Impassible in wet weather

A life or death trap was set for three unsuspecting very different souls. One was an elderly couple out for a drive in the country. The other was a yearling steer who had just arrived by cattle truck from Burns, Oregon. But each in their own unique way were setting their disaster traps. 

For a trap to work well you need some bait. In Harry and Sally’s case, who are elderly and both living in their 83rd year, had agreed that of late, there’s been too much “couch potato time”.

Harry says to Sally “come on Sal let’s get off our fannies and spend sometime in adventure land."   “Okay Harry” Sally says “So how about we start easy with a nice trip over that mountain we see out our front window everyday and then we can have lunch at the Parkfield Cafe? I understand that the population is 18. Harry I think it would be fun to hear what the duties are for a mayor who only has 18 souls to watch over.” This mini adventure that will have them leave home and comfort for the unknown by the starting of their car engine is a go. “See ya later Bob, Trigger, Tilly, Bear and Heidi our irreplaceable cow dogs. We will be back by early evening.” Harry gives Sally a loving glance and with the open road calling Harry and Sally go see what Mother Nature has to show them. “Just think Sally how much we can be doing instead of watching that infernal Boob Tube.”                   For our yearling steer, let's call him Buford, the bait was quite different and the end result would be quite different as well. As this story unfolds you will all come to see that Buford is not the “sharpest knife in the drawer”, but he is wearing our V6 brand on his left hip which entitles him to all the grass that he can eat and shade to escape the sun. Buford left his Oregon home weighing about 500lbs and now weighs near 600 pounds and is fully settled into his new California home and growing like a weed. He some days can hardly believe his luck to be on a ranch that has all you can eat grass that stretches for miles in every direction. But Buford has a problem and it’s caused by where he came from in Eastern Oregon, there the winters can be mighty cold. However Mother Nature is fully aware of the weather conditions, so she dresses all her outdoor friends in various sizes and shapes of long hairy fur coats so all can be warm and cozy, even on the coldest of days. Being from a 20th century generation Sally, the navigator, made sure that they had a road map (the kind you unfold, and takes up most all of the passenger side of the front seat). Reading the map for Sally was easy, but folding it back up however was an exercise in frustration! It’s especially tough if you have been endowed at birth with one of those personality’s that demands that all lines be perfectly straight, and your shoes in the walk-in closet are also in an absolutely straight line. So it also goes with a road map that has to be refolded exactly as it came from the manufacturer, giving a headache to all those that can’t just fold the damn thing up in any shape less than a wad and put it back in the glove box. Thank goodness Sally’s personality put her at the opposite end of the “neat freak” spectrum because her ability to roll with the punch was about to be tested.              Buford you will remember was all dressed for 20 below zero weather, but in sunny California this coat would become awfully uncomfortable when day after day the temperature would be 40 at night and 60 during the day. Buford had to have a more comfortable coat for this warmer climate. “For starters I think I’ll rub off whatever hair I can get at right now.” (Buford listen to me that’s a huge mistake!) “Then I’ll wait for my inherited characteristic to mandate a proper time for a real hair cut for the approaching California hot. But for right now I’ve got to find a tree that is gnarly with lots of humps and bumps to help me get out of this made-in-Oregon winter coat.” (Buford you're not listening, this will be a huge mistake!)           Harry and Sally are headed west on Highway 198. Sally’s map tells her that the turn off to Parkfield is about 5 miles ahead, then there will be a sign with an arrow pointing left. “Here comes the turn Harry, slow down, it almost doubles back on its self.” Still going a little fast the car sways at an uncomfortable angle then rights itself and Sally says to Harry “let’s not crash before we get started.”  “Yes dear.” Harry travels on for perhaps a quarter mile when a bright yellow road sign appears. IMPASSABLE IN WET WEATHER. "It did rain yesterday but that was yesterday, today is nothing but sun" thought Harry “and besides it’s almost 11 a.m. and I’ve got hamburger on my mind.” Sally is a bit more cautious and says to Harry “don’t you think we should turn around?" “Listen Sally, most road signs are overly cautious, with hopes that it will keep the liability lawyers away, and look we’re on pavement. Come on Sally we need a little adventure in our lives.” “Okay Harry, let’s go but I hope we’re not getting more adventure than we need.”  “Oh come on Sweetheart, look at the mountains ahead, they’re so beautiful and green and I see some Lupine blooming on the edge of the road.”         