I slept in the belly of the black beast, the moonlit field aglow all around—Mike slept on top of the trailer next to his blower motors, which had been loaded with a forklift and crew whose requested remuneration was a half-rack. Because the request was so little for such a large favor I urged Mike to buy a full- rack and he did. And not to worry, Mike did not know that a half-rack meant a half-case of beer either, for those readers pondering what all this means. But once the trailer was loaded electrical problems curtailed any idea of a night journey. Good news, as I had required some time to myself to deal with the problem of the old woman and her soon to be foreclosed upon home.
As I pulled my jacket snug around me, Driggs Idaho gets chilly at night, I fought fiercely the desire to withdraw my trusty MacBook Pro and begin penning this part of the tale, but something about this felt wrong—very wrong. It seemed the Road To Nowhere needed to pause for me there, in the dirt driveway of the defunct Bergmeyer furniture factory, next to the expansive field growing something. I reclined in the front passenger seat and thought about why this might be. “Simple,” I thought. “There must be at least one mourner for what had once been.” And then terrified I contemplated my reason for existence. “I write about life. I want to write about life…Have I become a eulogist? Please let not my reason for breathing be to tell the story of a dying land…” And as stated previously I drifted off with these thoughts in the belly of the black beast, ironically called a Suburban, in the driveway of a place once called industrial—now a wilderness at the edge of a field…
A few hours passed and before the sun came up I relieved myself in the field, picked up a stick, and gave the sleeping bag heap a good whack. “Get up little girl it’s time to go.”
There was a moan then some rustling. “Why are you always lashing out? It’s your own fault that you don’t have a wife and kids…”
“Maybe so,” I said getting into the beast and closing the door. “Maybe so,” I said to myself before Mike opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat.
The drive from Driggs Idaho to Missoula Montana is as beautiful as one could possibly ask for. Missoula, a scenic little wonderland, is the home of five valleys and seemingly as many rivers. The University of Montana elevates this isolated city of thirty thousand or so people above normal small town status…And thankfully it is not plagued with Hollywood’s elite coming to express their California buying power—as they have done in other parts of the state. In all, Missoula can best be described as Santa Monica Beach California, at the base of some truly beautiful mountains.
As I traversed Main Street, which in Missoula is a street named Higgins, towards a coffee house known as Break Espresso I could feel the metaphorical waters of economic disaster nipping at my ankles. The prices of everything in the large, empty, state of Montana, particularly Missoula, are stratospherically high. It is troubling to see such a nice place, with such nice people, and know that the tsunami that came ashore in California, passed through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah is on its way to the high country—there’s a lot of property for sale. And the industry of Montana is what? Timber and beef do not make for four hundred thousand dollar homes in the middle of town. So white flighters beware!
With the black beast in the shop for reshoeing, and yes I’m aware that there is no such word, and a new plug for the trailer—Mike secured us a quaint cabin on ten acres of mountainside up in one of the Valleys. I prefer the Suburban to the Motel 6 or cabin hideaway, but a hot shower and some of the world’s best hiking trails are consolation enough.
It is pertinent to mention here, that humans seeking the great outdoors are not the only creatures that appreciate the loveliness of Montana. On contraire, wolves, mountain lions, and the mighty grizzly bear all frolic in nature’s playground. In fact, on average, four people a year are mauled to death by ursus arctos horribillis (Grizzly Bears) in Montana. A male grizzly bear can easily reach a height of nine feet when it stands erect on two legs and a weight of eight hundred to a thousand pounds. The grizzly’s claws are longer than other bears, such as the black bear, and they usually swipe at humans horizontally causing painful, life ending disembowelment—in the worst instances of encounter. Because death at the claws of a grizzly bear or any other type of wild animal does not appeal to me, I chose to venture out with two highly trained dogs—again supplied by Mike. Now while the dogs would stand little chance in the event of an attack, they would supply the distraction necessary for a safe getaway—basically they’re meant to be bait.
The good news, after such and ominous foreshadowing, is that I did not come across a single grizzly bear in the thick woods of Montana my first afternoon on foot. The bad news is, I did encounter an extremely voracious mountain lion of seemingly prehistoric size. And while I’d like to report an easy escape or being saved by man’s best friend—neither transpired. And so now I must digress and state a few sad facts for those who might have some recollection of the Stan of the past. Twenty-something-year-old Stan that stood six-foot-one and carried two hundred and fifty-seven pounds of mean muscle mass capable of bench-pressing four hundred and fifty pounds and squatting a thousand no longer exists…Or more simply put, I ain’t what used to be.
Now how or why the lion missed my fearless lead dog I have no explanation for, frankly I never saw it coming, but I felt a thud that literally launched a galaxy of stars before my very eyes, which luckily cleared about halfway down the steep embankment the mountain lion and I found ourselves tumbling down—over and over we rolled…As a youth I enjoyed fighting, never lost a fight, the FBI would not think of arresting me without a S.W.A.T team and even as an out of shape middle-aged-man I fear nobody, but my maker. However, a mountain lion trying to eat me had never even entered my thoughts as a reasonable possibility, and had it, I might have had some further contemplation as to what on this earth gives me pause.
For my readers who appreciate a good MMA fight, say of the UFC variety, you haven’t seen anything, trust me, until you’ve seen someone go at it to the death with a wild animal—like a mountain lion! Forget about ground and pound, like a mongoose, a man’s only hope against such a predator is to get its back and go for a choke. I can tell you from experience, now, that they don’t choke out like a human because they have incredibly strong muscles in their necks and a nasty set of rear hind claws that they rip at your legs in an attempt to sever your femoral artery. And even when the coveted artery alludes them, they leave nice long gashed in your quads that require hundreds of stitches. Oh, they also roar terribly and try to get their jaws around your choking arm in attempt to bite it off. If, as in my case, you suffer from a ripped left pectoral major, they will sense this weakness and use their front claws to mercilessly tear at your weakened left arm.
So I stood, bleeding profusely, and looked down at the dead cat and then looked over at the barking dogs, “What the f*ck?” I said out loud. “Now you bark!” They continued barking, but my mind was already on the long walk back to the cabin. Mike, having spent most of his life in the military, would be able to stitch me up, no doctors allowed on the Road To Nowhere, I just had to hope that I didn’t bleed out before I got there. I gave Mr. Mountain Lion one last disgusted look, “Wrong hiker…C’mon dogs.”
Two Hours Later
“What happened to you?” Mike asked, looking me up and down.
I smiled. “You should see the other guy!” And then I blacked out for twenty-four hours. Sorry for missing a couple days of blogging, but I’m feeling much better now and I will be finding a nice place in Montana to rest for a few more days—maybe Flat Head Lake.
To be continued…