Thursday, February 27, 2014

TTTT: J's Favorite Story

The summer of 1996, I was in a relationship with a woman we will call T. This might or might not have happened one day in early June, before our world crashed around us.

It started with a road trip to Idaho and then Montana. We got up early and loaded the truck then spent the next nine hours driving from one Best Buy to another trying to find a CD player we could run through our radio or cassette deck on the truck. What this meant was that I had to stop and call my mom from a payphone (didn't have MP3 players yet or cell phones) and tell her we hadn't left Colorado about the time she was expecting us to walk in her door 600 miles away. This kind of distraction was pretty typical for T and I, though, and we planned on driving through the night. We ended up crashing in the truck on a turn out for the railroad about an hour from my mom's house for three hours or so when I was so drunk with tiredness that I couldn't drive any further. Finally, about 8 am, we pulled into my mom's place, showered, changed clothes and headed for Montana.

Montana is one of those places that absolutely shreds my heart. Their mountains are massive, the valleys are deep and green, and the camping is phenominal. We stayed at a campground close to the Big Hole Valley also known as the Land of 10,000 Haystacks, which was pretty cool, for those of us who like horses. The valley was wide and deep and really good at growing grass hay. The hay would grow to knee deep porportions and then cut. Once it was dry, all of these fourteen year old boys would get on their ATVs and tear around the fields with rakes on the front of the ATV. They would scoop up a pile of grass hay, then transport it to the haystacks. There were thousands of haystacks.

The mountains were very cool and the camp ground was pretty awesome. It was set on a small lake, so there was some fishing to be had, plus my parents had a canoe we could take out onto the lake. We gathered wood and played with spinner fishing for the first time. I managed to clock myself right between the eyes with a piece of wood while trying to chop trees up to burn in the fire. We were close to timber line and having  a wood fire was important to our comfort. We were tent camping and although my parents had cots to sleep on, we were making due with sleeping on the ground. The morning of the fourth day we woke up to snow, six or eight inches of it. It was time to go. My parents were on board with that (they didn't want to camp in the snow either) so we headed out.

We said good bye to my parents and headed for Colorado. But, as has been the case so often in my life, I can't just drive from point A to point B and be happy. When we reached Flaming Gorge Bridge, I suggested we take a detour and try to find our way home another way. T was game and so we began our meander around Flaming Gorge. About half way around, I noticed there was a side road that led off from the main road and headed for Craig Colorado. It looked like fun. We headed for that small road.

The small road was a rutted track through the high plains desert. It really wasn't even a road. It was bad enough that it took us almost two hours to drive the fifteen or so miles to a real dirt road. At one point we contemplated turning around and going back, but where is the fun in that. Instead we pressed on and were finally rewarded with a road that had asphalt and lines. It was just getting dark when we pulled into Craig. Food was found and then our course plotted. It was then that T suggested we go to a place she had been to once by State Bridge and spend the next couple of days fishing. We had the time and both of us wanted to fish, so I was game.

We headed out on some darn small roads into the lowering dusk. Just east of Steamboat springs the road split and we took the route less traveled, heading in as direct a path as we could to State Bridge. It was getting late and T was driving when we turned onto a two lane road headed due south, knowing we were about an hour away from State Bridge. We were punchy and had been laughing hysterically at something, trying anything to stay alert and focused on the road. We were in a Dodge Dakota, with the tent and cooler in the bed of the truck, just the two of us in the front. Just about the time we turned south T asked me to tell her a story. I don't even remember which story I told her, just that we were well into it when we flashed past a cattle guard and a sign that said Open Range.

I knew what that sign meant. It should have registered, but it was late and I was in the middle of the story and it just lodged there like a rock deep in my mind. We were doing close to sixty on this little back road in the middle of nowhere, the only things we can see were the trees flashing by in the edges of the headlights and the smooth blacktop pavement stretched out in front of us. You become hypnotized by the white lines flashing under your tires.

We came screaming around a blind curve at close to sixty-five mph to find a herd of Angus cattle bedded down in the middle of the road, soaking up the heat from the asphalt.

The meaning of the Open Range sign suddenly manifested itself in my mind, about five minutes too late.

I'm pretty sure we were all equally surprised.

T locked the brakes up, which thankfully the truck had ABS, as I braced myself against the front dash with both arms locked rigidly. Everything went into what felt like super slow motion.

The cows, startled from chewing cud and enjoying the last warmth of the day, scrambled to get off the road and away from the truck barreling down on them. They moved pretty quick for animals that had been peacefully sleeping just moments before.

I could see the smoke billowing up from the tires burning on the asphalt road, in big columns of grey rubber on both sides of the truck out of the corners of my eyes, but my attention was focused on the big black animals trying to get out of the way. One of the cows, jumping for cover, slipped on the road and her haunches went down in an ungainly sprawl in front of us.

She scrambled up, trying harder now, her hind legs coming up in front of her ears, trying to find purchase, trying to survive. Moving more like a jack rabbit than a cow.

I held my breath, willing her to move faster, the voice in my head screaming, "Run cow, run!" as the truck slid slowly toward her.

She got her hooves underneath her, digging for traction on the slick road surface, as the truck got closer and closer. The cow's body was shorter than the hood of the truck, black and swallowed up in the dark night, and as we slid closer, her body disappeared and all I could see was her back end.

My entire universe narrowed to the white truck hood and the black cow ass.

I was entirely focused on the rigid tail and flexing butt hole of that black cow. That was all I could see. One butthole, literally, and the rigid, black tail sticking straight up from the front of the truck. The voice in my head was screaming "Go, go, go, go!!! Run little cow! Run!"

I braced for the impact, praying she would move fast enough to stay ahead of us.

And then we were stopped and that cow with the upright tail spun at the edge of the road and snorted at us with a massive WTF sort of snort.

We lost it. I laughed so hard I almost peed myself, sitting there in the middle of a blind curve, with a stalled truck, at almost midnight, being snorted at by a bunch of cows. All we would have needed to make our night was another vehicle coming around that corner at speed to find us sitting in the middle of the road.

To be continued . . . .

1 comment:

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