Friday, November 29, 2013

Remnants Of A Life

For the past week the weather has been outstanding - cool, sunny, clear, and the world has been glistening in the endless sunshine of the high desert plain in which we now live.
On a walk with Kory not too long after she found her way to Idaho, I took these pictures.
It was a raw day.
Cold but not freezing.  Windy.  Grey.  
We had had snow overnight.
Not much.  Just enough to cover the ground.
By mid morning most of it had already melted, but the remnants of it still covered the ditches around town, and lay in spots where the shade existed and will continue to exist for a long while to come.
When I took Kory outside for a few minutes first thing that morning she had been terrified.
Standing at the front door waiting for me to get my jacket on she looked outside, barked, and then backed away from the door.
Turning in circles inside our small mud room, she repeated that same unsettled series of reactions a few times, and it took me a moment to realize what was wrong.
She is a Florida girl.  She had never seen snow before.
And the world in her new home, that she was only then beginning to understand, had suddenly changed.
Within a couple of minutes of being outside Kory was fine.
Whatever the cold, white stuff was that was laying on the ground it wasn't going to hurt her, and after tentatively licking the snow, she began to play in it.
Later that same morning I took her for a walk around town.
As usual there was nobody around, and as usual we had the entire town and the entire expanse of BLM land around us to ourselves.
We walked (as we always do) down the middle of roads with no concern that anyone would bother us or interfere in any way with our time together.
We wandered onto BLM land and then wandered back onto the roads and then wandered back onto BLM land again.  In and out of empty places that belonged to us.
Or at least it felt that way, as it always does when we have the world to ourselves.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
I am still curious if Kory is a part Belgian Malinois and part something-else, or not.
Sometimes I will look at her when we are at the house and exclaim "Put your ears up!" and this new dog, who I am growing very fond of, always looks at me and cocks her head at me, as if she is truly trying to understand just what it is that I'm saying.
As we wandered on BLM land for a few minutes before ducking underneath a fence to hit the road again, the wind caught her ear and stood it upright.
It looked strange to me.  
I'm so used to floppy ears now............
I didn't have a long walk in me on this day.
I was too full from the large breakfast we had shared with our neighbor and wanted to take a nap more than I wanted to walk.
By this time in our walk we had been out for only about 30 minutes but I was already done.  Over it.  Stick a fork in me.
On the spur of the moment I decided to get off the road and pick our way through sage bushes until we hit a piece of property that was close to the house.
There was an old building there and an old piece of farm equipment that I had seen from a distance but wanted to inspect more closely............
As I got closer to it I decided instantly that I loved this thing.
I had no idea what it was, but knew that LC would be able to identify it, because it was certainly used at some point for farming.
As I walked around it I could imagine LC telling me about it, telling me what it was used for, telling me that he had used something similar when he was a boy, telling me one more story about Uncle Bob. was a farming something.
And of course all I saw was art.
Art in the color.  Art in the overall shape.  Art in the shape of smaller and individual pieces of this to-me foreign object.
I didn't care what it had been in a former life.
Right now - in this place - it was a very beautiful metal sculpture...............
Boredom, breakfast and the cold were all instantly forgotten as I slowly wandered around this beautiful and mysterious object, and then found other old and rusted pieces of equipment that were hidden among the now-beige sage bushes.
Suddenly I was very glad that Kory and I had taken a quick walk on a grey day...........
Next to the farm equipment was an old, ramshackle building.
In any other setting it would be considered a pile of junk but for some reason, it just seemed to fit in this isolated place.
This property belonged to a very old woman who passed away only a few weeks ago.
She was the daughter of one of the original founders of this town and had lived here her entire life.
Which was much longer than the 1950's when the town came into its own as a community of homes for INL workers.
When the name Atomic City spoke of the dawn of the nuclear age.
This town has a much longer history than that, but for some reason I can't seem to find out the entire story.
I hear about it originally being called Fury but there is disagreement about the "why" of that name.
Regardless, her father was one of the founding fathers and she owned this land and this building and this farm equipment, but lived in another house here in town.
There are stories that a sheriff was shot in a feud over her affections when she was much younger.
Perhaps I will hear more as time goes by.
Perhaps not.
I don't know exactly what this used to be.  Could it have been a home at some point?
It is hard to imagine.
Like the rusted pieces of long silent farm equipment, I was entranced by this building.
A mystery as so many other things are in this town, with its partial stories and changing stories and eclectic residents.
Not Atomic City Zombie eclectic.  Just.........interesting eclectic..........
Kory and I wandered around this property for a while.
Filled with interesting, rusted, beautiful, forgotten neglect.
The place made me smile.
I was intrigued.  
I was enamored.  
I was infatuated with rust and silence and endless questions about how these remnants of a life (that were now just abandoned pieces of art) all came to be................

