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The same old thing over and over again. Provided the level of frequency is low enough, it is tolerable. Canning pickles every fall. Getting firewood cut and stacked. Tearing out the old tomato plants in another month or two. These things happen annually. It is the getting up and driving to work, dealing with the same old whiny customers and the same old problems over and over again, that gets old. And I find myself becoming a caricature. Like the old timer I learned my trade from. I considered him a bit of a dinosaur. And I am getting there.
When I came back from my month long semi-interrupted vacation I had resolved to write, and thought I’d have plenty to write about. Backpacking, the absence of kids, visits with mom, road tripping, run down mountain resorts, night time rain and thunder storms in the mountains and the high desert. Cougar slinking across a forest service road in rough, broken country seen while suppressing the sinking feeling we were lost. A herd of deer moving through open forest. Obnoxious assholes walking through our camp, building an illegal fire and leaving fish entrails in a pristine mountain lake, our water source.
I have to admit I’m a little irritated that September has not yet opened here. I haven’t the discipline to write on my own and save the work for posting later. Although I must say there have been months when that’s saved me. I wish I had more time and inclination to work on my writing as I want to make an effort to avoid the same old boring tripe I’ve been writing about my “angst” and the usual whinings of a balding middle aged white married guy. But that’s what I know, and attempting creativity has always embarrassed me.
She’s going back to work. Her last job was as an assistant to a graphic designer and a photographer. Before that, she was fired from a title company for thinking too highly of herself and demanding too much pay; she failed to recognize she was fungible. So she’s off to training in the Midwest on 9/11. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the kids and soccer, dance, piano, martial arts and other obligations in addition to us both working. Id’ hoped she’d go back to paid work this year but I wonder if we might both be sorry.
My older brother is paranoid about cougers since he and his SO were stalked by a pair of juvenile cougars some time ago on a trail called Burnt Granite.
He won’t go back there.
When we hike with my dog, he is always calling her, afraid she might wander off, or attract cougars to us. He doesn’t like being in brushy areas where there’s no sight distance. I can’t blame him.
I’ve told him a few times that since he spends a lot of time in the woods, he should carry a sidearm, as a few of our friends do.
The feral kid remembered Tracy and the way he’d once shot Pepsi from his nose because he laughed in mid swallow. That’d happened on the high dirt bank above the Ma’s Bottom swimming hole on the creek down in the canyon.
They’d gone inner tubing that day, and had taken Pepsi, jerky and candy bars from the store his parents owned. This was back in the day, when Pepsi came in 16 ounce glass bottles.
Later, Tracy married and lived in a rundown trailer park up the river.
They think their baby died because of something in the well water.
Don’t you sometimes just want to light out for the Territory? Get the fuck out of here? The trouble is that while you can, you must come back because you have to live, and you have obligations to meet, and happiness to find.
Yeah, sometimes I do, but you are right. A guy can’t very well just run off – because we all have responsibilities, and even if you did, you’d likely just find yourself in the same position or worse off, just someplace else.
So where do you want to go for lunch?
I dunno, how about tacos? Sound good?
I spent the day yesterday more or less screwing off instead of working. I took a lot of time off this summer and the result is that things are a little slow now. I used to worry about this kind of stuff, but the work keeps coming. It’s declining from one client, but that's ok because they suck. They pay little and audit every bill. I’d rather have work from clients willing to pay a decent rate and let me do my job as best I am able. Life’s too short for the bullshit I put up with from them.
His boots were too small but he didn’t tell me until we were halfway there. He’s thirteen years old Monday and he impressed me with his fortitude. He carried his own stuff and we covered twelve miles in two days. The camp was windy and dusty. Everything, including us, was covered with dust when we woke up – in spite of having the tent fly reefed down tight. After breakfast of Clif ™Bars and coffee (and hot chocolate) we bugged out. He had a blister when we got back to the truck. He’s turning out to be a pretty good kid.
It’s a shame to waste these last warm days of the season by staying inside, working. The days are much shorter, signaling what we are in for this winter; days coming and going in the dark cold. The light now seems cooler, less intense. And I am tired of watering and mowing. I just realized I forgot to water the garden last night, and it has been days now. The leaves are starting to turn at higher altitudes, and here, everything just looks tired. I have some painting to do before the weather changes, and not time to do it.
