Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Well Deserved Christmas Gift

It was late Wednesday afternoon, the twentieth of December, and I had bailed out of the Twin Rocks trading post early again to go climb a rock; an early Christmas present to myself. Spending the entire year working in such close quarters has caused Steve to become rather amiable when it comes to my leaving work a little early. All I have to say is, "There's this place just off the highway I noticed . . . ." I don't even have to finish the thought, he just waves his hand and off I go.

Old Perkins Coral
The Old Perkins Corral

This time I was headed to the "Nipple", an up-thrusting protrusion of upright sandstone, scattered, broken rock and sage green earth just north of Bluff on U.S. Highway 191, near the old Perkins corral. This natural monument is Bluff's answer to the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. I have always been intrigued by this wonder of nature, and was now intent on conquering its summit. I also figured that the last, and as yet undiscovered, renegade of the murderous threesome that shut down Bluff a few years back posthumously resided there. I envisioned him propped against a lichen encrusted boulder, haunting our local landscape in bone-white splendor, through hollow, sightless eye sockets. I felt these were two excellent, if presumptuous reasons to attempt the ascent.

North of Bluff, Utah

I wheeled the Tundra off the highway and onto the water-tortured dirt road that drifted off in the direction of the Nipple. The road was rough and twisted, but no real match for my pickup. Spenser loses patience with me when I call the Toyota a pickup. He gets all bent out of shape and spitefully says, "It's a truck Dad. Calling it anything else is an insult to those who built it and the real men who drive one." So naturally, just to aggravate my sassy and easily agitated male-child, I call it a pickup. I drove as close as I could to the base of the old girl and parked. Exiting the vehicle, I looked up, smirked and said, "Here I come, ready or not."

Before departing, I reached under the seat and brought out the Ruger single-six pistol I had placed there that morning before leaving for Bluff. I put in the magnum cylinder and dropped in five long boys, just in case I saw a ghost or had time for target practice. Sliding the holster on my belt and smoothly slipping the pistol into its leather casing gave me confidence; much as the cowboy lawman Wyatt Earp must have felt. The trick was to avoid shooting myself in the foot as my old high school buddy Jess did when we were kids. A .22 caliber bullet hole scar between my friends big and second toe on his right foot will prove at least that portion of this story. Armed and dangerous took on a whole new meaning when Jess picked up a firearm.

As I hurriedly made my way up the rock-strewn slope, I knew I did not have much time before the sun set and darkness began to fall. I estimate it took me 15 minutes to climb to the saddle between the mesa and monument. Another two minutes placed me at the top of the rock. I sat down, breathed in the clean, crisp, freshness of the evening air and looked around at the boulder-strewn promontory and then at the surrounding landscape. It was strikingly beautiful here; I could see Monument Valley to the west, Shiprock to the south and the mighty Blue Mountains springing forth from the high desert landscape to the north. Except for an arrhythmic , low heartbeat-like thumping sound coming from grasshopper-shaped oil and gas pumpers hidden by the eastern mesa it was almost totally silent.

As I sat there absorbing my surroundings, I was startled by a glimpse of dark gray movement to my left. There was a ghost here after all! I practically fell off my perch as I threw myself backwards trying to straighten my body and draw the pistol from its sheath. I finally got ahold of the grips, slid the barrel free, drew back the hammer and aimed the weapon in the direction of the specter. Squinting into the dusky twilight, I searched for movement. My heart was beating furiously. I was loaded for bear and ready for action.

From behind a rock about 20 feet away trotted a beautiful Kit fox with pin stripe accents of red and brown on his sleek and glowing fur. I was so startled I nearly dropped the hammer on the poor creature. Fortunately, I recognized it for what it was and relieved the pressure on the trigger. Speaking out loud, I told the beast it had scared me half to death and was nearly dispatched from this earth by a hurtling hollow point. The fox ignored my comment and continued to scratch around in the dirt, all the time moving closer to my position.

Now, any self respecting "wild thing" would have exited the scene as fast as its little, hairy legs could carry it when it recognized a human being; but not this courageous fellow. The fox kept sniffing around and moving in my direction, making me confused and then nervous. I figured the fox was either rabid or, because of the scarcity of mature mates in a local such as this, inbred to the point of idiocy. I spoke sharply to the fox and told it to act respectfully and hit the road. The creature totally ignored me and moved in a little. closer. Now I was really nervous, that is until I re-realized I had a gun in my hand.

The fox was barely six feet from me now. Something caught its attention and it turned away from me. I raised the pistol and sighted down the barrel at its back end. Holding the pistol steady, I dropped the sights to a flat rock just behind the fox and squeezed the trigger. The rock exploded and instantaneously peppered the poor creature's backside with shards of sandstone. The fox sprang straight into the air, accomplished a double reverse back flip, landed catlike on all four feet and vanished into the semi-darkness. The noise of the magnum echoed off the rocks and faded into the canyons.

I laughed out loud at the spectacle of the fox and how surprised it was at the insult of noise and hurtful debris. "Merry Christmas," I shouted to the fox, believing I had given it an early Christmas present by teaching it to be wary of humans. I was still chuckling to myself as I made my way down a talus slope towards the truck. All of a sudden I was startled by a rock tumbling down the slope above me. Realizing the danger, I quickly turned and looked uphill to see what was happening. That single rock started a small avalanche of rock, dirt and debris above me.

About ten feet to my right I spied a Volkswagen sized boulder that had dislodged itself from the cliff sometime in the distant past. I dove in the direction of the sheltering rock and huddled there until the slide passed. When the noise diminished and I figured the danger had abated, I stood up and brushed myself off, shaking from the near miss. Looking up to the top of the hill, I recognized a familiar shape sitting there. Wiping the dust from my bloodshot eyes, I looked closer and saw the image of a smiling fox at the place I assumed the first rock had been let loose.

Peering into the eyes of the Kit fox, I believe I saw a message. I was reminded of the first "Home Alone" movie where an eight year-old who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas has to defend his home against misfit burglars. In one scene, the less than defenseless and terribly creative Kevin used the sound track from a gangster movie to make a point. The verse that came to mind as the fox stared at me was, "Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal!" I guess we both learned a valuable lesson.
(Click here to see additional images!)

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2007 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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