Saturday, July 17, 2010


By © Russ Barnes.  All rights reserved: text and photos.
July 11, Friday.  We awake.  Me later.  Joe makes coffee outside.  We head out in the truck for a trail head.  We go down, down hill.  Rogue cedar trees have been bulldozed.  We go through ranch fences.  We meet cows,  Rocky.  Beautiful old live-oak trees, very few mesquite, and a few cottonwoods.  Enthusiastically, Joe gives me all the skivvy on animal tracks: deer, bobcats, feral pigs, coyote.  We see a klatch of wild turkeys, a hen and her almost grown chicks.

I get instructions on rattlesnakes.  “Walk in the sun during day.  Be careful when walking in the shade.  At night always carry a flashlight.  If you see an animal in the sunlight during summer,  it is probably rabid.  Either shoot it or back away quickly.  There is no 911 out here Russ.  Don’t die in the house.  It’s bad manners.  If you die outside the buzzards will eat you and the only thing we’ll find will be your glasses and watch.”


Joe insists on providing me with a single-barrel shotgun.  ”You are the only police force out here,” he says.  He checks me out. “Open the barrel.  See the chamber.  Load a shell. Remove the shell.  Close the chamber. Pick a target.  That’s it.  Now dry fire it.” Click. “You would have hit that target, Russ.  Now, would you like to live fire it?”  “No,” I said.  “Only if I have to.”

Joe has been a wilderness guide, an outfitter, an outdoorsman.  And if he had it to do all over again, this is what he would do for his life’s work.  His passion.  I get the feeling I’m now the beneficiary of this, I think, sacred energy.  He explains to me when he kills a deer, he cleans and processes it all himself.  He says he can take a deer apart entirely with only a penknife.  The city-slicker in me shudders.  He explains how the bullet must enter the deer to make the most tasty meat.  You can’t just shoot the deer and kill it.  You must kill it in a special way.  Then he explains all the different parts of the deer and how each one needs to be aged, seasoned, and cooked according to their properties.

We walk about 4 miles over rough terrain.  Return to the truck about 10 am.   Nice town.  I try unsuccessfully to get on the internet.  Will try again when Karen arrives on Wednesday. 


Joe leaves about mid-afternoon.  I do more settling in.  About 7 p.m,, the Ranch owner, Jacquelyn Mouton arrives with her nine-year-old daughter, Lia.  I go to the main house to visit for introductions.  Lovely person in her forties or so.  Out-going.  Generous.  Her daughter is obviously thrilled to meet a writer.  And she talks about her own writing using terms like metaphor!  At the age of nine yet.  At nine, I would have thought it was a railroad signal.  Anyway Jacquelyn offers me a huge space in the refrigerator.  We talk for about an hour and a half -- about the Episcopal School, about fundraising, conservation, education, cooking, Texas, Virginia, and New York.  She invites me on a four wheeler tour of the ranch the next morning.

Her daughter asks me pointing to her mother, “She bungie jumps.  Do you bungie jump?”  Well, I can tell I’m in Texas.  Clear contrast with one of my recent dates who requested an elevator to hike up a hill along the civilized Potomac.  I have to answer, “No, I don’t bungie jump.  But there are other risks I have been known to take.”

I retire at 11:00 p.m.  All heart palpitations have disappeared. Heart rate is 60 b.p.m.

To be continued tomorrow.
Go to sequel #1, #2, #4, #5#6, #7

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