About eight months ago my Mountain Boy and I met an unusual man in Cody, and for reasons that I haven't taken the time to evaluate, we all hit it off right away.
He is an enigma.
A friendly, intelligent, outgoing, gregarious, non-conforming enigma.
When you ask off-handed but purposeful questions to learn more, he smilingly dodges.
Bobbing and weaving with finesse so finely tuned that it is almost imperceptible.
There are pieces of a life story that include family, divorce, working somehow within the law profession, working somehow within the fire fighting profession, working somehow at Yellowstone, volunteering both locally and (during large scale natural disasters) nationally throughout the country, tinges of political and civil rights activism, and so much more.
All pieces of a life that he keeps happily close to the vest, all the while easily skirting the periphery of conversation.
To say that he is an interesting character would be understating the obvious.
To say that we all like each other would also be an understatement.
He makes a point of dropping by to see us at least once a week and greatly enjoys the easy conversations and jokes that we all share with each other. And so do we.
A couple of weeks ago he asked LC and I if we wanted to go for a drive in his "Chick Magnet".
He bought an orange (he calls it Nuclear Sunset Orange) side-by-side off road vehicle a few months ago and immediately joked that it was his chick magnet, although we all intuitively know that it is not really such a joke.
He wanted to explore BLM land, the national forest, and has recently taken up the fight with Yellowstone National Park officials in his pursuit to get permission to drive it on-road through the park.
They say no. He says why not.
Since it is a road worthy vehicle (complete with plates, lights, seat belts, horn, mirrors and insurance) and since he drives it frequently in Cody and it has the capability to drive over 60mph, I hope that he wins his fight.
He stays very busy visiting with a group of regulars for coffee at the local McDonalds a few mornings a week, and then deliberately pokes them with a stick when he gets exasperated with their unthinking political partianship, before blowing out of the restaurant.
He volunteers for non-profit organizations, but is beginning to pull out of those groups after realizing that he is often left holding the bag alone, when it comes to actual work.
He is busy right now building a fishing pole holder to mount to the top of his Jeep Cherokee, made of coffee cans and PVC pipe and other assorted ends and odds, that will ultimately look like a rocket.
He stays busy, but at the end of each day I think he is ultimately a lonely man.
He bought the off-roader so that he could detox from the frustration of dealing with fools. So that he could explore nature (as he says to me "to get out and kiss the tits of nature").
And I think that he hoped others (including lady others) who also own four wheelers, might want to go explore with him.
It turns out that the lady others would rather four wheel on paved roads to yard sales than four wheel over boulders on BLM land.
And so it goes.................
On a very beautiful and not-too-warm day a couple of weeks ago, LC and I headed out to this man's rented cabin out in the Southfork, and we were both looking forward to going for a drive in the Chick Magnet.
The picture above was taken from his front porch, and as I stood at the rail of the porch looking out over cows in the pasture below, and then the mountains and back side of the reservoir, I understood exactly why this man loved living where he did.
He has no family in Cody - no real ties - and is considering moving to Dubois because Cody is "getting too big".
On days like we have had recently (in which the small, isolated town of Cody is swamped with tourists) I can understand why he feels the way he does.
But on THIS day, the quiet and beauty of where he lived left me enamored.
We talked and visited for a short while, before loading into the 4 wheeler and heading out.
More scenes from his front porch...............
I had never seen this section of BLM land before and had no idea what to expect.
Initially I wasn't very impressed. A whole lotta dirt and rock..............
The scenery began to improve quickly as we started to climb............
As our enigmatic friend turned around at this point to find another road he wanted to explore, I noticed a large pile of animal bones off to our right.
Instantly we were all three curious about this unexpected site, and we pulled to a stop to take a closer look............
There were bones laying everywhere.
Skulls, hips, spines, long bones, bone fragments, all scattered over a large area in the dirt.
I always wonder what the story is when I find sights like these.
It is common to find one bone or another whenever you travel on BLM land. Usually it is a single bone, laying out in the open and invariably bleached white by the sun.
But every once in a while you surprisingly come across what I referred to once as a BLM Killing Field.
There is one in the hills behind our house, that LC and I found a couple of years ago.
It is located high up in the hills and hidden in a small gully. That one we believe belonged to a mountain lion that roamed the area.
Was THIS also the result of a mountain lion? It was in the open and not hidden in a place where a large cat could safely devour his kills. I don't know................
The Chick Magnet............
This noisy little, tough little machine was easily carrying us higher and higher, and we made our way into the hills on BLM land out in the Southfork.
I was having a great time, and sat contentedly in the middle seat as our friend drove, and as LC was the one to climb out to open and close cattle gates.
We had begun our adventure in nothing more than dirt and rock, but I could see up ahead that we were going to find beautiful.............
Our elusive friend had told us about the rock formations he had found recently, and I could see them up ahead of us.
I looked around me, mesmerized by this all new terrain. It looked so different from the BLM land behind our house that I had explored extensively and knew so well.............
The first tree we had seen in over half an hour.
There were trees up ahead. Which meant that there was water up ahead.
So let's go further up ahead!...........
We stopped for a few minutes and climbed out of the noisy off-road vehicle so that I could take pictures of the valley and water and Carter Mountain that had been visible the entire time we had been out.
As I turned to look up ahead of us, I looked doubtfully at the hill we were about to climb.
I sincerely liked this old man. He was intelligent, insightful, amusing........but also was teetering towards doddering.
Oh hell.......suddenly I wished that LC was driving.
We climbed back in............
It took some doing to climb the trail that actually was even steeper than it looked.
Between soft dirt and muddy sections from the past weeks' rain, the rutted out areas and steepness of the trail, the newness of the vehicle to its' driver, and the "doddering-factor" I held on tight and hoped for the best, and of course we made the climb just fine.
The climb was worth it.
We pulled to a stop in the middle of the trail and climbed out again, suddenly aware that we could see forever.
It was outstandingly awesome up there - rock formations, pine trees, mountains, hills, fast flowing canal, blue skies and warm temperatures.
It was a perfect perfect place to stop and we stopped for a long time.....................