Saturday, October 19, 2019

Visit From Margie - Part 2

Late afternoon on Margie's second day in Cody we decided to head out of town, drive 30 miles or so, and turn onto the BLM land that the wild mustangs call home.
LC and I hadn't been out to see the wild horses in many months, and Margie's visit was a great excuse to head out in search of these wonderful animals.
On the outskirts of town we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a short side trip first.
Turning onto the Meeteetsee Highway we drove for about 10 minutes, and then pulled into a driveway on our left.
That was as far as we would go.
We were at Monster Lake Ranch - now called North Lake Ranch - a nod to the new owners of the property.
Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian-West.
The sign above the entrance had been changed just recently, and even though there was no gate barring entrance to the property we stopped right there anyway.
Margie took pictures of the buildings that we could see from the road.
One more picture of the new sign and we turned the Suburban around and continued on our journey in search of the wild horses.
Link to the property now owned by the Wests:
20 minutes later we pulled off the flat and fast two-lane highway, pulled onto BLM land and immediately fell into "Search Mode" - all of us (including Kory) now scanning the horizon for small and large herds of horses.
Very quickly we found these beautiful "speed goats" (AKA antelope)................
Margie was excited at the sight of the antelope and her excitement only increased when we came across this lone stallion.
Searching both sides of the gravel road, we hoped that the herd was close but this boy was alone and LC knew what the story likely was behind his solitary existence.  
He was no longer young and no longer the strongest.  He had battled to hold onto his herd of females and he had lost.
And now he was banished from the herd, and now he was traveling alone.
It was the nature of his world, but my heart momentarily hurt for him anyway................
For the next hour we followed one trail after another - cutting across country in multiple directions.
Never knowing where and when we would run into these beautiful creatures but always hopeful that we would find them.
After an hour of searching, and with daylight quickly running out LC, Margie and I became resigned to the fact that on this day we very likely were not going to find the horses.
We were still a few slow gravel road miles from the highway, and eventually (and reluctantly) we decided to begin heading back towards black top.
We didn't want to be driving on the highway after dark if we could help it, and the sun was disappearing quickly.
We were already making plans to return to McCullough Peaks in a couple of days when we crested a small rise, looked to the left, and saw the herd quietly grazing a couple of hundred yards aways from us..................
They were WONDERFUL to see.
So quiet.  So peaceful.  So beautiful.
I immediately wished that we had found them 30 minutes earlier because the setting sun was in a rotten place for pictures and the light was fading fast.
Having said that, Margie and I both grabbed for our cameras.
She quietly stepped out on the rear drivers side and I quietly stepped out on the front passenger side and we both snapped pictures as quietly and unobtrusively as we could......................
And then they started walking.
Abruptly headed our way.
I could feel my heart racing with excitement, and I watched as the herd split - some walking to the right and behind the Suburban and some walking to the left and in front of the Suburban.
Snapping pictures and trying to contain my excitement................
The horses got within 20 feet of me.
Kory was totally silent the entire time.
The horses stood so close to me, studying me, the Suburban, other humans and the dog that were all silently watching and smiling and enjoying the sight of these wonderful creatures.
And then as one they turned and silently walked away.
We all talked excitedly about this wonderful and unexpected encounter all the way back to Cody.......................

