Br Francis Marion – First Published December 26th, 2016
A Christmas Story. Kind of. Sort of. Ok, not really….
“You should come for Christmas this year. We’re doing everything at the outlaw’s and everyone will be there. There’ll be enough food for a small army so don’t feel like you’re putting anyone out,” Buzzard’s old Dodge rolled and bobbled over a fresh cut logging/oil and gas road at about twenty clicks and hour. As we came to a muddy stretch of road he dropped her into four wheel high.
“Hold on,” he said and punched the gas. I did as I was told.
The country we were in alternated a lot between rock and bear grease. Bear grease being wet clay which has the consistency of oily boogers stacked six inches to a foot deep with this stretch being about a hundred yards in length.
Speaking of which, you know those commercials, the “Ram Tough” ones you see on the TV, where some idiot drops a ton of iron into the bed of the pickup or goes jack-assing through a big pile of water then gets out of the truck while the sun beams off chromed bumpers and fresh black paint while he throws his work gloves in the box? Yah. Those ones. They’re all bull shit. That’s right. They’re crap. After twenty five years of driving just about every make of truck through the back country of British Columbia the one thing I can say for certain is that if you HAVE to engage 4×4 to get where you’re going you probably shouldn’t be going there in the first place. The back-country is hard on equipment. The only thing in the mountains that’s actually ‘ram’ tough is, well, rams.
So ya. I held on.
I could hear the RPM’s cranking. The truck stayed more or less center of the road but I was looking uphill into a cut block with the road to my right as we traversed the hillside sorta sideways. The windshield wipers worked hard keeping up with the mud and as we approached the end of the grease the front wheels hit some ruts and straightened us out with a jolt. The wipers kept working overtime trying to knock chunks of mud the size of my fist off the windshield.
I looked at Buzzard. He looked at me.
“Christmas sounds great. What should I bring,” a big shit eating Indian grin was plastered across his face?
“Nothing. If you cook like you drive we’re all dead.”
He laughed and hung out the door of the truck with a bottle of water and started pouring it over the windshield to try and clear it and the nozzles for the windshield wiper fluid. Steam puffed out slowly from the wheel wells where water had snuck up onto the engine block. I calculated how long it would take me to walk out once we either broke something critical or blew the last spare tire already in use on the axel behind me. Assuming we didn’t bump into someone as stupid as we were the amount of time for me to make it out of there and back to somewhere or something resembling civilization was….. way too damn long. I was ready to call a retreat.
“How much further does this thing go,” I asked?
“A few more clicks. It starts gaining more elevation from here. There’s no more mud just lots of rock like the stuff that tore up the rear tire earlier. But there’s also some great cut blocks and I saw some moose from about seven hundred yards in them last weekend when I was out with the Preacher.”
“What? Seven hundred yards and you guys didn’t shoot it? The mule deer the Preacher shot two years back was at least six hundred yards, over a hill and around a corner and you couldn’t make an easy seven hundred yard shot on a moose across an open cut block? What the hell?”
Buzzard chuckled, “I thought he told us it was eight hundred yards?”
“Keeps getting further every year. Next season it will be nine hundred yards with the sun directly in his eyes,” I replied.
“Or while he was being attacked by a grizzly,” said Buzzard. We laughed some more.
“You wanna keep going,” he asked me as we rolled along?
“Sure. In for a penny in for a pound. But if we blow another tire you’re walking out and I’m curling up on the back seat for a nap. Nearest ranch is Sherry’s dad’s place about twenty clicks back. Shouldn’t take you long to get there in the dark through the mud on foot. But you’ll want to watch for that big grizzly boar working over that cow moose carcass at about ten ‘k’. He didn’t look like he was real interested in sharing.”
“He was pretty damn big. Did you see how he pulled that cow over all that deadfall straight up the hill and into the timber? Crazy,” Buzzard shook his head in amazement.
“Ya. He wasn’t very happy with us. He handled that moose like it was a rag doll. Still think that 7mm you’re packing is big enough,” I asked?
“He made me feel like my truck isn’t big enough.”
