I have to tell you, I really enjoy some of the stories of guys transported back in time. Somewhere in Time: A Trip to Waco, El Paso, Muleskinner Blues, Wild West, Will and Carrie, and those simply set in the old West like The Legend of Eli Crow and Millie's Western Adventure.
Little did I imagine that I might have a Wild West adventure of my own.
I knew that my friends Anne and Rob lived way out in the middle of nowhere, but I underestimated. When I turned off the paved road onto the dirt road and the GPS reminded me to continue two and a half miles, I knew it was further out than I thought. When I realized my cell phone, and thus my Internet link had lost contact several miles back, I realized I'd be out of daily touch with my readers and the stories I've been writing.
When I walked into their cabin, Anne handed me a knife and a bucket of baby cucumbers and told me that I could cut while she made the brine for bread and butter pickles and we'd catch up. It was close to two on Sunday afternoon when I got there and it was a holiday weekend, so the chatting was relaxed and we were having a social time as well as getting some work done. We moved right from pickles to peaches--four cases of them. That's when Rob joined us. Anne par-boiled them, dunked them in cold water in front of Rob and he peeled them. I'd grab them, pit them, quarter them, and stuff them in the jars. Then Anne took the jars, poured the syrup over them, sealed them up and dunked them in boiling water for 25 minutes. We kept filling jars until we ran out of quarts and I started filling pints. Lots of them. I'm not sure how much we got canned by 8:30 that night, but we'd talked about everything from Rob's experience being bitten by a rattlesnake five years ago (he's still in pain/it never leaves) to what the fuck is happening with another middle east war brewing. I've now given up on all politicians. I vote "none of the above" for everything from here on.
Oh yes, I said 8:30. Anne whipped up a couple of chicken fried steaks, corn on the cob, zucchini, rice, and gravy and we had dinner about nine. Somewhere along the way we were talking about riding. Rob is a hunting guide in addition to being a rancher and Anne loves to ride as well. When they found out I used to ride, they decided in about a minute that we'd go for a trail ride in the Willowa-Whitman National Forest the next day. They'd pointed out where the forest backed up to their property a half mile away, so I figured we'd saddle up in the morning, ride out a couple hours and head back.
No. We had three saddled horses and a mule with panniers. It was almost eleven by the time the dairy cows were milked. They are kind of nightowls, so the cows expect milking at ten at night and ten in the morning. Rob had to put a shoe on one of the horses and two on the mule before we could load them into a trailer and head out about noon. When we reached the trailhead, it was starting to rain pretty good, so we put on our oilcloth dusters and mounted. Then we started riding up Catherine Creek. About an hour in, riding uphill on a narrow track, we came to Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. And we kept riding. We came to the Meadow a couple hours later and stopped for a picnic (carried on the back of Axel the Mule while the livestock grazed and Anne sighted around the meadow with her rifle. She had her bear tag and was determined to get one if she could. (I was a little confused over the concept of bare hunting when she first mentioned it.)
Instead of heading back, "we" decided to keep going up "toward the pass" another hour. When the trail started to turn steep and rugged, we decided not to ride up any further and turned for the four hour trek back to the trailhead. They were really happy because it was the first time they'd made it out of that area before dark! Believe me, when there is a five hundred foot drop next to the trail into the rocky creek below, you are happy you got out before dark.
I couldn't tell you the last time I sat a horse for seven hours. It wasn't bad, mind you. The terrain up there is incredibly beautiful. We had good horses, easy to ride and responsive. But I knew my back would be sore in the morning. We ate dark chocolate for pain relief, trailered the stock back and by the time Rob and I had pulled the saddles and led them to pasture, Anne had spaghetti ready to serve. I collapsed in bed before milking had even begun, but not before the rain started in earnest.
This morning, I fixed coffee and sat in my trailer to drink it and do some work. I quickly found out I had a blister on my ass! Nobody ever wrote about that in one of these stories. Nor did they mention what it's like to have to hitch up just as there's a downpour.
I drove most of the way to Walla Walla with wet jeans, though I managed to change my shirt without getting too soaked again. I was sad to leave Anne and Rob this morning, but I've got some of their good beef in my freezer. And I'll definitely be through this way again as I wander.