Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Wranglin Duties

It was all business when I arrived at main camp that first year.  Here's a samplin' of my responsibilities and let's just say I had to suck it up and check my glamorous side at the door:

  • Burn tons of garbage with oil in barrels and empty the ashes into the field
  • Take the slop bucket on the ol tractor and swish it down the river
  • Pull orders of food and supplies for all the other camps
  • Start and stop the generator
  • Look after the horses
  • Stoke the heat more with huge logs you can barely lift and be sure not to singe your bangs and eyelashes off when you open the blazing inferno
  • Meet the plane
  • Clean and organize the shops and tackrooms
  • Pump fuel and roll barrels of diesel
  • Pick up dog shit
  • Weed the garden, fill the water tank
  • Lug random shit, here, there and everywhere
  • Dishes
  • And the list goes on ...

To Main Camp

It was an eight hour ride through eerie forest drenched with moss, light peering through dead branches, rushing streams and steep mountains.  We noticed old grizzly paths and as we toddled along I saw fresh poop full of red berries.  Our leader stopped to smell the fresh pools of urine.  We were indeed following a grizzly or perhaps it was following us. Needless to say the young wrangler was the only one armed with her grandfather's old rifle and my bear spray and bear bangers were packed deep in a panyard.  Stupid me.  

That day, my buddy and fearless leader did not say a word to me and I was finding myself getting more and more frustrated.  I kept trying to let my negative thoughts go by visualizing the cool glacial water luring over my body or picturing myself rolling around in the soft, green moss.  I tried breathing techniques while on the back of the horse and tried to soften my gaze into a Buddhist meditation.  I guess it kinda worked but I was still upset nevertheless.  Never had I been so ignored so much and treated with such disdain.  I tried to understand her perspective and to empathize as perhaps some of her life experiences had given her just cause to put up walls.

We finally arrived at the main camp.  The last straw was when we were almost at the coral and the guide finally found an opportunity to yell at me as my rope had gotten tangled around one of my horse's legs.  "Look out, you are about to have a wreck!" she bellowed.  I scowled at her, fixed the rope and marched off to tie up my horses and unpack.  'Great. Two months of this shit', I thought to myself.  What the hell am I going to do if they assign me as her wrangler?  I'd have to speak my mind cuz there is no damn way I'm putting myself in that situation.  And so my days at the main ranch with the head haunches began. 

Day 3 to the Creek

That cold morning I did my best to saddle my horse and tie my string under the watchful eyes of my guide.  I attempted to help with all the pack horses to no avail as my hitches were redone and criticized by her loveliness.  The others gave me, the newbie a few helpful tips, a couple snacks for the trail and we were off again.  I forgot to remove one of my horse's neck ties which were no longer needed and as soon as we started one of my horses got its leg caught in it - of course!  A wreck was ensuing but quickly rectified as I jumped off my pony and managed to untangle the mess.  

Once again I had no idea where we were going or how long we would be trailing that day but I tried my best to relinquish control (which is not an easy feat for me) and enjoy the scenery.  Six hours later we arrived at another camp with another crew and their clients.  It was early enough in the day that once we got everything unpacked and organized there was time enough to relax and eat.  The cook was quite friendly and happy to have some company.  We hobbled our horses and sent them out to graze for a few hours before catching them and putting them into the coral for the night.

I slept on the floor of the cook shack that night and it was a most welcome spot as it was toasty warm with the fire going.  The cook laughed and called it 'the lunch box' as there we were sleeping with all the food where last year the grizzly had ripped off the back wall to find a midnight snack.  It was finally time for bed and I was so happy to rest my tired and sore body with now a rash developing on my butt.  The cook slept in the back corner with his rifle.  He heard a few noises poking around and swore he would blow a hole right in that ol grizzly if he tried to get in.  I sure did not want to get up and go outside for a pee that night but I had to go with my flashlight in hand and my full moon hanging out at the side of the cookhouse.

Morning came early once again with the job oaf a cook making sure coffee was on, the fire going and breakfast started so the hunters could get off to an early start.  We tacked up, packed up and were off again.  The cook sent three delicious cookies with me which I savoured along the way.  After all our conversations about fears of bears and hardships along the trail he gave me a white opal wrapped in a paper towel for good luck.  I was happy we met.  It gave me a sense of comfort.