Friday, October 11, 2019

Visit From Margie - Part 1

I met Margie when I lived in TN.
It was back in 2001 when I was just beginning to acknowledge that even though I was now an aging athlete, I also wanted to become an adventure racer.
I knew almost nothing about the outdoors at the time.
Hadn't camped in decades.
Hadn't canoed in decades.
Didn't know how to mountain bike.  How to navigate with a map and compass.  How to rappel.  How to rock climb.  How to work with a team.  How to move in the outdoors overnight.  I didn't even know what a tent fly was.
And yet here I was now actively learning, actively training, actively researching, little by little (at the age of 40) what I needed to know in order to give adventure racing a shot.
The first time I saw Margie was at the indoor pool at the local recreation center.
I was teaching myself how to swim because in order to do AR you needed to know how to swim and I had spent my entire youth in a dojo training and competing in judo and karate, and my entire adult life to date working in YMCA's as a gym rat teaching fitness classes.
In short.............I had never learned, and by that stage in my life figured that I never WOULD learn.
And yet here I was, every morning, teaching myself how to effectively get across the pool.
The first time I saw Margie she walked onto the pool deck and I thought that she looked like one helluva tough woman.
She walked with a guy younger than her over to the pool lift (used to assist disabled swimmers into the water) and immediately began taking it apart.
It was obviously broken and she was obviously working to repair it.
And she was obviously taking the lead with the younger man taking directions from her.......................
Within a year of that first sighting I was an extremely competent distance swimmer (it turns out that I was a natural - who knew??).
Also within that year I successfully applied for and secured a full time job as the Aquatics Director with that same Parks and Rec Dept.
Yes............the same life guards who watched over me while I taught myself how to swim were now supervised by me (funny how life works sometimes), and I began to get to know this tough looking woman.
I learned that she was the Maintenance Director for the city.
Very quickly we became fast friends.
For the next seven years we shared work experiences, conference experiences, health issues, family issues, failed marriages, stories about our respective sons, good natured insults, endless burgers and endless pitchers of beer.
When I accepted a position up on Juneau Alaska, I knew that I would miss her.
I would miss her a lot.
And some part of me assumed that what would happen is what usually happens in these cases - namely that friends and colleagues are mostly close because of physical proximity and that eventually we would just lose touch with each other and have only fond memories of a friendship that used to be......................
For the brief period that LC and I were up in Juneau, as I battled what turned out to be a horrendous work experience, Margie followed this blog and occasionally we talked by phone.
18 months after I left TN (with a toxic Juneau and a few months stop in Cody WY behind us) LC and I were back in TN and I picked up my friendship with Margie.
10 months later we were back in Cody again.
After losing my oldest son I was almost insane with grief.  
I couldn't live in our TN house.  
He was everywhere.  
Walking out of the bathroom.  Rummaging through the refrigerator.  Watching TV in the recliner.  Playing with the dog in the back yard.  His voice echoed in the halls.  Inside my head.
I couldn't stand it.
Couldn't stand the sight of someone who was no longer there.
Couldn't stand the non-stop pounding of his voice, his laughter, his voice inside the walls of my head.
My God - I couldn't stand it.................
The last person I talked to before LC and I pulled out of the driveway was Margie.
I hugged her.  Battled hard not to cry.  Said goodbye.
She drove back to work.  
LC and I headed for the interstate on our way back to Wyoming.
Goodbye Margie.
Goodbye again......................
We talked on the phone once every couple of years.
We messaged on Face Book once every couple of years.
LC and I were never going back to Tennessee.
There was no need.
And I never expected to see her again.
Eight years after leaving TN I got a phone call from Margie.
She had found a reasonably priced flight to Cody (not Billings - or Denver - or Salt Lake - to CODY).
Could she come and visit?
Yes Margie.
Of course.........................
The day she arrived it was pouring with rain.
Usually it rarely pours with rain in Cody but this year has not been usual, and we have had a LOT of rain.
Her flight was delayed by an hour, and as I impatiently wandered the airport I snapped these pictures..................

Aside from hair that was longer and blonder, she looked exactly the same as I remembered her.
She looked at me and said "My God, you look like you're 12 years old" - which was nice to hear considering the hand wringing I have engaged in over every single new wrinkle recently.
We hugged, and went to Pizza Hut, and ate too much and talked for a long time before heading to the house still in the pouring rain..................
It rained all the next day as well and we spent the day indoors, exploring the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Margie took endless pictures and I took none.
Because the weather was so horrible the museum was busier than LC and I had ever seen.
Wall to wall people.
A long and slightly chaotic visit and we dodged tourists and locals alike, gaining more satisfaction from Margie's enjoyment of the museum than ours.
We love the museum.
We'll love it even more later in the year when the tourists are gone and we will have the entire facility almost to ourselves..................

The second day of her visit the rain finally stopped, the sun finally came out, and we drove down to the lake close to the house, and then continued driving further down the South Fork so we could show off our "neighborhood" to an old friend....................
A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.................Elbert Hubbard