It was time to go home, drink coffee, lay on the couch, take a nap.............

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Injured Backs And Injured Hearts

As LC and I were hiking back down Big Butte late last month our hike had been challenging and beautiful, but to that point uneventful.
I was carrying trekking poles and on the way up to the top asked LC a couple of times if he wanted to use them.  Knowing the stubborness of my Mountain Boy, I already knew the answer before even asking the question, but asked it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
The trip back down the butte was tough in its own way, but was nothing short of dangerous once we hit the canyon section less than a mile from the truck.
On the way up Big Butte the canyon section has been an uncivilized cussfest of winding road and non-stop steep climbing.
On the way down I realized just how tough this section was.  Treacherously steep with loose dirt and gravel that constantly had us balance checking.
It was slow and laborious going.
Why I didn't think about the trekking poles at that point, I don't know.  But I should have.
We were only half a mile from the truck when LCs' foot slid out from under him.  He caught himself and managed to stay upright.
Close to the same spot my foot slid out from under ME, but I also managed to catch myself and stay upright.
The next day I was on a high from our hike but my left knee (that I blew out a few years ago during first training and then racing and which ultimately required surgery) was swollen.
As I hobbled around on a swollen knee I watched my Mountain Boy, disgusted.
My legs were tight and my knee was swollen but LC was moving just fine, and I watched him puttering around the house wondering just how come he seemed to be in such good shape when I........wasn't.
The next day my knee was fine, my legs were loose and all I had remaining was the continued high from walking Big Butte.
A cool - way cool - so cool place.
Day 3 is when the wheels fell off for LC.
If he had rested for a day or so maybe it wouldn't have been so bad but he didn't.  Instead, LC jumped right back into seemingly never-ending house projects.
And on Day 3 he woke up in extreme pain.  
His back was completely messed up.
The past month has been physically a very tough time for him.  A time fueled by non-stop pain and very little sleep.
Initially I felt badly for him because if I hadn't talked LC into hiking the butte he wouldn't have slipped and injured his back.
Within a couple of days I had gotten over the guilt.  He was a grown man, had made his own decisions, and sometimes injuries (like sore backs and swollen knees) are just the price you pay for doing business.
That guilt, and then lack of guilt, eventually transitioned into increasing concern though, as days turned into weeks and the pain was still great and the sleep was still little.
Strains.  Pulled muscles.  All should have healed in that time.
Finally, after more than three weeks, we both looked at each other and decided that it was time to see a doctor.  Enough was enough..................

LC has broken his back twice in his life, and yet he lived a life in law enforcement where mountain boys didn't willingly submit to the law because it was family tradition to fight the law.
Stupid rednecks, with their stupid redneck family traditions and their stupid redneck lack of impulse control.
Dropping LC off at the clinic in Blackfoot, Kory and I went in search of something to do while we waited.
After killing an hour in a store while my pup waited for me in the truck, we drove back to the clinic, walked for 20 minutes, then found a concrete pillar to sit on outside the clinic.
10 minutes later LC walked out to tell me that he was still waiting to be seen by the doctor.
Kory and I drove to another store where I killed another hour.  Rinse and repeat walks and wait, and after dropping him off four hours earlier, LC finally walked out of the clinic.
X-rays had shown a mess in there.  Things that were supposed to be straight, were bent.  Things that were supposed to be bent, were straight.
Armed with prescriptions for muscle relaxers and pain killers, the doctor had promised to show the X-rays to an orthopedic surgeon and call us back on Wednesday.
Which was yesterday and nobody called.
That being said the drugs have been working, LC has been sleeping and even between drugs my Mountain Boy is now speculating that his back is improving.
We'll see.................

