In one of my previous stories I told of my friend the horse wrangler D.K. He had a job at one of the guest lodges on the outskirts of the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana. That is where I’m from in another life. Cold! Snow! Don’t want those cuss words anymore!
Anyway, DK would take guests on horseback into the “BOB” as it was sometimes called to fish or hunt. They would ride twenty six miles to his camp, on a trail one foot wide, across swift running creeks, up and down mountains, crossing shale rock slides and on the edge of cliffs, hoping that the horse or mule wouldn’t step wrong and fall down. They would sleep in tents on army cots in their sleeping bags, warmed by an old potbellied stove in which the fire would burn out in the middle of the night! Did I mention cold and snow?
DK could recite cowboy poetry for hours on the way in and it took their minds off of the task at hand, keeping the horse pointed in the right direction, not falling off in the middle of the creek or when the horse jumped a log across the trail. How he remembered all the words is amazing. I guess if he made some of the words up nobody would know because they were busy trying to stay on their horse! Now most of these guests were Dudes and had never ridden a horse and, of those who had ridden, this was a different situation here in the mountains. Twenty six miles is a long ride. It took about eight hours of steady going. Oh, the saddle sores and the tired butts! It takes one entire day to get the legs working again.
The Forest Service sets the rules in a wilderness area and power tools like chain saws and generators are not allowed. To have firewood it has to be chopped and sawed with a two-man hand crosscut saw. Guess who gets on each end of a saw? The wrangler and his helpers are busy putting the horses away. The wood is cut quite a ways from the camp to maintain the aesthetics, so how does it get to the tents and the ever hungry stoves? Of course, the Dudes carry it. No wood equals cold nights, and no fire in the cook stove for the cook to feed them.
Finally the horses have been rubbed down, the wood is in the tents and cook tent, the lanterns are lit and now is the time for a little (lot) of libation or in other words, BOOZE. Having a little sip and smelling the aroma of the food. Life is good!
“What is that noise”? DK jumps up, grabs his rifle and runs out of the tent and the Dudes hear him saying something like Grizzly!! He has been telling them about the Grizzlies all day. Hair is standing straight out on the back of their necks and nobody says anything. The camp cook is standing there facing the tent flaps with a big knife in her hand and an expression of fright on her face. Then DK comes back in and explains that he chased it off. His type of ghost stories! Got their attention though! They ate their food in almost silence.
Time for bed, stoke up the fire, turn off the lantern, and crawl into the sleeping bag to think about the Grizzly. “What is that noise”? They hurry to light the lantern, as if that will scare off a bear that wants to eat them. He missed supper you know, what with DK chasing him with a gun!
Fires are going out, lanterns are running out of fuel and the fuel can is in the cook tent.
“I’m not going out there” one guy says. “Wait, what’s that noise”?
“Sounds like wolves to me” says the other. “Here take your gun and go see. I saw the cook take the garbage out to dump it in the garbage pile. What happens when they eat all that”?
What is that old song, “the coyotes are howling and the doggies are balling out on the lone prairie”?
Suns up. Not soon enough though. Time for some breakfast, there is everything from bacon to pancakes and eggs, ham, and taters. Just like in the city. “How are your eggs”? Correct answer is a little runny, but that’s the way I like them. Don’t make the cook mad.
Dishes are done. Saddle up to ride out on a hunt. Just got the legs and other equipment straightened out. Oh, how I wish the seven-day trip was over!
DK told me about a fishing trip to camp with some Dudes one summer. When they showed up at the lodge he saw that one of them was a man of great proportion as in four hundred pounds if not more. He assigned him Alpo loser, an Appaloosa and the Dude tried to get on but had to use a platform because he couldn’t get his leg up high enough.
Alpo decided no way and laid down flat, four legs straight out and refused to get up. Now what am I going to do? DK then saddled up Rudy, a big mule. Rudy had a habit of going where he wanted and it was quite an eventful ride in. Off the trail into the brush trying to brush the Dude off.
Finally they got to the camp. Then came the chore of getting the Dude off. Oh, the legs won’t work and the butt is sore and the Dude swore he wouldn’t go through that again. He was told by a man in the sporting goods store to wear some panty hose to keep from chaffing but due to his size he couldn’t find a pair to fit. Maybe a pair on each leg?
The next morning when it was time to saddle up to ride to a favorite fishing hole the Dude said he would walk down the creek and find a spot to fish close to camp. He then sat down and ate all the leftovers from breakfast.
When DK and the rest of the Dudes got back he wasn’t there. They waited awhile and then DK set out to find him. When DK found him he was straddled a log that went across the creek. He had slipped and fell and couldn’t get up. He had hollered until he was horse but no one heard him.
DK had to drag him off with a horse and got him back to camp where he stayed the rest of the week. He almost ran the cook ragged keeping him in food.
When it came time to ride back to the Lodge the Dude asked if he could call a helicopter he could ride out in. Nope he had to ride Rudy again.
Interested in reading some of my other stories? Go to rptimes.com and catch up. Thank all of you for reading my articles. Hope you enjoyed them.
You Should Write a Book- series 1- 4
Fishtails and Beer- series 1- 3
One Horned Moose and Early Times- series 1, 2
Pondering Some More