“Ya well if we blow another tire it won’t be.”
The pickup ambled slowly up the trail gaining elevation as it went. The day had been mired with bits of snow, sleet, and rain. As we continued to climb we hit a variety of weather systems and a lot of low lying cloud. The cut blocks on either side of the road were blanketed in patches of fog and mist. It was getting harder and harder to see anything. I was getting frustrated when suddenly the truck stopped.
Buzzard had his bino’s out and was glassing the cut block on the opposite side of the road.
“What do you see,” I asked?
“Cow moose at about six hundred yards I think. She’s in the back end of the cut but keeps disappearing into the cloud. Cut’s nice and flat. It’s doable if I can see her.”
Buzzard had a Treaty 8 North American Express card. I couldn’t shoot cows, only bulls ’cause I’m the wrong shade of brown. As in not quite brown enough. He, on the other hand, could shoot whatever he thought looked tasty.
“Look closer Einstein,” I replied. The cut block was flat but not accessible. Logging companies will sometimes leave a mess that is impassible. Lots of deadfalls, in some places up to your waist or chest, makes pulling a thousand pounds of moose meat out challenging. I was out for a Sunday drive not to kill myself in an attempt to pack chunks of Mrs. Bullwinkle out over six hundred yards of a tick tac toe timber for the next two days.
“Ya I guess, eh,” he replied and popped the truck back into drive.
“You upset,” I asked?
“Nope. Just want to shoot something for the freezer.”
“We got time,” I said as the truck went up again, higher and higher over the shale and gravel.
Buzzard flipped on the wipers as a fine mist started to fall, “Road evens out up here then dead ends. We’ll turn around in a bit.”
The cloud was so thick at that elevation we couldn’t see more than twenty feet off the side of the road. As the trail leveled out Buzzard started to slow the truck, “What’s up,” I asked?
“I think that’s a grouse in the middle of the road.”
As we inched forward Buzzard came to a stop. About fifteen feet off our front bumper was a good sized blue grouse. Buzzard looked at me and asked, “Did you bring a 22?”
“Nope,” we’d both left them at home. But Buzzard was desperate. There’s nothing sadder than Indian without meat in the freezer. He looked at me and said, “Stay here.”
I watched the bird, just a few yards from the front end of the truck while Buzzard quietly and slowly exited the driver side door. Blue grouse have a reputation for being kinda dumb but surely they weren’t that stupid. Right?
As the grouse strutted its stuff in front of us I could see Buzzard bend over and pick something up from the side of the road. Slowly and carefully he moved out from behind the driver side door and towards the front end of the Dodge.
The bird inched closer.
I watched Buzzard, posed like an Olympic shot putter with a rock the size of a bowling ball in his left hand, now standing right at the front of the truck. Buzz and the bird were staring at one another, their eyes locked in some sort of mystical native trance. As I thought, “Not a chance buddy boy,” Buzzard started his wind up. It was a nice put, his energy flowed properly from his knees and hips and out through his shoulders, his arms acting as an extension of his torso. The boulder formed a perfect ark, the grouse froze…..
As we ambled down the main river road I turned on Sirius to the Hair Nation station and the sound of Motley Crue began to fill the cab, “You look ridiculous with that feather in your hair by the way,” I said, with a tone of disbelief still in my voice.
“It’s my heritage,” Buzzard replied with a grin. “Besides at least I have hair.”
“And that dance you did after you launched that boulder. Was that official Indian stuff too?”
“Not official but close enough,” he said, the shit eating grin was still plastered across his face. I started to laugh again at the thought of it all when suddenly things didn’t feel quite right.
Buzzard’s smile vanished. It was another flat, “How far to Sherry’s dad’s place,” he asked?
“Not far. Less than a click.”
“Ok. We’re limping it there.”
“Well Buzzard, look on the bright side. You have a flat bird to go with your two flat tires,” I began to laugh hysterically.
“I’ll bring it for Christmas. It should be delicious, it’s already tenderized,” he finally smiled again too as we pulled the truck into the ranch.
Funny thing. That bird never ended up on the table that Christmas. I have no idea why…