By the time I was driving two tired people and one tired pup out of Blackfoot and through the vast emptiness of the Snake River Plain, the sun was beginning to set.
My beautiful new dog had patiently waited with me all day - happy to wait in the truck for me, happy to walk with me, happy to stand in the parking lot watching the cars and people go by, for hours on end.
As I drove further and further away from civilization and ours was the only vehicle on the highway for endless miles, I finally realized that the sky was on fire.
Man and dog were both eager to just get home.  Where there was warmth and comfortable places to sit and lie.  Where there was food.
But I stopped the truck anyway - just for a few quick minutes - to take these pictures on the way home............
As we pulled off the two lane highway (that leads to Blackfoot in one direction and Arco in the other), I looked down at the flat and straight one mile stretch of black road that leads to the outskirts of town.
And then I looked up at the flaming sky and Big Butte that dominated the landscape, and that is located 18 miles from town.
I LOVE that butte, loved the hike, loved the beauty that I could see in all directions as I climbed to the top of it one steep foot after another.
But it was also the reason we had spent all day in Blackfoot.  The reason for weeks of pain and sleepless nights.  The reason that house projects had been left undone, and walks with woman and dog had not been taken.
When I wrote about our hike in an earlier post, I wrote that I thought I will wait to ask LC whether or not it was worth it.
Now I don't think I will ever ask him.
I just want him better...............

I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed out of the truck and stood in the middle of the road to take this picture..............
And two final pictures just as we were coming into town.
So beautiful it could make you cry..............

I hope that those who read this have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Real loss only occurs when you lose something that you love more than yourself..............Anonymous

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quickening Our Own Life

When LC was a law enforcement officer in the rural and isolated areas bordering the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee he drove a patrol car and wore "city" uniforms.
No BDU's, not boots, no four-wheel drive vehicles.
That didn't stop him though, and he spent a lot of time driving rutted out mountain roads, back roads up in the "hollers", and as he told me once "I knew every jeep trail, deer trail, horse trail, pig trail out there".
From the stories he has told me and from what I know of him, I believe that.
As so it goes with Kory and I.
LC is (finally) going to see a doctor tomorrow for a back injury that should have healed by now but hasn't.
Ever since Kory arrived in our lives, she and I have walked trail after trail after trail in and around Atomic City.
We have explored back alleys in town.  Investigated all buttes close to the house.  Checked out the boundaries of every empty and abandoned building.  
Wandered where we could, where we should, and where we shouldn't.
Someone is gone for the winter?  Cool!  Let's go check out that old piece of farm equipment in back of their property!
The raceway is closed for the season?  Cool!  Let's go wander the grounds of the speedway!
With so few people in this little, silent community, those who DO live here know us and there is no concern with me wandering with my dog.
Over the years I've ignored No Trespassing signs more times than I can remember.  Wandered around the grounds outside the fences of a military base.  Climbed the hundreds of steps leading from a trail to a home and then knocked on the door to ask for directions because I missed a turn in the trail.  Handed out my friendliest smile when somebody (either civilian or security) looked at me curiously and wanted to know who I was and what I was doing.
I'm a roamer.  And so was Jamie and so is Kory................

After a freezing cold morning checking out the "sweat boxes" in my previous blog entry, I bundled up once more later in the day and wandered through the streets of Atomic City with my new pup.
Still cold, but warmer than it had been hours earlier.
We turned right at the little city park and wandered down a now-empty gravel driveway, turned left and headed for the raceway.
As I have gotten to know this dog I am becoming increasingly bonded with her.
She is very easy to love.
While Jamie was bow legged in the back and pigeon toed in the front and strode like a samurai, this dog is longer and leaner and more graceful with her movements.
In only a few minutes she learns commands and remembers them.
When I stir in the morning she instantly bolts out of her crate, excited that I (or we) are finally awake.
As with Jamie she lives to walk, but one of her favorite things to do at the house is jump up onto the big plantar boxes in the green house and look out the windows into the back yard.
The deer come there frequently and she has figured that out.
Kory has come in contact with cats, dogs, deer and cows since she moved here to us, but has only charged towards rabbits.
The others she just silently stares at.  
The deer especially, have her enamored.  I don't know what she had and hadn't seen during her life in Florida but deer seem to both puzzle and enthrall her............

