“I am Fine, I am Okay”

 FallColorsPainting

 

   The Guide I worked for took 3 of our clients out on horseback while I took one of the clients that was as fond of riding a horse as I am, out to glass another valley on foot.  We spent a pleasant day and had camp to ourselves all evening as the others were doing a spike camp and would be back tomorrow evening.  I listened to his hunting stories a while, then we turned in for the night.

We were up early and returned to the hillside we were using as a base to glass the lovely valley below.  By late afternoon, we spotted a very nice bull with a couple of cows moving into the valley to feed.  It was getting late and too far to stalk before full darkness so we headed back to camp, determined to be waiting for them in the morning at first light.

No one was in camp yet, when we arrived but we prepared a nice evening meal so it would be ready when they arrived.  We were almost finished preparing the meal when we heard the horses coming in.  The client went over to see if he could help them and see if they had any luck.

He soon returned, helping one of the riders to a seat beside the fire.  The man was obviously injured, but trying very hard not to let on that he even felt any pain.  When I looked at him, he said, “I am fine.  Really.  I am okay.”

The smell of dinner did perk him up a bit and soon he had a plate of food in front of him and started eating.

Everyone else straggled over, picking up plates and filling them as they passed the Dutch oven on the edge of the fire pit.  We asked how their trip had gone and they mumbled a bit between mouthfuls.

The Guide was done eating first and started the story of their excursion.  They had covered a lot of ground and saw some nice bulls but nothing that excited them.  It was still early in the hunt and they wanted to see if they could find something larger.  The injured man was only along for the ride as he was a non-resident alien and it would have been very expensive for him to get a license and tags.

As they turned to come back, the horse he was riding must have gotten stung or something because he went completely crazy, bucking and finally falling and rolling on the tundra.  The man riding him was still in the saddle when the horse rolled.

Everyone was stunned by the suddenness of the event and the poor horse was thrashing and screaming in pain.  The Guide threw his reins to one of the other clients and was over, pulling the man out from under the thrashing horse and trying to calm the horse when he saw that the horse had a badly broken leg.  He pulled his handgun and shot the horse.

He turned to the injured man, laying there on the ground, gasping for breath and also in pain.

“Are you okay?”

The man looked up at him, looked at the horse, looked at the gun still in the Guide’s hand and stammered out, “Yes, I am fine.  I’m okay.”

As we sat around the fire, whenever anyone would look over at the man, he would still hold up one hand and say, “I am fine.  Really.  I am okay.”

Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 2

Ranch View

Several years after the surgery on my foot, which healed up finally, I had to do a very minor one by myself, on myself.

We had been working cattle on our back range, many miles from the house. It usually took 3 days to move cattle from one pasture to the next, so we left home before daylight and returned after dark. The 1st morning, we rode to work, then corralled the horses in the evening and returned home in the back of my Dad’s cattle truck.

My Dad usually took the shortcut home. This shortcut was the dry creek bed, over rocks, small waterfalls, downed trees and other assorted obstacles that would cause most folks to at least pause before driving over or through them. Not my Dad.

The truck was a 2 1/2 ton cabover Jeep 4 (6) wheel drive. It seemed able to go just about anywhere and its main drawback was a distressing habit of losing a front wheel while being driven.

This night on our way home, Dad took another shortcut that might save a few minutes and drove us right off a small rock ledge. I was standing up, holding onto the stock rack for dear life and as we became slightly airborne, I swear my life flashed before my eyes just a little bit.

When we landed, I immediately wished we were back in freefall. The rack bounced out of the stake pockets and hit me under the lower lip, forcing it into my upper front teeth and I heard something snap. What goes up, usually comes down, and it did. Right on top of both my feet. I was wearing flipflops and they are not a lot of protection from a long section of stock rack.

I plopped on the bed of the truck, one hand over my mouth, the other holding my damaged foot. I bounced a lot on the rest of the ride, but it could not be helped, I could not stand.

I hobbled through the kitchen to the bathroom before Mom got a good look at the bloody mess of my mouth and shut the door behind me. I sat on the side of the tub and ran cold water over my feet and tried to pry my fingers away from my throbbing mouth and lower lip. Then I slid down to the floor and washed my face and hands in the tub of cold water.

Most of the bleeding seemed to stop, so I got up and let the messy water out of the tub and looked in the mirror. Yikes.

My lower lip was swollen way out with 2 dark lines across it, just under my lip. I could feel something in my lip so finally opened my mouth a bit and pulled my lip down. There, shining white through the blood were the backs of both my front teeth.

Somehow, the whole tooth had not broken off, just the enamel off the backs of both, so my teeth still looked fine from the front. I tried to pull the pieces out of my lip, but they were firmly embedded.