Buford is grazing using a big pink, sandpaper rough tongue that automatically wraps around swards of grass and then sends them down to his rumen. But his eyes are elsewhere, searching for that one gnarly tree with a fork in the trunk. The one that will let him rub both sides of his jaw and neck at the same time. Oh there it is, it looks like the perfect one. Buford stuffs his tongue back into his mouth and trots perhaps 50 yards to where stands what he’s looking for. “Yup that’s it, maybe the fork is a little bit higher than needs be. Means I might have raise my head a little higher than comfortable, but I’ve just got to get rid of some of this hair.” Buford is not aware that he is building a very beguiling trap for himself. If he could only decipher the signs that his chosen tree was a death trap and he should just wander back to his grazing place and finish filling his belly. But this was not to be. Buford was determined to rid his neck at least of this itchy mess around his jaw and neck. Buford sniffs the crotch of this medium sized Oak, and danger does not raise its head, so with one more step he puts the hangman's noose around his neck. Buford slides his head forward with a little twisting motion so that his head slides smoothly between the forks of the tree. “Oh that feels so good and those little knots in the fork that are placed perfectly so I can do some real scratching and rubbing. Ah wonderful!” Then much to his delight a gob of winter hair falls to the ground.          About a mile away Harry and Sally have just reached the summit of the mountain after driving five miles up a very twisty black-top road. Harry brakes the car to a stop and is greeted with a muddy dirt road, leaving the pavement of Fresno county. In Monterey County you get a muddy dirt road. Sally says “I’m a little worried Harry” “It’s okay dear, you can see it’s all downhill, it’s a piece of cake.” Not wanting to hear anymore from Sally, Harry puts his foot on the throttle lightly, a concession to Sally's caution. He starts down a slippery road that now adds a cold North wind that always follows after a storm.       Buford at the same time decides he’s had enough itching and scratching and steps back a step, but the fork of the tree holds him fast. Stepping forward this time, he pulls back and down with more gusto, but to no avail. Stepping forward again with fear starting to take control he lunges backward and then hurtles himself forward, over and over, till exhaustion takes his legs and collapses them under him so that he now hangs by his cheeks and jawbone, but still able to breath. Buford not being the smartest steer in the herd, would never think to step as far forward as possible, and then raise his head as high as possible, and then with a little twisting of his head he could step back to freedom. For Buford in his predicament, he will live about three days then thirst, exhaustion and a simple-minded desire to get rid of some hair that has put him in this predicament. Buford lives in the no mercy world of survival of the fittest, so for Buford’s stupidity he receives a sentence of death.       Harry is slipping and sliding with an almost vertical bank on the drivers side, and on the passenger side, for Sally to see, an equally steep slope going down 500 feet to a bench that would be a permanent resting place for the unrecognizable remains of a car and it’s occupants.        Harry is now driving with white knuckles and beginning to really understand the old saying “between a rock and a hard place”, but he was not going to let on to Sally that they were quite possibly in deep shit.        They had traversed about two miles of muck that took about two hours, when Harry felt the car go into an irreversible slide toward Harry’s side of the road. Then with a dull thud, the drivers side of the car hit the rocky dirt wall in an “I’m stuck” angle and then flung Sally into Harry. Why, they hadn’t sat that close together in 40 years! Sally says to Harry “thank god we didn’t go my way it’s at least 500 feet to the bottom!” Harry can’t open his door so he asks Sally “Hold tight while I try to take this old body of mine and get out your door.” Climbing out required lots groaning for Harry, but finally out he scrambled, putting his feet solidly on some safe-feeling mud. Harry and Sally have spent most of their lives living in the 20th century without cell phones, Harry would even brag to others “What’s the use in having one of those silly phones for anyway?” With no phone and the prospect of having about three miles of walking to a distant farm house in muck, Harry’s confidence was taking a serious hit. Sally who had now managed to climb out her door that pointed at the sky, was greeted with a cool North wind and no coat. She had forgotten both coats in her hurry to get going. Sally was beginning to think to herself, “I wonder if this is how Harry and I will meet our maker? All huddled together and our maker will use this same mud to make our coffins.”        Buford has mustered up enough strength for a few twisting attempts to free himself. All that came of it was to start the bleeding again from the sides of his jaw where he had worn the skin to the bone. This time there would be no more attempts at freedom. Buford has resigned himself to his fate while hanging by his jaw.        Harry and Sally had crowded together out of the wind in front of the car. Because the car was listing so badly, being inside was worse than being outside, and as the sun moved toward its western setting Harry said to Sally, “How could such an innocent idea turn into such a wreck?” “Harry did you hear that sound? I think it’s a car coming down the road behind us.” “No Sally, you know me I can’t hear our T.V. unless it’s wide open.” “I hear it, yes I see it, it’s a pickup coming!”        