This has been a busy week already and I am afraid I will fall behind in my 100. Friday, I leave early for the Roundup. I’ve never been before. She won’t be coming but I will be taking the kids. Free tickets and a free place to stay make it a mandatory trip. Can’t pass up an opportunity like that. I am not getting as much work from the usual suspects, but I have one or two new ones who pay better, so I don’t mind. The old fear of failure that has always motivated me receding, like my hairline.
My wife flew out yesterday, on 9/11, the day after my eldest son’s birthday celebrating his entry into his teen years. I had a small misgiving about her flying on 9/11, but didn’t think about it too much. My son wanted a scientific calculator for his birthday, and he got it. I asked him if he knew he was a geek for asking for one. He and I went backpacking last weekend to mark his birthday, and I gave him a headlamp on that trip. I think the kids will get a kick out of the Roundup, but we’ll see.
She’s been gone all week, and handling the kids and work and the dog is a bit more work than I am used to doing. Just remembering where they are, where they need to be and when, on each day, is a headache. I wonder how things will go when her training is over and she goes to work. I told her I’d love it if she made a lot, so I could cut back. I’d actually love to quit. But I know that’ll never happen. I know she won’t be able to limit herself to a day a week.
Today we leave right after school, for the Roundup. Actually not today, because today is Monday, and I am writing about Friday, but I was too busy Friday to write this then, and I am not a big enough dork to take my laptop to Roundup. I hate doing what I call “writing back” because it comes off as canned soup writing. It has the benefit of knowing what happened the next day, and it feels fake and wrong to me. But I am not too proud to do it. I would prefer, however, to stay current.
Let ‘er buck.
We arrived last evening after dinner at The Pheasant (burger and tots). This morning the VFW put on a big breakfast in a park downtown. We bought my son some boots at Red’s and then killed some time before the Rodeo finals. Right smack in the middle of the National Anthem, a pair of F-15s flew over, very low, with 17,000 of us standing there, many with cowboy hats over hearts. The rodeo was great. Steer wrestling and calf roping – events not featured at many rodeos. The bull and Bronc riding are my favorite events. Noon meant my first beer.
I was hung over this morning but we got up early, packed up and went to the Rainbow for breakfast. I swear I’ve gained five pounds this weekend. Yesterday evening we hit the party, after having spent some time in the Hospitality Room and the Let ‘Er Buck Room. There was a lot to look at, but like a dog chasing a car, I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I caught any. After excellent eggs over easy, toast, bacon and hash browns (the coffee sucked though) we hit the road and were home by noon. Headache aching.
Sitting in the garage awaiting a craigslist® buyer they sat, worrying that the heat would affect the veneer of their shelves. Purchased twenty years ago in Chicago by a man with more money than taste they sat now in this city, discarded by his daughter. If furniture could talk it would be interesting to follow them on their trip, the quality of which will be determined by whether or not they go for a price, or for free. So far, they’ve seen life on the 53rd floor of the Four Seasons, and family life in an inner East side neighborhood.
They woke in the dust. The wind had not stopped overnight. And his son had wanted to camp by the lake, so they had to camp in one of the beat down designated spots. He hadn’t taken account of the wind and dust blowing under the fly and through the mesh walls of the tent. About four, he’d reached up to adjust the clothes serving pillow duty and felt the fine grit. A couple of hours later he got up, shook off the dust, took a dip, found a sheltered spot and brewed coffee after dumping dirt from the pot.
They sat in the truck not knowing what to do, the diesel loping along as they both knew it would for days before it ran out of fuel, not over heating just waiting patiently, for them.
There’s no deep emotion or long drawn out ultimately fake sounding dialogue or interesting story with romance and mystery as one expects to find (and is rarely disappointed) in what passes for writing these days.
Unsophisticated characters rarely have sophisticated motives.
Neither wanted to stay. So Cap put the truck in gear and they drove to town to tell the Sheriff’s Deputy.
On the map, it’d looked like a good, and simple shortcut. But up above Sumpter, there’s a lot of USFS roads, and you need to have a USFS map in order to make sense of the road numbers. They didn’t. In the Atlas, it looked like a relatively straightforward drive through to the highway and then out to US 26 and Prairie City. It was rough, broken country. Not the kind of country seen in smiling REI ads. They saw herds of deer, and a cougar slinking over the road. They were lost. They pressed on, following the same road.