Investigating the raceway...........
I had wondered how long it had been since this ambulance vehicle had moved.
It was last plated in 2005...........
More and more Kory is wanting to run, and LC wants to wait until his back is healed more before we take her out onto wide open and flat BLM land, to see how she reacts and responds to commands to come back.
Sometime this week I want to let her go, so that she can do what she is supposed to do.........

The mountains are calling me............
As my girl and I continued to wander up and down the streets of Tiny Town I finally saw them...........
There are two herds that typically wander through town, and up until this point the largest group that I had seen together was 10.
As we approached the large field adjacent to an empty home my first thought was that there seemed to be a whole lotta deer.
10, 11, 12..........there were fifteen of them, all clustered in the field.
As we continued our approach the deer instantly lifted their heads and froze in place, staring at us.
Kory in turn also lifted HER head and froze in place, staring back at them.
For a good minute nobody moved.
We all just looked at each other and I slowly raised my camera and began snapping pictures.
These deer are wonderful - big and healthy after an entire summer of eating residents grass, and leaves off trees, and vegetables and flowers from gardens.
Between the yellow light of the setting sun, and the color of both the deer and the vegetation, it is difficult to see what is in the pictures.
Click on any picture to enlarge, and the images will tell the tale...........
Although we saw the does all summer, we did not see the bucks until fall and to put it bluntly they are "motivated".
This is the larger of the two bucks.  There is a smaller one, and over the past couple of weeks I have seen the larger buck push the smaller one away from the does on a number of occasions.
They're his and he doesn't want to share.
The smaller buck constantly stays on the edges of the herd hoping for a chance (any chance) to mate.
Maybe he will get a chance, but the older and larger of the two is still very healthy, and young guy may have to wait another year.............
This past hunting season there were far too many wanna-be-poachers who blew through town.
Likely because we live in the middle of nowhere and there is little law enforcement presence.
Fish and Game were called out once for an old man who is family to a resident.  He shot a deer in town and claimed to have hunted in town for many years.  Another resident called F&G and I am glad that she did.
Many residents (including us) confronted these wanna-be's and sent them on their way.
Another resident observed two vehicles driving through back alleys, in an attempt to herd the deer out of town.
The no-shoot range was within a 1/4 mile of the city limits up until this year.
After this hunting season, that no-shoot zone has been extended to one mile.
Some attempted-poachers claimed to be a friend of someone who lived in town.  
Some claimed that they were just "looking at the deer" even though they had a rifle sitting on the front seat.
So many residents have told me that they don't like the deer eating the vegetation in their yards, but at the end of the day the deer are "ours" - almost pets and residents of the town - and they don't like the deer being harassed or killed illegally any more than we do.
The deer are an annoyance for some residents, but they are also part of living in rural Idaho.
I have told those we spoke to that I will dime ANYONE out - resident, friend, relative, anyone who attempts to harass or shoot within that one mile no-shoot zone
I have no problem with hunting deer.  
But it had better be done legally.............
There is one doe who has had a broken leg in the past.
She limps badly and is always pulling up the rear when the deer are on the move.
I wondered during hunting season if she would make it.
I have seen her since hunting season finished.
She made it................
Kory and I stood quietly and watched the deer for what seemed like a very long time.
A very sweet interlude with very sweet animals.
As we watched them they gradually and slowly began to wander around again.
The girls began to graze again.  The boy began to make nice with the girls again.  
Regularly they would turn to look at us again, but then quickly went back to whatever they were doing.
It was time to move on.
The sun was beginning to set and it was beginning to get very cold............
Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own life and makes it so much larger and better in every way..............John Muir