Friday 8 April 2011

A couple of room-mates... and a vehicle to call my own

This fellow was grinning at me as I walked in the door

This guy seemed friendly enough - but more menacing a night

It’s 46 degrees, the sky is grey, and I’m wondering whether to walk down to the river for a wash. Actually, I could get a hot shower up at the ranch house if I cared to drive the two miles, and I’ll most likely have running water here later today, but anybody who knows me understands that I do like to dramatise. I’m a writer, for goodness’ sake.

In any case, there has been plenty of drama around here lately. Matt is fortunate to be alive, and I am damned lucky that this whole enterprise hasn’t been strangled at birth.

I believe I mentioned in an earlier posting that Matt & Kitty offered me the use of a .22 rifle, in case there were any vermin around. Rattlers, that is, not outlaws. A week or so ago Matt was making up his bed in the shed where the cattle are calving when he found that a skunk had decided to share his quarters – and stunk the place out. He spotted the guilty party outside, and gave chase in the ATV (quad-bike) with his rifle laid across his knees. He hit a patch of mud and ice, the vehicle started skidding down a slope, then hit a hole and stopped dead. The rifle flew forward, the butt crashed against the dashboard, and off it went.

You have to be pretty unlucky for something like that to happen. You probably deserve every ounce of good fortune that follows. The x-rays they took, after Matt had got to hospital in Rapid City – a three hour journey and quite a tale in itself – gave a detailed history of the bullet’s course. Somehow it wove a path between several vital parts, missed a major artery by a whisker, then bumped into his hip bone and came to rest before it could do any more damage.

Matt still has the bullet in there somewhere, and is up and about – probably doing more than the doctor would like, but…. hey, he’s a cowboy.

All of this meant that preparations for the arrival of a Limey writer got put onto the back burner for a few days. Nevertheless, the guys were there to pick me up at Rapid, and drive me back through the Badlands and Wounded Knee to arrive here just around nightfall, then roust out some bedding. There are still one or two things to be done. Matt has drafted in a nephew to take over the calving, which is in full swing right now. Meanwhile, he’s trying to get things in shape for me.

When he turned the water on he found that a couple of pipes in the cellar had split during the winter, so one of our first calls in Rapid was to the building supplies place. With a bit of luck he’ll have it fixed by tonight. Otherwise I’m warm and comfortable, the laptop is up and running and the work can start. This morning I’m driving to Valentine (some 70 miles) to get a `phone that ought to be give me some coverage within a mile or two of here. I’ll be borrowing a vehicle while Matt runs the rule over a picturesque old station wagon Kitty’s father has kindly loaned me for the duration of my stay. It’s the kind of vehicle that has lived a long and useful life and deserves some respect – and a name.

My new car


This is a hunting lodge. In a couple of weeks I expect the turkey hunters. Previous hunters have hung various stuffed trophies around the place over the years – along with a few rattlesnake skins – and Matt has promised me the head of a wild hog he shot down in Georgia last year. I have to say that when I spent a few nights here last spring – on my reconnaissance mission – I found the two characters I’ve featured slightly intimidating. Now they seem like old friends. It has been suggested that they too deserve names. I’m not so sure. I am troubled by visions of myself sitting down to a lonely evening with a crossword and a bottle of beer and striking up conversation with them.

Okay, I’m off to town to stack up some supplies.

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