The pickup stops and a man gets out with a look on his face of “ I think your stuck”. Sally says “Boy, are we glad to see you! I was beginning to think the worst.” Our rescue man introduces himself as Ryan from Coalinga and yes, he has a cellphone. Ryan says “I was going to meet some friends of mine at the Parkfield Cafe.  How about I give the Cafe a call and I’ll get you folks some help? Damn! No reception right here” says Ryan. “I’ll hike up the road a ways and try again.” Harry and Sally are now humming a “I think we will make it” tune, seated in the warmth of Ryan’s pickup. The gloom that they had felt not that many minutes ago has evaporated, and Ryan is coming back with a smile on his face and says “Help is coming.”  Here they come, one’s in a go-anywhere, 4 wheel drive, ranch vehicle we call a “side by side” and another guy is driving a 4 wheel drive tractor with a big tow chain. The tractor has Harry’s car well in hand so Harry is able to steer with the confidence that he’s not going off the road again. Sally rides with Ryan in his 4 wheel drive, made for mud, pickup and life seems possible again.        Next we see Ryan and friends with Harry and Sally, all enjoying a wonderful dinner at the Parkfield Cafe. And the great stories Harry will be able to tell their friends of their adventurous side. “Harry were you scared?” “Naw, it was a piece of cake!”         Two days have passed since Harry and Sally escaped the clutches of that muddy mucky road and Zee and I have saddled up our horses to ride to the Government pasture and check on some cattle we just recently moved there. Our dogs are running ahead of us when Zee hears one of them bark which means trouble of some kind. We cluck our horses into a long trot that we maintain for about 15 minutes when I see the dogs barking at something hanging in a tree. Well I’ll be, it’s poor ole Buford hanging there with a look of death on his face. After dismounting, I hand my horse Fuzz to Zee and walk over to have a look for signs of life. I tap his eye, Buford blinks and then I feel a little air leaving his nostrils. “Zee, he’s still alive. Give me my lass rope off of my saddle.” By tying one end of the rope around the tree and then passing it between Buford’s hind legs, I wait a moment while Zee gets on Fuzz, the best puller on the ranch and I hand her the other end of the rope.  “Here’s how I want to try and get Buford out of this mess. I’m going to get to his head, you start pulling with Fuzz and then I’m going to sick the dogs on him with hopes that they might stir a little adrenaline in him, hopefully enough that he will stand up.”           “Here goes! Pull Zee! All you dogs get a hold of him! Bite him, bite him, bite him some more!” Buford’s head moves forward and has just enough room to swing it back and forth. I’m trying to lift it higher but he keeps swinging it from side to side, making my attempts to grab his head futile. Then for just a moment he stops flinging his head and looks at me as if to say “I want to help.” I push and lift on his head and about the same time he pushes his hind legs up with only adrenaline strength, and with Zee pulling all of a sudden Buford falls backward and hits the ground in a heap of free.               Harry and Sally spent the night at the Parkfield Inn, and in the morning were able to take a very muddy, dented but still drivable, car and head for home with feelings that something worthwhile, that put a smile on Harry and Sallys faces, had happened.             Buford I know needed hay and water so Zee and I headed for home, but this time in a fast trot. With the side by side loaded with hay and water, we drove back to see Buford still laid out, but breathing. I poured a little water in his mouth and hit him a couple of times with a cattle prod to shock his senses so he might think about drinking and eating some hay, and it worked. After monitoring his progress for a couple of hours and watching him get progressively better, it was time to head for home.          The next morning Buford was the first thing on my mind. After a quick bowl of cereal and more hay and water loaded into the side by side, I’m on my way. Rounding a bend in the road Buford comes into view. Ah shit, it can’t be! Those fuckers. What have they done to you? Why you poor bastard, there’s only half of you left.           As I got closer a half dozen Magpies fly away.  It was a Mountain Lion that came upon Buford first, and with no sense of compassion he had ripped his throat open while Buford could only watch, as a detached bystander because of his defenseless state, and dies. It’s Mother Nature’s time to now take command. She will send an army of scavengers, that will in order for the whole to survive, be merciless in how the pecking order is made up. Strongest will eat first and weakest will dine last, and in a matter of a few days Buford’s body will be gone, except for his bones and few pieces of his hide. But the circle of life will continue thanks to Buford, and all the others who pass from the scene with their bodies left on top of the ground, not under.                                    

See Ya                                     Jack

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