I swung by the Ranger Station for the key and drove straight up. The house is a three bedroom ranch with a woodstove, baseboard heat and linoleum tile floors throughout. The furniture was scavenged from the other houses, now abandoned, but soon to be restored for firefighter use. The beds, metal government issue. I brought in some groceries and dumped my sleeping bag. My brother pulled up not more than five minutes after I arrived. We made some dinner in a can, had a beer or two and he went to bed. I watched TV and then went to bed.
We saw a bear and two cubs on the way in. Hit the powerline road and then to the 545. the trail is vague on this end due to age, disuse and the logging operation of a decade ago. We spent the day sawing out three massive blowdowns and rolling them off, and rebuilding the tread. The hedge trimmer worked pretty well for the huckleberry brush encroaching on the trail. The boomers had dug into the side of the trail, and it was full of holes and their dirt piles. Not horse friendly country. We quit early and had beers.
Today there were five of us. Last night we saw Lifeflight come in to the helipad twice. Motorcycle accident on the highway. Went back to the 545. Saw the usual rednecks on quads. This trail is safe from them as it sidehills, and is too narrow for quads. The boys went to the other end and sawed out twenty blowdowns. We whacked brush and rebuilt a quarter mile of the tread. It was a good day, but I was tired. We went back to the landing, had a beer, went to the house. I had a sandwich and drove home.
Back in Dodge City, I try to remember what it was like. The cool morning, fog and mist and the crackle of the wires overhead at the end of the access road. The Steelhead loitering in the riffle. Sitting by the hot woodstove watching Cops. Looking back down the trail and seeing how much better it looks when we are finished. Then walking, and feeling how much better it is for walking with the tread level and clear. The satisfaction of sharpening axes, Pulaskis and McLeods. The funny thing is, I don’t sleep well up there. I thought I would.
She stood on the corner in a funny looking hat, dog leash in hand. She couldn’t have been more than four and a half feet tall, and looked to weigh less than 90 pounds. I was signaling a right. She stood her ground. I waited. After her pause, she crossed, and gave me a small wave as she made the near curb. I’ve never seen her in the neighborhood before. I hate that corner. Near home, making a right, with poor sight distance to the left. People drive too fast on our street. Someday they might hit someone. I did.
A conference call. What a cliché. I hate them. I feel like a cog in a machine.
To be honest I could give two crusty fucks what happens with most of them. The outcome won’t affect me, and I get paid regardless.
I care about the individual clients, and when the other side is clearly overreaching or lying, I like to see them lose.
But really, I do not care. Like everyone else, I’d quit working tomorrow if I could.
In my experience, most “professions” are footslogs like most “jobs” but with better pay, respect (supposedly) and less manual labor.
I talked to her yesterday. I wonder at times what she thinks we think of how we were raised. I don’t know how it could have been better, especially when one looks at the risks, and at how we all turned out. Among my many happy memories is getting up and pouring an enamelware bowl of Corn Chex™ with too much sugar and sitting on the front step in the blazing sunshine of a Summer morning reading the paper retrieved from the box across the road. This must have been about when I was eleven. Later, I had a job
I am afraid to tell her one of the reasons I like going to the woods is the simplicity of it. All I need is a sleeping bag and some food and a toothbrush.
None of the acoutrements that we have and need for a life with the kids and the dogs. The house, cars, work and responsiblities. Just the tools for the work, and maybe dog food, if I bring the lab with me.
Last weekend I had time to sit on the tailgate in the sun and sharpen tools. By sundown I’d sharpened everything.
Then we watched Cops.
After the gym and a soccer game I took my pack and the new cheap sleeping bag as well as a can of dinner and headed to the woods. We met at the house and took off up a gravel road. We parked and walked the edge of a clearcut. We had a nice view down into it. We descended a draw that turned into a canyon. He said it should open onto a flat bench but it didn’t. We had to climb back out to the ridgetop, using our free hand to assist, the other occupied with a rifle.
There were lots of guys up there, camped in the rain, crouching around warming fires as we headed back to the house, and whiskey.
I brought the cheap bag to leave at the house.
Next morning dawned wet. I cut some blowdown out of a campground trailhead parking lot and headed home muddy, and smelling of sawdust, diesel and two stroke smoke.
I stopped in at a trendoid coffee shop to the stares of the hipsters.
I did get some elk pepperoni and sausage from a bowhunter friend.
Work will interfere with my hunting for the next month.
The Tip Jar