the other holding the shotgun out away from Tanglefoot’s head.

Tanglefoot and I played Davy Crockett for a while. I held the shotgun across the saddle and Tanglefoot pivoted his ears around listening for trouble. We chased a jackrabbit for a few minutes before it dawned on us that we were over-matched. That rabbit was way too good for us.

Then, the darndest thing happened, a flock of wild turkeys ran out of the sagebrush and up under some red cedar trees. Tanglefoot was as impressed as I was, he pointed his ears and snorted in surprise. Now, how often did Davy Crockett pass up fresh turkey? I popped open the shotgun and quietly  slipped in the single shot. When I looked up, the turkeys were sneaking  out through the trees. It was destiny, I aimed at a big tom and pulled the trigger. It was a blur as to what happened the next few minutes. Tanglefoot  started bucking and jumping while I flailed the shotgun  in my hand. Tanglefoot’s neck came back as my head went forward and the blow knocked the crud out of me. I tumbled off backward and lit square on my back.. Dad’s gun landed safely, there was only a dent in the wood where it smacked a rock.

I lifted my head to see if Tanglefoot had left the country. He was spraddle-legged like one of those pointing dogs, eyes and ears focused on something in the brush. I gathered Tanglefoot quickly and looked over to see what he was looking at. Feathers were everywhere as if the turkeys had all shed their feathers and were flapping up some mountain bare-naked. Hanging against the base of a tree lay a turkey. Looking him over I saw just a bit of blood at the top of his head. I must have barely hit him with the shotgun blast. Well, I knew that Dad would be mighty proud of his supper-getting son.

Tanglefoot  wasn’t too sure about me tying the turkey to the back of the saddle. He danced around not entirely sure this was the best use of his time. The turkey’s head  hung real low on Tanglefoot’s side. I grabbed the gun and piled on. Tanglefoot crow-hopped a time or two, but we were headed for home just the same.

The road home had not gone far when the turkey screeched and began flapping and flopping. Thinking about it later, I surmised that the turkey knocked itself out flying into the tree and awoke travelling upside down on a strange conveyance, but now he was alive and raising all kinds of how-do-you-do . With wing feathers slapping Tanglefoot’s  flanks, he took off bucking and jumping. It did not help  that much when grabbing for the saddle horn, I smacked Tanglefoot in the ear with Dad’s antique gun.

There was a short period of time when I thought I could ride this turkey- powered bronc. We came out of the trees onto Mr. Thompson’s irrigated field. You should have seen Mr. Thompson’s face as we snorted and screamed past his tractor. I don’t know whether his surprised look came from seeing the turkey machine or that I had lost one of the reins to the turkey machine. Dead ahead was the corral, the barn, and the large manure pile that sits behind every upstanding barn. The lights went out when Tanglefoot turned and I didn’t.

Somewhere through the haze. I could hear Mr. Thompson  ask, “You O.K., Son?”

“How’s Tanglefoot?”, I whispered aloud.

” He’s fine.” Mr. Thompson said looking me over.

” And Dad’s gun?”, I asked feebly blinking at my exact location in the fresh manure pile.

Mr. Thompson had a habit of shaking his head and making a clicking sound with his mouth when when things were going bad. In this case, it meant, ” you’re dead meat, Davy.”

Tanglefoot

Chapter one

MR. SCHUSTER’S CHRISTMAS

One winter when I was young, Mother had me do some chores for an old man that lived near us. Every night after school, I had to haul drinking water into his house and carry enough wood to last through the night. I hated that old man! Because of him, I couldn’t spend time riding or hunting after school with my friends and worst of all, Abraham Schuster was the orneryiest man I ever knew.

I’ll tell you this much, that old man was bitter as gall. No matter how I tried, I could not satisfy him. If I took in two arm loads of kindling, it was too much. One load would not do either, he would say that I was slacking off. And he always thought I was putting something in his drinking water. He would always say, ” What did ya put in the water boy?”. He would never believe anything I’d say. I was real careful hauling water because Mother said dirty water would make a person sick.

The only thing that old man Schuster cared for was a heavy bay mare that was in the pasture next to the creek. Every day, Mr. Schuster would put on the darndest mixture of sweaters over his overalls and go out to feed the mare. He was awfully feeble and it took a real effort to get the hay over the fence to the mare, but he did it every day.