Out came the alcohol, the peroxide and the tweezers. I soaked the tweezers and then carefully pulled the pieces out of my lip. Then, I quickly poured the peroxide, then the alcohol over my lip and almost blacked out and sat firmly back down on the floor.

The thud I made hitting the floor brought Mom and she kinda yelped when she saw my bloody face as it was bleeding again.

I used a wet washcloth and held it firmly against my lip, wanting to whine the whole time. The bleeding stopped and Mom brought me some ice cubes to wrap in the washcloth. Most of the swelling went down before I went to bed, but by the next day, I was very colorful and sore. We finished the cattle and rode the horses home the next evening. Just another day on the ranch.

Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.

Finding Trouble

Eastern Oregon

The first we heard, was when someone stopped by and asked if we had seen the small plane owned by a rancher farther up the valley. Mom and I joined the search and drove downriver, then up a side stream toward the higher hills in the flight path the plane would have been on, on its way home.

The man flying the plane was a very careful pilot and it seemed impossible that he could have possibly made some kind of mistake. He would never fly if he had been drinking and was very careful, even when he didn’t have family with him.

This trip, he had his wife, all his daughters plus a neighbor’s daughter. His son did not make the trip as he was recovering from a cold or the flu.

Mom and I drove slowly along the highway, searching the hills on both sides of the road for any sign of tree damage or fire. We finally spotted something that didn’t look right in the sparse juniper trees on the right side of the highway as we headed west.

We parked off the edge of the road and started hiking up the hill. There was the plane, looking like it had dropped straight down out of the sky. There were charred areas directly above the plane in the tree limbs, but the fire had not spread, nor had the plane sheared off trees or limbs on either side.

Mom began taking pictures and we moved around the plane on all sides, documenting the damage to the plane and the ground around it. There was no movement in the plane.

Mom stepped to the open door, gave a gasp and started clicking pictures faster than ever, not touching a thing. Then she came over where she had told me to stay and said, they are all dead.

The inside of the plane was charred from fire, the girls were all in their seats, bent over facing the front, with their coat pulled up over their heads as though they were trying to filter out the smoke. From the waist up, they were not burned but from the waist down, they were just charred and unrecognizable as part of a human. We could not see the parents and did not want to step into the plane and disturb evidence.

The flags we had left tied on limbs to mark location soon guided several men up to the plane. The men looked at us, then the plane, then saw Mom’s cameras. One that was evidently the leader walked over quickly, grabbed the 16 mm. movie camera and opened the side, exposing all the film in it. Mom was quickly rewinding her small 35 mm still camera and popped out the film cartridge. The man rudely grabbed it from her and ordered us off the hill.

We hurried down to the Jeep and went home. Neither of us felt comfortable with that group of silent men.

These men were not in uniform, nor were they locals that we would have recognized. We never did learn who they were nor what authority they had to confiscate Mom’s film and expose the movie film.

Later, when a report was given on the cause of the accident, they blamed the pilot, saying he must have been drinking. They also said he flew the plane into the side of the hill. Unless he managed to drop the plane straight down, I don’t see how he managed that. There were junipers all around the plane and none were broken, only the ones directly above the plane.

Life Alone

Best picture of me, ever

Best picture of me, ever

I never planned on living alone. I was never a very social person, but I also never planned on having a life alone. Well, I also never really had a plan.

If ever a life has been lived in the moment, mine is it. I didn’t plan on being a cowboy as a teenager in Oregon. That just happened. I did learn a lot, but it was not on my list of things I wanted to do.

For a very brief period of time, I considered going to college and becoming a teacher. Then all the Laws started changing to the point that a teacher could not spank or do much to correct one of the little monsters, so I figured why should I spend 4 more years going to school which I always hated, anyway? By that time I had my choice of scholarships and refused them all. I was done with school. Don’t get me wrong, I think school is important and I would hate to go to a doctor that had not bothered to attend one.

Then by some bit of insanity I found myself married and not to a rancher. I had some passing thoughts about marrying a rancher and eventually maybe having some children, but it wasn’t a firm decision. Yet here I was, married to the least likely to ever be a rancher or even steadily employed. Talk about someone that had no idea what to look for in a husband, that would be me.

Given enough time, we finally divorced and I would have been alone, except I needed to babysit to pay my rent and work to pay for the divorce. Once that was all taken care of, I was invited to mine for a summer and by the next year, I was married yet again.

For once, I got it right. I loved being married to Charlie and we enjoyed our life together. Then he died and I was back to being alone. This alone was painful and debilitating. I didn’t function well and was not in a good frame of mind, at all.

I had read the Bible as a child, in school as there was one in the library and every year I read all the books. It took me ages to get through all the begats. There were a few stories, fictionalizing some Bible stories and I enjoyed them very much. We did not have any religious instruction at home and had never been near a church.

