Montana winter starts early and the fireplace roars dispelling the cold. Bear Root wafts from the stove heated atop – These last months have been full. Aside from Sheridan, Wyoming – I rarely leave the peaceful confines of the Crow Reservation. I don’t really write much and yet write constant in my mind. I am so blessed with the oddest of friends that have come into my life serendipitous. From the editor of Grit Magazine, Hank Will sending a handmade knife to this weekend Mr. Bulltail giving me a quarter of a moose when I was up in the Big Horn Mountains.
Jade called two weeks ago and was coming down from the Big Horns with her first buffalo taken with her bow! “hey do you want some meat?” She has given me elk and buffalo which I butchered using Hank’s knife in the garage. Moose stew, elk steak, buffalo soup – honey from a guy I traded horses with – a Pendlelton blanket from another trade. I just have to say how blessed I am with friends!
I have been up into the Big Horn Mountains quite a bit of late. The old Toyota is a good mountain rig and with my good friend Woody Springfield, I have been up looking for Sasquatch. I have been surprised with many stories about Sasquatch sightings – coming from some of the most unlikely of sources.
My quest is now to learn more about Sundance and the Crow people – from meeting and talking to the elders nothing fascinates me more. Reading today from Tom Yellowtail and understanding (or trying to understand) the way of the people before the coming of the white man.
It is good -
From spring water at the 4H Pond to Commissary water – Windy Point and everyplace in between!
I took this job as Caretaker here on the ranch – it is a quiet peaceful job.
It allows me to think and drink Colorado Koolaid while I mow lawn for 12 – 15 hours a week. The ranch is small for Montana but really big to me encompassing probably 10 square miles. The Little Big Horn flows through and irrigation ditches feed the 15 acre well stocked lake. I spend time with the farmer that keeps the crops rotated and perfect. He is 72 years old and a fount of knowledge and defines “old school”. I have nothing but respect for him.
The owner of the land is rarely on the ranch.
I have been asked several times by the owner to kill beaver that eat the trees and dam the irrigation. My friend Kyle the mountain man and I trapped beaver this last year and tanned their hides and sold them. I think that is legit! But I have been asked to kill the beaver out of season because the are a pest. Yes, they are in a way – but…it goes against the way my father raised me. My father spent days and weeks in the woods with me trapping and hunting when I was young. I was taught respect!
He never said anything silly like ” our earth mother waits for rain from sky father and we must always respect…”. He just raised me right is all.
So, I have been really struggling with the beaver and killing them. I tried lying and saying “oh yeah shot the life out of them”. But it was not convincing. The last caretaker killed everything – he killed because he loved to kill. He was sick – his soul absorbed all the negative kills and finally his wife left him and he left the ranch (thankfully). I went hunting with him once – he shot two pheasant and then threw them out the window on the way home – said it was too much to clean em. His soul is dead and will not be reborn.
My friend Kyle, the mountain man, comes over and I present my dilemma to him while fishing with his daughter. (Arbonnie caught 6
bass and it was awesome!) He told me a wonderful story – this guy down in Wyola, Montana was always shooting the big bucks and just cutting off the antlers to sell. He wasted the deer and did not care. Long about July 4th weekend, Kyle’s wife was at Pow Wow and cooking up some venison. This guy kept asking for a steak – elk steak or venison – everyone was cooking before dancing. No one gave him anything to eat.
I will not be the Pow Wow dancer with no venison or elk to eat.
We coexist -
My friend Tori really spent time asking “why trap” and I owe her for fueling the question! Thank you Tori! I have no problem hunting or trapping if the animal is used for good and we are thankful. This writing is for Tori!
This has been thee most interesting introspective week in my life – My bro Willie ran by with his semi truck looking for work – seems the whole world is looking for work (digression forgive me) and he takes off on this existential diatribe that is summed up in “we are better when we realize they are lies, when we accept that the lies we thought were our persona are merely lies, then we can really live”. Willie been spending hours in the cab of his truck thinking about the lie he sold himself on who he was. I was knocked! I head up into the Wolf Mountains this morning. I head up to trout fish and 4wheel and see the Sundance grounds from last year.
I am alone with my silver Labrador Retriever Chloe. I talk to Chloe and tell her about where we are going and for a split second I realize that I am always alone. Not a feel sorry for yourself nobody likes me guess I will go eat worms (which I could have used some worms cause the fish were not liking my mimic minnow).
I am just comfortable being alone. Then I thought of Willie – I wondered what lies have I been telling myself to hit this wall? I guess, I am a loner. I love people, love stories, love telling stories – but when it comes down to social gatherings I am inept and use humor to cover. Existential: an individuals existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual as it relates to freewill. (loosely borrowed from Merriam Webster) So, the existential lie is our false identity waking from the lie and – owning ourselves. Peace…
A few weeks back, I lost my black Lab Mojo. It was his time and I gave him a good send off. Tears still well up in my eyes when I think of him. He was a good dog. Always patient with me and I realized through him that a dog can take a man’s anger and turn it into love. Mojo changed me.
I sat in my Toyota 4Runner wondering what to do without Mojo this summer. I am pretty much a loner and so I bought the 4Runner so Mojo would be comfortable – topless (the 4Runner not me !) and 4 wheel drive capable of trout pond roads and mountain trail exploring. I tried so hard to get this care-taking job so I would have an excuse to always be with my dog. Sitting in the 4Runner, I thought how pointless. I might as well pack up and head for Mongolia.
I prayed, (yes, even a reprobate prays). I really wanted a Lab. Opening up Craigslist, I typed in Lab in the “pets” section. Chloe looked out at me”. I thought “no” and hastily wrote a note to the owner telling her about the ranch, me, and included a joke about how my dog was treated better than most kids – traveled more, better health care, and well fed. I got a note back from the lady and she was interested! Sandi thought I might just be a great match for her Chloe. We chatted via e-mail and I knew with as beautiful a Lab as Chloe – she was getting 100’s of e-mails! I hoped!
Chloe is lying here in bed – she likes memory foam – as I type. Chloe is amazing. She is beautiful, attentive, obedient, and full of love and sweetness! I spent time telling her all about Mojo and she understood. She jumps up into my lap (all 80 pounds of her) and crushes me with Love!
I am again blessed !
Thank you Sandi!
Home on the ranch in Lodge Grass, Montana and around 10pm I get up from my leather chair to check outside. You know how you have one of those “get up and look outside’ feelings? I look out toward the two other houses on the ranch – no one lives in them – and my heart goes thump thump thump…the lights are going on and off in the one house. I figure maybe the owner had some friends coming down for Easter weekend and I try to call him – no answer. I grab my shotgun and my flashlight and head on out. It is not like TV where I rack my shotgun to be cool – I am always loaded and I click the safety off.
I walk down the driveway and clearly see something in the house. Obscured by trees, I really can not make out who it is. I figure it is local kids screwing around. I get to the inner door and it is locked. Holding my shotgun in my right hand finger on the trigger I unlock the door and swing it open calling out “HEY” in my best deep macho voice – (it probably sounded like some gay dude at the door) – I walk in and clear the house = nothing! Check closets, shower, each bedroom, = nothing! There is one door in and all the windows are shut? My adrenaline spiked and I am calm and cool…happy with how I handled the situation. (You always wonder how you would do in a high stress “gun” situation – I recite Rudyard Kipling “IF” )
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting
(thank you Mrs. Spurrier 4th grade for making me memorize this)
This morning I go down to check the house again, two dead robins are on the front porch. I now wonder what was in the house last night?