That mare had a colt late in the year, about the beginning of December. It had a beautiful deep brown color just like her mother. The only time I ever saw Mr. Schuster smile was the evening Dad went over to help him put a halter on the colt. Dad caught the colt and pulled him over to the old man. The colt’s eyes were wide with fear. When Mr. Schuster pulled off his mitten and touched the white nose of the colt, I swear he smiled. His rotten and broken teeth showed though his chapped lips and the white stubble of his whiskers. We must have spent ten minutes standing there watching the old man pet that colt. Dad had chores to do, but he didn’t say anything.

As soon as Dad left, Mr. Schuster gave me a scolding because the kindling box was only half-full. Yep, things were back to normal. You know I even talked to Mother about Mr. Schuster and told her how he had been treating me. She went right into her church spiel and did not hear a thing I said after that. She said I would be blessed for what I was doing. Now that struck me as something, I was getting blessed for being cursed.  By the time the lecture ended; I was sure that if the old man killed me,  I would end up a saint.

One Saturday morning after chores, I decided to go over to Mr. Schusters and look at the colt.  The morning was brisk and cold.  the icy mist was rising off the creek and the frost was beginning to drip from the barn roof.  The colt was frisky, it bucked and jumped only to stagger each time to catch itself.  Well, I got caught up in the youthful celebration of that colt.  I crossed the fence and played chase with the little fella for several minutes.  The party broke up when Mr. Schuster shouted my name from the other side of the fence.                                                                                                                                                                         “Bob” he shouted angrily, “get away from that colt.”  I stopped and slowly climbed the fence.                                                                                                                                                      “I’m sorry,”  I said stepping down.                                                                                                      “You sure are!”, he growled.  “Get yourself home and never come back!”                                  Well, I was in a real fix.  If I explained the story to Dad and Mother, they would throw a hissy fit for bothering the old man, you can be sure of that.  On the other hand, they’d be expecting me to be hauling water and wood every day if I didn’t  After much considering, I decided to work over at Mr. Schusters whether he liked it or not.  That was surely better than undergoing the wrath of the folks.

Things went pretty well for a few days. I’d sneak in Mr. Schuster’s house with a load of wood and grab the water bucket on the way out. Mr. Schuster was generally asleep in his chair near the fire about this time of evening. He was awake once, but just told me to get away and go home.

Now, I was noticing some things during this time. Even though it was nearly Christmas and getting colder, the old man was using less wood. The other thing I saw was the amount of hay that Mr. Schuster was dropping before he got it to the fence. The old mare was fighting the fence pretty good trying to get to the fallen hay. So, my last act before leaving each night was to throw more hay over to the mare and colt, then run for the house.

On the last school day before Christmas, we had a big party at school. It was cold enough outside to make ice cream to go with the frosted cookies. Sara Louise Henderson had chosen me to be her partner in the taffy pull. My life at that moment felt complete. Soon, we would be rubbing butter all over each other’s hands, preparing to twist  and pull that taffy stuff until it was stiff and ready. Just as we were about to start, Mother entered the building and started talking to my teacher. I walked over to see what was going on.

” Why didn’t you tell me that Mr. Schuster was doing so poorly?”, she said angrily. ” Get your coat.” She pushed me to the cloak closet and the last thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was Sara Louise Henderson buttering down with Jimmy Murphy.

Dad and the doctor were already in the house when Mother and I arrived at Mr. Schusters. Dad was washing up around Mr, Schuster’s chair and the doctor was in the bedroom with Mr. Schuster. As I got over to where Dad was working, he looked up and spoke very quietly to me. ” I don’t know what’s been going on over here, but Abraham’s got pneumonia from this cold house. You been getting him plenty of wood?”.

” Yes sir, I have.”, I said wide-eyed at the turn of events. One minute, I’m about to have a Christmas party with Sara and the next moment I was the cause of Mr. Schuster’s pneumonia.

The rest of the day church people came by with food and good wishes for Mr. Schuster. I swear each of them looked at me with evil thoughts. That sick old man had ruined my reputation with the congregation by catching pneumonia. The events seemed to make it out that it was my fault.

I did something that day that I have never done since. I wished the worst for that old man. It was like an angry prayer that was said without thinking.

