Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grandpa on the Trail - Part 1

      For a guy who set out to experience life never more than 150 miles from Green River, WY I seem to have managed to become a pretty seasoned traveler. It wasn't something I set out to do. It just sort of happened. Like an earthquake or a head-on collision with a logging truck, it was just one of life’s happy little surprises. So, given my status as an accomplished road warrior, I approached my colleagues here at Three Elk Meadow about becoming the designated travel correspondent.
        I pitched them the opportunity to bless you readers with the glamour of exotic places, the excitement of adventure, the thrill of discovery. Quite honestly, they seemed a little slow to catch the vision. So, in the tradition of great travel writers, I've decided to bravely forge on. I can only assume that Rudyard Kipling and Alexis de Toqueville encountered nay-sayers in their time, but did they simply quit and go home? They did not, and neither shall I, dear readers, neither shall I.       

      My work gives me the opportunity to travel a lot. It’s very glamorous. One of the best parts is what I fondly refer to as “shipping time”. For bovine or ovine passengers, it usually happens only a couple of times in a lifetime. For me, it happens once a month. Usually, it starts at some unearthly hour of the morning, when (like the ovids and bovids) I'm awakened out of a peaceful sleep out here on the range and herded onto the trail. Regardless of what you may recall from watching Rawhide when you were a kid, life on the trail is not a leisurely stroll from San Antonio to
Abilene. Usually, I join the herd moving from Cheyenne to Denver before the sun is up, but they're already on a hard lope. The speed limit on this trail is 75, but the only time we see that is when we’re speeding up or slowing down – and we do that a lot. Various scenic wonders along the trail (like a Subaru pulled off on the shoulder or one-dimensional skunk on the center line) cause the herd to balk, mill aimlessly and eventually come to a complete halt for a while. But eventually we get it sorted out and are happily back at 90, making our way to the next stop in our ordeal, uh.. I mean adventure.      
With only a minimum of bawling, mooing and bleating we make our way to the “squeeze chute”. This is a relatively new part of the whole shipping experience, designed to remind us that we are indeed livestock, and that we will be handled as such. After checking our brands to make sure none of us are mavericks, and touching us in places that would in any other circumstances land them in jail, the brand inspectors herd us into the “loading corral”. I've found this is a good time to feed and water if I can. The options are few and expensive, but it may be the last chance for a while so I'm usually happy to pay 20 dollars for a Coke Zero and a bag of Fritos. Experience has taught me that this may be the culinary high point of the next 12 hours.


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