The windows of the van were a mess and looked as if someone had tried to contain a bus load of pre-schoolers gooped-up with jaw breaker juice. As the vehicle flashed past, I caught sight of the driver with what looked like a hulking figure with a butch haircut in the passenger seat. Every window in the vehicle was fouled beyond filthy. As the van skidded to a stop, a stocky woman with a military bearing hopped out and marched around the Vanagon. She wore beat-up, once black combat boots, khaki green fatigue pants and a black and white striped tank top.
The Military Momma came around the vehicle and pulled open the passenger door. Out jumped what looked like a cross between Marmaduke and Beethoven-- the huge love child of a Great Dane and a Saint Bernard. The creature was the size of a small pony. The burly driver then slid open the side door and out jumped the most unusual mingling of canine DNA one might imagine. Five more dogs piled out of the paddy wagon and made a mad dash for the weeds. There was a modified German Sheperd, a joke of a Jack Russell terrier, an abbreviated version of a Golden Retriever, a scary looking Scottie and a maniacally barking cross between a Chihuahua and a miniature Doberman Pinscher.
Never before have I seen a more mongrel mix of mutts. When the pack disembarked I thought to myself; "I hope that woman brought her own pooper-scooper, because I am NOT cleaning-up after that rat pack." Then I realized where they were going. The entire group was heading right into the weed patch! "Now THIS should be interesting!" I said out loud.
Although we have battled Puncture Weed for decades it has proven to be the single most persistent remnant of Fire Gods pre-burn era. Let me explain: In Navajo myth and legend, there were once two main groups of Native peoples living in this area of the Great American Southwest. These two opposing forces differed in philosophy, perspective, politics and every other aspect one might imagine. Sound familiar? Anyway, these polar opposites fought and bickered to the point where their surroundings began to emulate their actions. The natural world became pointed, barbed, poisonous and bitter. In a nutshell, the world became ugly.
At some point Fire God lost patience-- he had enough! The super-duper deity sent one group south, they became the Apache tribe, and those that remained are known as the Dine', the People. To cleanse the earth of the negativity and stickery remnants left behind, he lit up things and burned them to a crisp. Remaining reminders of those derisive times are such things as Datura (aka; Jimson Weed or Poisonous Vespertine), Puncture Vine (aka; Goat Head, Devils Popcorn and Demon Head) and what some people believe to be Desert Varnish, which can be seen upon the face of the Bluff's surrounding our little river valley community. Those dark stains are not varnish at all, they are fire clouds left behind from the heat of a mighty flame.
As I mentioned previously, like an unsupervised band of hoodlums the dogs ran pell-mell into the patch of Puncture Vine! It took those beasties a second or two to realize this place was unfriendly. They had raced into a thorn-fest. The dogs were in trouble, some froze in place, others shook and shimmied in an attempt to rid themselves of the Goat Heads. The seeds of Puncture Vine imbed themselves and they were in too deep; the pup parade only succeeded in setting the seeds more firmly and to attract more stickers to their toesies. It took the big-booted babe awhile to discover that there was a problem. She yelled after the dogs, "Hurry-up guys, do your business and lets go!" "Seriously!", I thought to myself. "It should be you out there, mired in the brier patch, but minus those giant clod- hoppers."
Momma Muttley soon realized the dilemma her pets were in and waded into the demon weeds to rescue her pack. One by one she recovered the curs from their thorny trap. Upon each return trip to the van she would pluck the stickers from their pads and place them back into the relative security of the dingy bus. The big dog looked like it might prove to be too much for her, so I started down the steps to help, but the woman proved to be as strong as she looked and heaved the huge hound into her arms and walked out with him. After placing the big dog back in the passenger seat, she gathered a hand full of the stickers and headed my way.
As she came, the mad woman reminded me of Pig Pen of the Peanuts cartoon series. Dog hair coated her clothes and caused an aura of doggy dander to emanate from her form as she moved. She huffed across the parking lot, hustled up the steps and approached me with attitude. The aroma of living with that many dogs preceded her arrival. "Is this your place?" she demanded. "It is!" I replied firmly. The Dog Woman gave me a hard look, held out a hand full of Demon Head and growled, "You should clean-up your parking lot, these stickers nearly ruined my dogs." "And you," I replied," you should know better than to let your dogs do their business on my parking lot!" We stood there staring and making faces at each other.
I thought about her speedy and careless entry onto our parking lot and how she intended to use our property as a dump station and showed my frustration. That was until I looked over her shoulder and saw the black stain on the cliffs across the valley. Remembering the lesson of Fire God and realizing she must really love that pack of dogs, I sighed and said, "I am sorry for your dogs. That had to hurt." The woman growled and turned away leaving behind a bitter oath in her wake. "Oh!" I called after her, "and now you are angry at me?"
"Now that," I mumbled to myself, "was, for sure and certain, the epitome of a Goat Head!"