The next morning, Mother  told me that Mr. Schuster had died. She said he had some disease that slowly stole away his health and the pneumonia had done him in. About half-way through my chores, I broke down, wailing and sniffling. The old man had been mean and ornery, and even his death was a bit of meanness toward me.

The next day was Christmas eve. While the other kids were sporting around in their horse-drawn sleighs, I wandered over to Mr. Schuster’s house to watch some of his people gather up his belongings. Out at the corral, a man had caught the mare and tied the rope off on his saddle horn, pulling the mare out of the corral. As they led her away, the little dark brown colt followed, spooking at everything that moved.

Even though I tried to help, the people were as cold as the tired old wood stove inside the house. As I walked back towards our farm, I concluded that this was an unmercifully poor Christmas season. I snuck into the house and would not have been noticed anyway since Uncle Bert and Aunt Martha had just arrived to spend the night with us. They did not have any children of their own and didn’t usually give me the time of day. As it was, I ended up spending the evening listening to Uncle Bert’s boring stories about work at the hardware store. Even though it was Christmas eve, I was tired and fell asleep in my chair.

When I awoke the next morning, Mother had turkey roasting in the oven and was kneading dough on the floury kitchen table.

” Merry Christmas Son,” she said, obviously more in the spirit of the day than I.

I muttered, ” Good morning,” and set about lacing up my boots.

Mother wiped her hands, ” I’ll call your father. He is out doing chores. We’ll open our gifts when he gets in. Bert and Martha are up and nearly ready.”

No one can deny that I received some fine gifts that Christmas. Uncle Bert and Aunt Martha gave me a fine fold-up knife from the hardware store. My folks gave me a pocket watch and a pair of winter gloves. The gloves were especially welcome and appreciated. Feeling much better about Christmas, I stole a piece of peanut brittle that Aunt Martha had  brought and went out the door to feed the animals in my new gloves.

I took warm water to the pigs and entered the barn for their grain. I heard a commotion in one of the stalls. Dad must have left the milk cow in after milking her. I returned to the grain bin only to hear the milk cow jumping in her stall. Worried, I peered into the stall. To my surprise, Mr. Schuster’s mare and colt were looking back at me.

” Mr. Schuster’s son brought them over this morning,” said Dad standing at the entrance to the barn with Mother, Uncle Bert and Aunt Martha. ” Just before Mr. Schuster died, he told his son that you were feeding his mare without permission.”

” They were starving, Dad.” I said trying to defend myself.

” Mr. Schuster told his son that too.” said Dad as everyone joined me. ” In fact the last thing Mr Schuster said before he died was that he wanted you to have the mare and colt.

” Son, you took on a miserable job trying to help that old man and you did the best you could. We’re proud of you.

Looking back, the best gift I received that Christmas was not the mare and colt, but the promise that all men deserve to be judged in the spirit of kindness and love…

 

Legends in our own minds

This little story is on Juvie and I. We had just coached our team to victory. If the truth be known, our talented kids had been carrying us all season. The opponents had been crushed and somebody had to take credit. Big fish in a small pond, coaching in a league where most of the towns weren’t even on the map.

Juvie says,” let’s celebrate and go to Durango and get a pizza.”He always paid because I never had a dime on me. Always broke and quite happy to share his pizza, we got in his old yellow ford pickup and headed to Durango. We passed hay fields, pastures full of healthy cattle and once in a while a ranch house.

Then , we broke down. It was trouble with the lights or the motor or something. We looked under the hood and pretended we knew what we were looking for and didn’t find it anyway. As we closed the hood, a car went by, windows down, kids screaming and banging on the side of the car. Juvie thought it was members of the other team, but as car after car flew by, we recognized many of them as cars of our players.

Easily seen by our coaching jackets and the rocks both of us carried to fend off the ranch dogs, we walked on. Needless to say, none of the players or fans stopped.

Finally, with the lights of Durango still not in sight an old pickup did stop. The door flew open and the light of the cab came on and there sat Tiffany C., an attractive student of mine snuggled up to her boyfriend. A little side note, I had just kicked her out of class on the past Tuesday.

“Need a lift?”, she said smiling and seemingly not holding a grudge. We nodded and climbed up into the cab.

“Want a beer?”, as she reached a bottle out to me.

I said , “No thank you , but thanks for the offer.”