I met someone and thought it was going to be good times again, but I was not thinking correctly on that one, at all. It dragged on too long, but I have always been stubborn and hate to admit when I make mistakes. This one was another doozy.

I bought some property, my Mom sold her house and sent up the money, so I, with some help, built her a house. She couldn’t be alone and I didn’t want to continue the failed relationship, so we moved into her new house.

My daughter’s house sold and she also came out and we built her a nice house also. It has been a learning experience all the way around and I guess most of life really is.

Mom and I were both baptized the same day by my sister’s husband, in our Church. It was great. Then we went up to Chena Hot Springs and had a lovely swim. What a wonderful day.

Things were going well, Mom was feeling better than she had in a long time, when suddenly she became ill and we rushed her to the hospital. She died after a 5 day stay and I came home to an empty house.

Yes, these last few years since Mom died have been by myself but I am alone, not lonely. There is a major difference.

Big Ben

House we were building

Big Ben was just what his name implied. He was a very big man. My Dad was 6’3” and at that time usually around 190 pounds of muscle. Big Ben towered over him. When we still lived in Mapleton during the war years, Big Ben lived with us as fuel was rationed and he had to be closer to his work which was tree falling as the spruce on the Oregon coast was needed to build airplane frames out of.

After the war, we moved up Ten Mile Creek, north of Florence and had an 1800’s type of growing up. No electricity, running water, phone, radio or mail delivery, just like I live now.

Big Ben lived out closer to the ocean about nine miles from where we now lived and would come visit quite often. He and Dad liked to walk up the dirt road, looking for game to shoot and bring back for dinner.

One time, as the crossed the bridge over the north fork of Ten Mile Creek, Big Ben spotted a nice sized buck deer drinking, just under the edge of the bridge. He decided against wasting a bullet by just jumping off the bridge onto the buck’s back and cutting its throat.

Almost everything went as planned. He climbed to the top of the railing without the buck even hearing him. He pulled out his large skinning knife and jumped. That’s where the plan fizzled.

The first thing the deer knew, some huge heavy thing landed on its back and grabbed it around the throat. The deer didn’t just meekly stand there. From that point on, it was a fight. Big Ben soon was trying to get away from the deer. By the time the deer allowed Big Ben to get away, Big Ben was completely stripped of his heavy clothing. The neck and collar of his work shirt was still around his neck, his socks were on his feet, the cuffs of his pants were around his ankles but all the clothing and a good portion of his skin was shredded and hanging in tatters between his collar and cuffs. The deer not only used his antlers to good effect, his hooves slashed and cut their way all over him. He said that was the first time he knew deer were so flexible and double jointed.

They walked the mile back down the road to our home. Big Ben stayed just out of sight of the house as he didn’t have anything to cover himself with. Dad walked on up to the house and got some clothes for Big Ben to wear. They cleaned up most of the hoof and antler slashes and none required medical attention and they were used to patching themselves up in the woods anyway. He decided not to stay and went home. He also decided to never save a bullet and use a knife to hunt with.

Using Daddy’s Falling Axes

Dad by the Jeep

While we still lived near the Oregon coast, we depended on ourselves and our imagination to entertain ourselves as kids. The 5 kids belonging to our Dad’s Catskinner and wife spent most of their time with us, so there were several wild imaginations to cover just about any possibility.

Our Dad started out as a logger before chainsaws were in use in the woods so was a master at felling trees using a double bit ax or a two-man whipsaw. His axes were kept in shaving sharp condition and no one ever touched them. They were works of art, with the heads shaped perfectly and balanced to the nth degree for ease of use during an 8 to 10 hour day.

We first used a couple of Dad’s axes when we devised a new thrill ride. We had been climbing as high as we thought we could safely slide down the outside of cedar trees, but that was starting to seem tame. We then decided to draw straws to see who the loser would be that had to stay on the ground while all the rest climbed the tree. The loser then chopped the tree down with the others riding it to the ground, screaming all the way, then grabbing more straws to do it all over again. It was fun the way riding an extreme roller coaster is fun but didn’t last as long.

We were trying to figure out some way to warm up the creek we swam in so we could actually enjoy the process. The huge trees bowing over the stream seemed to mock our puny kid strength. I don’t remember just who decided we should fall some of the trees along the stream to remove the shade. We quickly decided to just fall all the trees. Those axes were so sharp it usually didn’t take very long per tree to see them fall against the other bank and we soon had the entire area covered in downed trees crisscrossing across the stream we had planned to swim in.

Finally one of the two older boys said he would get those trees out of the way. He climbed up into the tangled mess of trees, taking one of the axes with him. He soon stood up on one tree and started cutting the tree directly in front of him and it made a satisfying splash as it hit the stream. This stream or creek was considered a creek but most of the time it had enough water rushing down it to qualify as a small river. It seldom saw the light of day except through the leaves of dense forest overshadowing it. Taking a drink out of it could give a person a headache it was so cold.

