A Bad Bike Ride

 I’d pulled the onions from the garden, fearing a hard freeze.  It was 5 o’clock, just enough time for a quick bike ride before I had to cook supper.  I left the onions laying out to dry in the last hour or so of sunshine and whistled for the dogs.  Vernon had started cutting hay down across the bridge… a nice flat ride!  The light freezes had put a damper on the mosquito situation in the fields, so for an adventuresome change, that was the direction we headed.  I pedaled through the dust and avoided the mud puddles… Four dogs accompanying me, each darting here and there.  Elsa stays close.  Lucas and Dally roam ahead.  Boomer always looking for something to chase.  We went through the silver gate, across the bridge, the sweet smell of hay laying heavy in the air.  The dogs, of course, smelled a million more smells than I could ever imagine.  We drew parallel with Vernon and the equipment, the pair quickly chewing up the hay and spitting it out in nice windrows.  I thought the dogs would smell a rabbit and be on the chase, but they all settled down nearby me, panting.  Amazingly enough, the light freezes had not killed every mosquito, so soon we were on the return journey.  Vernon pulled to a stop and walked over to visit with us.  The dogs finally did as I predicted, running into the tall alfalfa chasing butterflies… or something.  We watched for a bit, exchanging pleasantries.  The dogs were not barking but the English Shepherds encircled something and did the “pounce” as if a mouse was hidden in the lush greenery.  Lucas pulled back a distance rubbing his nose on the ground.  Vernon knew he had just been sprayed by a skunk.  I couldn’t tell from that distance, so I called them back, and they quickly left their prey.  The closer they got the more dismayed I became.  The culprit was no rabbit, mouse, or skunk, but the evil porcupine.  Lucas had 30 quills on the right side of his jaw, Elsa on the other hand had multiple quills deeply imbedded in her nose and chin.  Further inspection showed some in her tongue and the top of her mouth as well.  Dally was unharmed, surprising me since she’s the one who had cornered the raccoon that very morning and actually entered the culvert with the coon!  Boomer, ah, Boomer, who as a year old pup had an encounter that rated him 200 quills (I counted), was also quill free.  Elsa came to me hoping for relief and I jumped on my bike and pedaled for home.  Multiple times along the way, she’d stop, putting her nose down in the dirt and moaning.  Oh, it broke my heart, but all I could say was “C’mon, let’s get you home.  Let’s go.”  She’d lift her nose and trot alongside, sure I’d help all I could.  I’ve never heard a dog moan in pain, even Lucas with his severe injuries didn’t moan.  A whimper, a whine, yes.  But when she’d moan it took all I could muster to lightly say, “You’ll be OK.  Come on, girl.”  Arriving home I grabbed some pliers and some fabric for a muzzle.  Lucas went first.  Ever the trusting gentleman, I pulled his quills with hardly a disagreeable air about him.  They weren’t in deep and his trust was apparent.  Elsa was different.  I pulled a few of the easier ones.  I hated to muzzle her with the ones inside her mouth obviously giving her quite a bit of pain.  I yanked on a few of the deeper quills and Vernon quickly voted for a trip to the vet.  A phone call to the office went unanswered.  We called his cell phone.  We called his home phone.  I changed clothes.  I gathered the onions to put them inside.  I loaded Elsa.  I called again.  I got a drink.  I tapped my foot. “I’m leaving.”  The trip would take an hour as it was, might as well get a head start.  I’d call from Ten Sleep and again from Worland, the only good spots for cell reception.  My favorite vet wasn’t answering anything, so I drove to his clinic, where  his house is just adjacent.  Finally!  He had just gone inside and I offered to go to the other vets if he wasn’t available, but he came out to his clinic and soon Elsa was on the table.   Within minutes she was sliding sideways into my arms and Dr. Steve went to work.  He managed to pull all but one that will have to fester its way out.  Blood and quills lay next to Elsa.  A shot of penicillin, a shot to revive her, a handshake and smile.  A quick dash to the drive through, tacos and a drink giving me the energy for the drive as Elsa quietly waited to be chauffeured home.  At home, I invited her inside.  She refused water and food, too tender for the moment.  I sat on the couch, she leaned into my leg and sighed and sighed again.  I sighed.

Gotta Go

Sometimes, just sometimes, when Vernon says he has to run to the other place for some odd quick job, I just gotta go.  I gotta stop looking out my living room window.  I gotta breathe some clean air that doesn’t smell of fried potatoes and laundry soap.  I gotta take my dogs who run in circles reminding us that they exist and they too gotta go!  So we climb into a ranch pickup, an experience in itself!  Tools must be moved.  Gather the extra jackets and sweatshirts that have spent the summer living on the edge of “just in case.”  Pull yourself up and settle into the layer of dust and hay and dog hair and inhale the essence of motor oil and grease, dried hay, and the everpresent Wyoming dust, and crunch the pop can under your feet.  Windows down for the last of the September warmth for this day.  Views of red tail hawks in silhouette.   A dog breathes into my ear as he tries to absorb every scent that tantalizes in the breeze.  Bouncing and grabbing for support when the potholes and leftover puddles disturb an even road.  Then the highway and a relaxed mood coincide with the pavement.  Deer cross the highway towards the closest alfalfa field for a late supper.  The mile passes quickly and we’re out.  Dogs are free.  A rabbit lives on the edge of danger, and easily loses the dogs in its warren of wood.  Vernon makes some adjustments to the old combine and climbs in to move it to the quonset where it will spend the next 11 months.  I start sweeping the shop for something to do, pushing grain and hay and dust and grease forward and forward again.  Time to go again.  I load up the dogs, and, oh, man! did you have to go get a drink???  Now the pickup has eau de chien added to its repertoire.  Wet dog.  A mix of moss and mud and sage and dog.  Keep the window down so Vernon won’t complain when the scent gets a little overwhelming…  The sun has disappeared and the pumpkin sky is cooling down.  More deer.  No cars.  This time it is 3 miles to the Mills place.  More deer.  Two fawns suckle their supper and ignore our approach.  Vernon rolls up a hose, draining the pipe for winter is complete.  More deer.  Good grief.  They’ve just about taken over the place since no one lives there right now.  Whitetails and muleys both.  Don’t forget the antelope, too.  They have a month exactly before hunting season begins… enjoy yourselves, deer!  I glance over my shoulder and the moon peeks over the Big Horns.  Pumpkin sky now is denim and darkness is seconds away.  That’s it… that’s all there is to do… just minor details before they are forgotten.  We climb again into the pickup and wind our way home.  Windows are up, sorry, Lucas, it is too chilly now!  The moon plays peek-a-boo over the red hills and swings from our right hand side back to behind us, reflected occasionally in our rearview mirrors.  Another red tail on a another power pole watches us.  The ride was simple.  The work undemanding.  The company excellent.  The music hushes its country beat.  We’re home.  Get out.  That was fun…  Sometimes, you just gotta go…