As we bounced down the road, I began to worry about our good luck. Sitting on my lap was this pretty 16 year old blond student of mine drinking a beer and her boyfriend, also underage, his driving showing signs of him being slightly under the weather. Should we be stopped, our coaching jackets would surely get the attention  they demanded particularly in the mugshots. And nary a dime for bail.

Oh hell, at least we would be famous…

Gotcha!

I glanced at Nick and his wide eyes glanced back. This thing had escalated out of control. Mrs. E stood over the desk with paddle in hand, Mr. E, our principal, held a clipboard overhead, and Mr. G, our custodian, had the presence to bring a rake.

Then the sound again, something was in the top drawer. How do you conquer a snake out of a top drawer?

“Who knows something about this?” said Mr. E nearly spitting out the words. Now earlier in the prank, Nick and I would have taken credit for it, but with E, E, and G all carrying, we decided to deal ourselves out of this hand.

It started out so harmlessly. Nick and Frank found a magpie with a broken wing. The three of us needed a plan to use this discovery to our benefit. Scare the girls, no . Spiders and such are used to scare girls. It is written that it is so. Now, Mrs. E is a great one to conflict upon. With no one in her room at lunch, we deposited our little black and white beauty in the top drawer of her desk.

After lunch, Mrs. E standing behind her desk heard a crawling, scraping noise in her desk. She jumped back. She heard it again. This is where the plan took off on it’s own.

“Maybe it’s a snake,” said one of the girls in the back. That thought immediately went from maybe to ‘there is a snake in the desk’.

Mrs. E. called for reinforcements and here we are.

Now another scaley scrape, all three weaponized adults jumped back.

“Steve, what do you know about this snake?”.

“I don’t know anything about a snake in there,” I said. Now if I had been asked whether I knew how a magpie had found it’s way into the desk, I might have known something about that.

Mr.G. pulled out the drawer a tad, there was flapping, exposing black and white feathers. He pulled out further and captured the frightened bird. Being a nice guy, he let all the kids look and pet. To our surprise, Mr. and Mrs. E., thankful that the snake incident was over, got lost in the pretty magpie thing and didn’t pursue any further line of questioning.

After school sitting quietly behind the school, Nick, Frank, and I took sideways peeks at one another, then broke in laughter. The closer it is to disaster, the more fun it is…

Several years later

The noon hour was about to expire. The wide hallways were noisy with chattering groups of teenagers and movement to and fro. Perhaps the hallway was a little more crowded than normal, but the tempo of the day seemed good, my hall duty with it. The principal and I were talking NFL when the bell rang.

I turned and began moving to my chemistry room. “Come on guys, let’s go.”. The groups weren’t moving and not talking either. “Class time, don’t be late.”.

I turned around to see the commons area completely still and absolutely quiet. The whole student body was frozen in place, no smirks, no nothing. I looked through the crowd to see the principal hold up his hands in a ‘you got me’ sort of gesture. Knowing somehow, we had been had, we joined in playfully trying to move arms that were now stiff and rigid, looking into faces that were expressionless with noncommitment.

Then the bell, and the statues came undone and the students moved along and spoke like nothing ever happened. They didn’t look back to see our reaction. It was a flash mob, no a freeze mob. Some how, every student was in on it, football players, nerds, special kids, all.

In all my years, I have never seen such complete unity and total effort in a student body.Later, I found out my grandson and two of his compadres had orchestrated the whole event, must run in families.

More years later

The homecoming bonfire was playing it’s last notes and the cheerleaders silhouetted against the bonfire glow were about cheered out. Bonfire night was undirected  and unscripted, the glow of the fire extended to the full acre of kids milling about and having joyous fun and socializing. The SRO (school resource officer) had removed and arrested a drunk non-student and was away. There were still two of us monitoring  the event.

Having been the school’s eyes hundreds of times, I scanned the crowds over, looking for something unusual. The crowd often gives direction to these different events by looking and/or walking toward it in unison. Tonight was one of those nights.

I began to notice kids looking to the far corner of the lot. Several girls were excitedly running that way. I saw a crowd forming and a tide of students moving that way. I radioed the other ass’t principal and we were both on the run. The sounds made the prospect of a fight the best guess. When I started moving students out of my way, the yells of battle grew louder and more violent.

I broke into the center of action expecting a brawl. Instead were two boys wearing headlamps seated across from each other pretending to play chess.

