90 Days…And A Bit More

The last snow here in Yellowstone came on June 22nd, the summer solstice.

CB47650C-F077-48B3-8517-47E9EC463940Summer has not yet officially ended, but the first snow has come already…on September 21st.  That’s right, two days before the official end of summer.  Not even ninety days, and the snows are here again.

Yep, that’s about right for this place: three months of summer, and nine of winter.

It’s a good thing I like the cold.  Hell, it’s even better that I like hiking in the cold!  The animals are out this time of year, you see, eating like mad to get ready for winter.  The only other period that comes even close to this is the early spring, when they are again eating like mad to recover from the winter.

Two days ago I was out on a favorite trail of mine, early in the morning.  Within the first mile I saw a wolf pack stalking an elk herd, and a grizzly circling a dying bison.  Throw in the eagle I saw as well and I hit the freaking jackpot within 20 minutes of setting out!

“But why are you going up there again?!” I was asked six months ago.

Gee, I wonder…

Err…that’s why I’m staying, too.

Yep, that’s right, I gave in and signed up to stay through the winter.  Through temperatures of 20-30 degrees below zero (that’s in Fahrenheit, in Celsius it translates to … err … umm … freaking COLD).  Through 20+ feet of snow on the ground.  Through no possible road travel.  Through no one around but a few fellow lunatics…

I’m gonna love it.  But…

But…

But what about the writing?

Ahem.8B440182-2AE3-4395-B6F6-5D762FF269FE

I’m sanguine.

Ish.

Hey, my productivity can’t get any lower than the last six months…

…can it?

The good news, of course, is that I’ll be up here — still mostly out of contact and 8A5B492A-F26A-4432-B7FF-9A484642E648away from it all — as the current political climate gets nothing but nuttier as the election comes ever closer.  Like the tramp of sweet, cute little lizard, it comes ever closer…

Ahh, a special thank you to Ray Bradbury for the ultimate expression of how I feel about the coming election: something wicked this way comes, indeed!

This way comes the carnival of insults and bitterness…28C1D836-6628-469A-87BF-62D3203305B2

The carnival of partisan rancor and lies…

The carnival of knee-jerk hate and intolerance…

The carnival of everything that’s wrong with us as a nation…

Yeah, I’ll take the starving bears and wolves, thank you very much.

History For The Win

As much as I loathe the current state of US politics — and the civil war I think is currently slouching its way towards Bethlehem as a result of those politics — the political/history nerd in me gets just all sweaty and excited by the bullshit accompanying the UK’s weak, vacillating, and laughably inept “departure” from the EU…

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to get me sweaty and excited…erm…umm…

Okay, moving on now: it also does not take much to get me to gleefully go back and re-visit various events and eras in history.  The fact that for the past three years the UK has managed to make a race for 7th-grade-class-president look competent, professional and — dare I say it? — enviably grown-up has just added to the sweaty excitement of that urge.

For a nation that prides itself on never really having been torn apart by a civil war, Britain has had a remarkable number of — ahem — civil wars.  As much as I want to turn to the War of the Roses for thoughts and examples, however — or even to the “Shipwreck” between Matilda and Stephen — there just is no way I can bypass Cromwell.  C’mon, the guy overthrew the freaking King, made Parliament supreme…then overthrew the very Parliament he had put in place!

There is a reason, by the way, why folks say there is no such thing as a “new” story.  It’s all been written before.  Well, hell, today’s corollary to that introduces the fact that there is no such thing as a fictional story, either.  No matter how bad the screw up, humanity has found a way to do EVERY stupid thing you can possibly imagine!

I’m sorry, Britain…but, God, do I love this shit…

Anyway, here is Cromwell’s lesson, his last speech to Parliament before shutting it down.  This is, I should add, appropriate for Britain and Brexit, yes, but also incredibly apt for the United States of today (it is also simply one of the most wonderfully vituperative pieces of spite you will ever read):

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”

The Squirrel Who Thinks He’s A Bear

I sat outside the other night.  A plate of nuts and olives, a bit of cheese, and a nice glass of Speyside scotch…all to go with a gentle breeze and the blue, blue skies you get only up in the mountains.  Six feet away from me, laying in the tall grass that stretches away from one side of my RV site, were two big bull elk, napping and being generally lazy.