Jerry proceeded to step back onto the tree behind him and cut the one he had just stepped off of and was making great progress on clearing the new swimming hole. The current was fast enough that the cut trees were immediately out of sight on their way to the ocean about 8 miles away with a 500 foot drop in elevation. As Jerry swung the ax, the tree under him shifted and he realized he was on the one he was chopping, it was the last tree to cut.

The tree started down, Jerry flung the ax and was also falling toward the water quite a ways below him. As he rotated, the sun glinting off the razor sharp edge of the ax kept glinting in his eyes. He imagined he was about to not only split the tree but his own head as he hit the water.

My Dad had come back to the house early that day for some reason, heard the chopping and arrived on the scene just in time to see Jerry, the ax and the tree hit the water. The roar my Dad let out scared the rest of us into scattering like quail. Jerry surfaced, saw my Dad and promptly dove for the bottom of the pool. By the time he ran out of air and surfaced again, my Dad reached over the bank and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, picked him up and said “the next time you surface, you better have that ax.”

Jerry did.

Idiots With Horns

Rosalyn On Sweetheart

Reaching the ripe old age of 17 without ever having to use a horse while working cattle, I was not a natural. After more horse related accidents than I care to remember, I finally learned to ride quite well. I sometimes even enjoyed it, but moving our herd of cattle along the main highway from one pasture to the next was never a favorite time. It wasn’t a hard part of moving cattle as they were hemmed in with fences along each side of the road. It was the cars on the highway.

Why drivers thought it would do any good to crowd the herd and the riders on horses or start honking their horns as they pushed their way through the cattle, I don’t know.

As Goldy and I worked the stragglers, keeping them caught up with the rest of the herd, one car kept creeping directly up behind us and almost touching the horse.

She was not used to working cattle, nor was she used to traffic. We had brought her over with us from the Coast and she didn’t particularly like the changes in her life.

The closer the car would edge, the jumpier she got and kept trying to see directly behind her. I was getting yelled at the keep the cattle bunched closer and pay attention to the cattle while the horse was trying to keep away from the car. The car edged right up behind me and the fellow must have just laid on the horn. That was the final straw for Goldy. She kicked back with both hind feet, right into the grill on the car and got the radiator, also. As soon as she stopped, I got off and was checking her hind legs for injuries. My Dad rode over to see why I was off the horse and not keeping stragglers caught up and must have taken in the problem at a glance. The prolonged horn honking had got his attention, too.

The car driver was looking at the damage to his car and started yelling about who was going to pay. My Dad rode close to him and said a few quiet words I didn’t hear and the fellow immediately got back in his car and was still sitting there as we rounded the bend in the road and down the side road that would take us to the lower pasture on the hill, away from the hay meadows the cattle had just wintered on.

I wasn’t sure, but thought I probably wasn’t going to be in trouble this time. Dad never said a word about it and as we stopped for the day, he did check Goldy over to make sure she really wasn’t injured. The car was not there, when we returned home that afternoon. I never heard any more about it.

Snipe Hunt

Eastern Oregon

We were all spending the evening at one of the neighbor’s houses which meant somewhere within 20 miles of our ranch. I had been invited, Linda invited herself and my brother came along just because he wasn’t doing anything else at the moment.

Earlier, we stopped at another neighbor’s house along the way and picked up LaV. as she was a friend of Linda’s.

Those two immediately started making pests of themselves, vying for one of the young men present at the party. He was not interested but was trying not to be just plain mean to either of them.

His older brother, my brother and I were talking near the door when he hid behind us and asked how to get them to stop it. We decided on a Snipe Hunt.

Since it was a lovely warm summer evening, we made it seem like a group effort and gathered some gunny sacks from an old shed, a few flashlights although the night was bright with moonlight and set off up the hill.

There was a nice little gully coming down the hill which the boys told the girls was a perfect place to set up their traps while the rest of us drove the snipes up the hill into their gunny sacks which they were to hold open across the little gully. We had disturbed some quail on our way up, and could hear the birds making little bird noises in the brush.

The girls were spaced just far enough apart that they wouldn’t be talking and figure this out too soon, but not so far apart to get scared and rush back down the hill right away. They could just see each other in the moonlight.

The rest of the evening went nicely, with everyone enjoying a quiet get-together. The boy’s Mom got home and she was so pleased to find us all behaving well with the lights all on, our dishes done and the place spotless as when she left.

While she was still in the kitchen, the two Snipe Hunters showed up at the door, not very happy with the rest of us. We managed to keep them fairly quiet, said a goodnight to the boys and their Mom and went home. It was a quiet ride.

The two girls weren’t quite so obvious in their pursuit of the young man after that. Nothing like a good Snipe Hunt to give someone time to think.