The students roared with delight, the prank was a awesome success. The two chess players continued to role-play as we stood pranked. On our way out of the crowded mass of students, The students playfully laughed and patted us on the back.

Although I wasn’t there, I am sure that after everyone was gone, the two chess players stole glances at each other and broke into laughter…

Some of the best times of our lives…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keith

Our Viking boat trip Europe gave me two wonderful results, memories and Keith.

Keith’s actions and behavior will affect my behavior for the rest of my life. I noticed him during our tours up and down and through castles and the like. The mass of humanity at every stop did not phase him.

I made it a point to dine with him several times. Average height, maybe 70, scraggly head of hair, and sharp sparkling blue eyes if you could ever see them. Arthritis has claimed both hands, leaving limited use of the forefinger and thumb on each hand. Parkinson’s has his legs dancing  at every sit down. Then, 90 days previous, he awoke unable to lift has chin off his chest. His focal point now is his own knees no better. He puts his thumb under his chin to raise his head to see straight ahead periodically. His bright eyes and great  smile along with a wonderful upbeat personality make it a pleasure to be his friend. Never once did he bring up his handicaps or anyway allude to them.

Keith       ” I can tell a lot about you by your shoelaces.”

” A neighbor got mad at me just before I left. She came out and yelled at me to get down off the ladder. I was getting ready to get up on the roof.”

He never again will lift his head normally on his own or cease being the object of many stares. He has been given a heavy burden, but his gift to me is to see the human spirit at it’s best. I suffer from melancholy from time to time, but just remembering the manner in which Keith lives his life has helped me live mine…

10 minutes or 10 years

When you reach your bodies perception of old age, the mind subconsciously deals with one’s mortality, at an age where you could die suddenly in the next 10 minutes or will continue to motor along for 10 more years. Basically, we set aside this issue rather than dwell on it and move on with what faculties we have left.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to a warm-water fitness class. In the water are 18 white-haired beauties and myself. 50 years ago, this ratio of 18 to 1 in bathing suits would have been a dream come true. It came true fifty years too late. I strut and flex with what little I have to strut and flex with. They float about as if on lily-pads talking about quilts and new swimwear. Some of the women are bathing suit sluts, with a new one every couple weeks. I still look, 18 to 80 I still look. All of us are a bit worn and saggy, but at this age we don’t give a crap.

My memory worries me, but I can’t remember why. I can’t find my car in the parking lot, but somehow know that Monrovia is the capital of Liberia at a moment’s notice. I have taught thousands of students over the years. When one approaches, I may know how many points they scored in their senior year, but can’t remember their name. My wife just walks on by keeping me from the embarrassment of trying to introduce them.

I have puttering down to an art. A project begins with much fanfare, then as I search for a missing tool. I forget what I am looking for or why I am looking for it. Thus a new project springs forth.

My car has been stolen twice from my house .  After it was reported missing. the car was found at work. I had driven to work, then not remembering that I drove, walked home.

Every morning last year I drove our foreign exchange students to school. Twice I arrived at school only to find that I had left them at the house.

Sex, Oh yes sex exists at this age for some, it is done with a hope and a prayer. A hope that something good happens and a prayer that you don’t die in the attempt.

I do appreciate the status and dignity shown to me in my old age. After a playoff game, I was sitting in the stands watching the next game when four of my prettiest players came up to sit with me. Yep, they wanted to sit with their handsome coach ’cause he had it going on. Nope, they were afraid that I would fall down the stairs after the game.

Golf is one sport that can played well into old age. You can’t hit very far and fortunately can’t remember your score at the end.  It’s sun, fun and social interaction.

Unfortunately there can be problems. Harry and I were to play 18 holes on a glorious morning, I could only get in nine. Harry died on the third hole and it was ‘ hit the ball and drag Harry, hit the ball and drag Harry…

Let’s take the Mule

Ryan and I had this planned for weeks. Our first solo camping trip would be to Emerald Lake, high in the Colorado Rockies. School would start soon and this two day trip would complete the summer. I just finished a tour of duty with a local hay crew and Ryan escaped from his grandfather’s mining claims. The objective was an eight mile march, upward, ever upward to one of America’s great pack-in lakes.

