Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Remains of a stagecoach.
Sometimes working at McCoy Meadows, a 2,500-acre conservation ranch in Oregon, where I was the only ranch hand and got paid to buck hay, tend fences, pull up old barbed wire, paint barns and corrals and perform all manner of labors, I would find in the Fall hundreds of elk moaning in the morning mist like whales.
Still in my early forties, I rode that ATV with a smile on my face and the wind in my scalp. I can see even now the mice that were squished when I flipped a bale up on end, pulling all those armwrestling fibers into play with 130-pounders in both hands. Larger critters left nests stuffed with bits of cloth glove and loose droppings that looked like Cocoa Puffs trickling down from the bales I pulled with hay hooks up top. Some of the bales already had a broken string. I had to lift those up jamming the hay hooks on the ends with the split side on my knee. Two strings popped was a mess, but most were still tied and I lifted them up and walked them over and threw them into the back of the pickup no problem.
A lawyer and a chemistry professor needed their barn cleared of two and three year-old hay to make room for the new. I had to truck all the old not far away to a large area fencing some piles of rotting timber. A couple of horses watched me cover the warped gray wood with my long hay mountain peeking around from behind some scrub.
It took a few staggered days pecking away on mornings that I had the time. The chemistry professor had asked for me having seen me at a party a couple years back. Every time I saw her she always said, “You’re really strong,” and I always had to ignore it to be polite. Secretly, deep down, I loved it. Plus, yeah, mutually beneficial situation. I knew I was helping them out because those bales will take the starch out of you, and they were helping me just as much by having work.
Mine was the privilege to cowboy-up for years, with an eagle screaming nearby sounding like the start of “Northern Exposure.” Regarding shit of a personal nature, I'd bitch about that all day loud as I liked, as well as consider characters and events in full swing of whatever story. Every so often some badass badger would poke his head up from a hole.
The groaning elk, when spotted--"The gig's up!"--would flow like liquid over a fence in the cold morning mist. Sad to say, once in a while, I'd find a calf that simply couldn't make it. It was a priority to remove a carcass in view of the road because of shitheads taking potshots at coyotes moving in. I had to free the bodies from fences with a saw, then relocate beyond the view of the road.
Dragging the body on a length of chain attached to the ball of my truck like Achilles pulling Hector behind his chariot, with severed elk limbs in the bed, it was only natural that I'd belt out ZZ Top.
"I got legs...I know how to use them..."