Thursday, June 1, 2006

Life Changing Lessons

The fox, jackrabbit and I stood rooted in place; each of us faced a myriad of emotions as we wondered who was going to make the next move. Fear, injustice, exhilaration and indecision whirled around us as if we were caught in a distorted emotional vortex. It was a time warp in which everyone involved would certainly be affected in one uncertain way or another. As we stood transfixed, the beer I grasped in my right hand was getting warmer by the moment.

Folk art & beer @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

Twenty some odd years ago I was living in Bluff, running the Bluff City Trading Post during the day and wandering this small river valley by evening's light. There is something truly inspiring about connecting with the land, experiencing the wonder of Nature and communicating with Her creatures.

I was learning that my perspective had changed about what I was witnessing as an adult and what I had experienced as a child being raised here. There were many lessons to be learned, and I had the time and interest to get out there and begin to understand them.

On one occasion, I left the house to wander up the road towards Saint Christopher's Mission in search of solace. I made it to the Gaines property line, where a gravel road swung south towards the river. The road led to a large diesel pump which diverted silt saturated river water into two parallel ponds used to settle the muddy water and irrigate alfalfa and watermelons on the Curtis Jones farm. The pump was silent that evening, and I could hear the song of the river growing louder as I drew near.

It was a gorgeous evening; the sun was just setting through a scattered cloud base, leaving a hot pink after-glow reflecting off the towering cliff faces on either side of the river. The jumbled slopes falling away from the vertical walls were a study in light and shadow. The air was cooler by the water and soothed my senses, as did the swath of tamarisk and russian olive grafted into the sandy banks. I climbed the fence, dropped onto the path running parallel to the river and meandered west along with the flow of water. Breathing deeply, I inhaled the musky smell of the muddy water, moist red earth and vegetation.

I made my way across a rocky inlet and entered the thick forest of willow and stubby brush growing along the river bank. I find it interesting that within the densest growth of vegetation there was a trail just off the river channel that acted as a super highway for local wildlife. I recognized deer tracks as well as those of raccoon, coyote, badger, beaver and all sorts of birds and waterfowl. One might hear the slap of a beaver's tail on the water or something slipping through the brush, but it is extremely rare to encounter an actual critter.

As I made my way along the trail, I came to a wide spot next to a small group of cottonwood trees. A frown crossed my brow and I muttered to myself as I recognized the tracks of human animals. There were beer cans spread about the clearing, and signs of recent occupation. Shaking my head in disgust and cussing under my breath, I took in the scene. I was out here to be alone, and did not like sharing the experience with those more interested in stepping out of reality than experiencing it. Sighing heavily, I remembered the training I had received in the Boy Scouts concerning leaving no trace, and began to gather the thoughtless leavings of the family of man.

As I picked up the drained, aluminum remains and placed them into the paper sack thoughtfully left behind for just such an occasion, I noticed another trail leading directly towards the main road; this must have been the entry and exit route of my now stumbling neighbors. Leaning down to snatch-up the twelve pack carton, I noticed it felt heavier than it should. Shaking the box produced an unopened can of still cool, really cheap beer. It was my lucky day! Unfortunately, no matter how hard I had tried, I never developed a taste for beer of any quality. Heading down the trail, I held the beer in my right hand, shaking it and wishing for the chance to bean one of the people who had left it.

Packing a bag of trash through the brush had not been on my agenda, and the added responsibility was not appreciated. This must have been the reason I did not see what was occurring between the fox and the rabbit until I was almost on top of them. As I recognized their movement, I pulled up short to let what was happening register on my sluggish brain. The two creatures involved were locked in an encounter of life and death that was shortly going to take an unexpected twist.

It seemed Brair Fox had caught Brair Rabbit out in the open and captured him. At this point, the strikingly handsome fox was playing with its dinner and enjoying his extremely good luck. The jackrabbit looked exhausted and nearly resigned to his fate of becoming a rabbit kabob. The fox would flip the rabbit in the air and let it begin to dash off before retrieving it as easily as you please. The fox seemed to have a big smile on its face and the poor disrupted rabbit seemed to be weeping.

For some reason, when I spotted the scene, I reflexively raised the can of beer to a throwing position; self defense I guess. Neither participant had seen that I had joined the party, and a smile found its way to my lips. I realized that I had the opportunity to alter the lives of these two creatures in unexpected ways. At this point, the rabbit and the fox were separated by about three feet, and the fox was getting cocky because the rabbit had given up . I let out a yell which would have scared me if I had not been expecting it. The fox and the rabbit froze in their tracks as I once had and slowly, frighteningly looked in my direction.

I was close enough to see the stream of emotion flash through each pair of eyes as they slowly grasped the reality of their situation. The rabbit seemed excited now as it realized new hope; the fox seemed angry and looked to the rabbit as if to grab it up and be off. I hurled the effervesced can of beer to a spot directly between the two creatures. As fate would have it, the can struck a sharp rock and exploded as if a pasteurized bomb had gone off. Everyone and everything within ten feet of the impact experienced a portion of the tall boy, and things began to redirect.

The fox spun on its heel and sprinted towards the trail. The dripping white tip of its tail was the last I saw of it as it disappeared down the track. The rabbit stood up and gazed at me in amazement. It then shakily hopped to the thicket it must have been trying to get to all along. I hoped that as it cleaned itself, the 3.2 alcohol content brew now saturating its hide would help ease its pain, and that the hops and barley might nourish it during its recovery. I was smiling broadly by now, even though I must have smelled like a micro-brewers bad dream. I had altered reality and was proud of it.

As I retrieved the aluminum can and proudly marched home, I contemplated what had occurred. I was sure each participant had learned a number of lessons that day; I know I did. The most obvious were: (1) Your perspective on reality can change in a split second. Never underestimate the Joker; (2) Never, ever play with your food; and (3) Cheap beer can bring you a great deal of satisfaction when disposed of properly and goes well with fresh fox and rabbit.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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