Ryan met me at the trail head, his grandfather’s pickup came to a dusty stop, then rocked and swayed for a bit. The reason for the movement was a gray-brown mule barely contained by the sideboards.

“Hey Ryan, what’s this?”, I said excitedly. “Are we taking the mule?”.

“Yeah, I was thinking of all the stuff that we were going to carry up to the lake”, Ryan explained. “I just thought , Let’s take the mule.”

The truck groaned as the mule bounced down to the ground. Ryan had told me about his grandfather buying a mule, unused until now. Mules are wired differently than horses, probably because they are a hybrid. Mommy and Daddy mules don’t make little mules. Usually a jack, male donkey, mates with a horse mare. Their disposition can be pleasant or ornery. This would be a good test.

Since we were not carrying the load, Ryan had added more supplies, cast iron skillet, eggs, potatoes, a 22 rifle, and two cans of Coors beer, for ballast I guess. Neither of us had ever used a pack saddle, cinches and straps all over. Our filled panniers were loaded to each side. The mule did some tail twisting, but so far , so good. It seemed so easy that we talked of running guided pack trips next summer.

The first hour on the trail was just slightly uphill, a forested park of aspens and oak brush. The geography changed suddenly by way of a rocky transition into heavy pines. The mule balked at the rocky step-ups. First Ryan, then myself, pulled on the rope, both tugging for all that we were worth. The mule finally leaped forward. The pack saddle slipped back over the mules hips. It was rodeo time, the mule kicked and bucked, through, around, and over the brush and headed back down the trail. About 50 yards down the trail, the pack saddle gave up the ghost and surrendered itself to the ground.

Some hikers at the corral held the rope of the long-eared beast. Never one to think it through, we turned right back up the trail. It seems that we failed to put the breast strap  around the chest on our first attempt. It would keep the pack saddle from slipping back like it did. When we arrived back at the pack saddle, we snubbed the mule to an aspen tree and fought the thing back on and correctly refitted. We did notice that at the bottom of one of the panniers, the eggs and potatoes had made an omelette of themselves.

About halfway up the trail, we were tired and thirsty. It was decided that the stream we were following was the clearest we had ever seen, and to drink from it would be a luxury most folks would never have the opportunity to do. Ah yes, clean mountain spring water. About twenty yards up the trail, a dead sheep lay in the center of the small stream, what was under water had turned a stringy pinkish white, the ribs of the sheep that was out of the water had maggots moving between the patches of wool and meat. We gagged all afternoon.

Late in the afternoon, we made the little land strip between Little Emerald and Big Emerald lakes. Campers often stayed in this area, but today, no one. Camp was setup in the thinned pines, ideal place for a tent and campfire. The mule was tied short and close to camp.

There was a causeway between the two lakes, the big running into the small. Many large rainbow trout could be seen in the rushing water, but not caught. Supper was three small brook trout, bacon and some skinned up potatoes.

The next day was perfect, we ate, fished again at the causeway for the big Rainbows, shot at marmots near the rocks, skipped rocks, and relaxed. Ryan hobbled the mule so it could eat and move about.

At near dark, a huge dark cloud came over the mountain from the west. These mountains, famous for their their late-season lightning storms, did not disappoint. Ryan and I hid in our wind-ravaged tent, sheets of lightning lit up the area over and over.

We awoke the next morning exhausted, the firewood was wet, the mule was missing and we were ready to go home. Without a fire, our breakfast was not much and terrible.

The hobbled mule couldn’t be far, Ryan had hobbled the two front feet, the mule could move about , but not far and not fast. While looking for the mule, I discovered why the big trout were not biting, they were spawning in small rivulets against the mountain. Sidetracked, we soon hand-caught 20 beautiful rainbows, our limit.

The search resumed for our mule, no sign. Could not see him or track him due to the rain. While Ryan searched, I gathered camp, broke down the tent, rolled the sleeping bags and stowed the gear in the panniers. As I made way over to a rocky little outcropping  next to the water to wash the skillet, I dropped it.

There was the mule in waist-deep water. The problem was, he was dead. Scared during the storm , feet hobbled together, he went into the water, couldn’t swim and drowned.

When Ryan arrived, he meant to say, “Oh my gosh.”. That isn’t how it came out, followed by, “I’m dead.”.

I wanted to say, ” You didn’t like that mule anyway. “, but settled with. “Yep, you’re screwed…