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Thursday, 16 June 2011

There’s always that bit of vanity, isn’t there? Even as I tried on the snake-proof boots in Cabelas I was thinking, ‘But what will I look like in them?’ No, it was more like, ‘What will I look like in these things, all laced up to my knees like some posh Victorian motorist off for a spin?’ Well, thanks to A.’s skill behind the lens, we have the answer: Indiana Jones – don’t you think?

But before we talk about our hike up-river I need to mention Matt & Kitty’s dogs. They have one each. Kitty’s is an elderly sort of fellow called Hoka. It’s a Native word meaning badger. Hoka is an attentive guard dog who knows that it is his duty to bark at anyone who shows up at the house, particularly when nobody’s around. There’s no discretionary element in this: you show up, you get barked at. Period. So   every day without fail, when I go up to sit and do my emailing, blogging and so on, I have to withstand this verbal, canine barrage of threats and abuse. Matt’s dog, Cinch, used to do a pretty convincing impression of a ruthless killer whenever I appeared. One time I got out of the car, walked over to the workshop to chat to Matt, and he went barked at the car all over again. But then he’s a young dog, not much more than a pup, and he has learned that I pose no threat whatsoever. The other day when we were out hunting lick-tubs and I sat in the passenger seat of the old pick-up, why, Cinch wanted to sit on my knee and lick my face. So the situation is that instead of having two manic dogs going at it every time I approach the house I now just have the one, waddling over, tail wagging, barking insistently, and repeating every few minutes until I drive away. That was until yesterday, when the guinea-fowl decided to join in. Not barking, you understand, but making an unholy racket while I tried to compose emails to my several correspondents. I wonder whether they realise that I have eaten guinea-fowl. I think I had them wrapped in bacon….

Right, now that I’ve got that off my chest, some pretty flowers: shell-leaf penstemons. I picked these along highway 61, where they are blooming in huge great drifts beside the road.

I think I felt sorry for them because, attractive as they are, they fall into the category of Noxious Weeds. Well, that’s what the bow-hunters told me last month – and they work for the NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service). It’s their invasive habit, apparently, that makes them unwelcome (penstemons, I mean, not bow-hunters.)

Talking of the NRCS, I think I mentioned some time ago that I was in touch with the Valentine office, discussing the possibility of going out with one of the guys there on a ranch survey. That is still a possibility, but there’s been a hitch. Because we’re talking about a Federal body here, I am required – even as a volunteer/guest – to read a 38-page security dossier and answer a dozen or so questions to check that I have done so. I completed that a couple of weeks ago, mailed in my answer sheet, and waited. A few days ago I got a call to say that the Feds had rejected my submission, not because I’d got it all wrong, rather that the exam I’d sat was the 2010 version and would I please now do the 2011 one. That went in the mail yesterday, so hopefully we’ll get somewhere soon.

Okay, the hike. We were blessed with a superb day: bright sun, temperature in the upper seventies, and a delicious cool breeze. We walked along the top of the bluffs overlooking the river, swung around the tops of successive draws and then descended one I’d tackled before, which brought us to the usual creek, and the waterfall in the Indiana Jones picture. The one trouble we had as we dropped into the dense woodland was bugs, in particular a nasty little deltoid thing which I think may be a deer-fly. We seemed to gather more and more of these around us as we walked. I don’t think they bit us a great deal, just circled our faces and necks with evil intent. Very annoying.

By the time we got to the river we couldn’t wait to peel off and get in. I had an interesting surprise as I stepped into the cool creek water, namely a trout which darted out from under the bank and sped away into the main stream. I’m pretty sure it was a trout, and not a bad sized one at that. I’d guess six or seven inches – not that it was hanging around for me to get its measure. I had no idea they would get this far up the river. I have a friend, a retired professor from Chadron State, coming to see me next month and he did ask me recently whether there were any fish to be had. Been a while since I got the rod and line out, he said.

It was around six when we got back home, and thirsty and hungry. We lit a fire and prepared a barbecue.  

My idea of a barbecue – and A. shares it, I’m glad to say - doesn’t generally involve charcoal. It involves sticks. Keep piling them on, crack a beer, and wait until there’s a nice bed of hot coals. And then, while you’re eating your T-bone steak, throw on more wood to make a smoke-screen against the bugs – although I have to report that my spraying the other day has decimated the population in the front garden, pro tem.

Today we’re taking it easy until the afternoon. Then we’re planning to pack up our tent, hike across the hills and camp out under a moon which is a little past full but still fat and bright. So tomorrow’s blog might be a little late. With luck, though, there will be a tale to be told.

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