It was the kind of night you get only when you are able to live in a place like Yellowstone.  Even back in Colorado — in the “southern” Rockies — you don’t really get those evenings.  And for those who just visit Yellowstone?  The pace to take advantage of the few days most visitors have in the park is simply too frenetic to allow a true slow-down, let alone a true evening just to sit back and soak it all in.

So, there I was, having the perfect evening…until my neighbor started in on me.  He started screaming at me, cussing me out in no uncertain terms, and letting me know just what he thought of my obnoxious habits.  Now, I’m a pretty big guy, and pretty fearless, so normally that kind of thing just sets me off…but not this time.  This 4A16391E-F17D-4FC6-925A-DA584E599F58particular neighbor, I should explain, weighs about 700 pounds and stands over ten feet tall.

Err…at least in his mind.

1B634BD3-C987-46FB-9C24-801F46481272In reality, he weighs about a pound, and stands about four inches tall…but you’ll never convince him of that.  In his own eyes, he’s the biggest freaking grizzly in all 2.2 million acres of the park.  I’m not joking about this — this damned squirrel is the most fearless, aggressive thing I’ve ever met.  Look, I’ve stood ten feet from a mother grizzly with a cub and been less worried about getting attacked than when this little bastard starts getting pissed at me…

And he’s found his way into my trailer.

Holy shit, this freaking super-villain of a squirrel is bringing the fight to me!

FE904BE8-E452-47A2-820B-8735A7D5C2EBI try to fight back, I really do.  I try to fight back, but I’m quickly turning into Carl Spackler.  I look up “squirrel fighting methods” and they do nothing.  I try something different, and still nothing.  So I pull out the stops and try something more serious, severe even…and Ernest Squirrelfeld just strokes his 9925265B-882E-4606-A168-FB7125BB1F0Dtiny white cat and laughs at me.  “No, Mr Human, I expect you to die!”

Harrumph.

I can hear the little bastard taunting me.  Hell, right now as I write this, he’s up on a branch just out of my reach, chittering at me like a furry little demon.

Anyone have the number for the Acme Rocket Company?A3309762-8C2E-4348-B653-E79448F4B53E

The Devil Wins…Again

82ECF84F-56DC-4496-B0D9-4185AFE10F6FThat little devil came again.  You know the one I’m talking about, the one that sits on your shoulder and convinces you to push the “sarcastic jerk” button…

…or…err…tell me that’s not just me…

Ahem.

I went to a trailhead this morning, intending to do a short (6-8 mile) hike before settling down to write for the rest of the day.  I set out, but I forgot it was Saturday.  Saturday…in July…in freaking Yellowstone.  Now, look, you all know my, umm, distaste* for crowds on the hiking trails.  It took just one look at all those cars lining the road and pullout near the trail I wanted to hike for me to shake my head, turn around, and decide a bit of off-trail travel seemed like a REALLY good idea just then.

*It’s a whole lot like my “distaste” for syphilis, as a matter of fact.

I didn’t do a whole lot of off-trail travel, I should explain.  And I certainly didn’t go into any of the deeper, more inaccessible areas that I truly love.  No, I still was focused on a short two-hour stint to stretch my legs and get my brain working.  Up and down a few hills, across a couple of seasonal streams…even a bit of tramping through an annoying bog…

012699CA-BFDF-4B16-9403-E0F559F8F579…oh, and, by the way: FUCK MOSQUITOES!  Those little bastards just powered right through the damned spray I put on before I set out.  Harrumph!!

Anyway, I didn’t have a goal for this hike.  I was just wandering aimlessly.  I did, when you get right down to it, my best impression of a normal bison: “Hmm, that looks good over there, I think I’ll just wander that way.”  “I’m bored with this side of the stream, what’s it like on the other bank?”  “I’m still hungry — and horny — so let’s try the far side of that hill.”

I crested said hill, and that’s when the little devil popped out.

Okay, so the little devil never actually goes away for me, but usually he’s quiet enough to let me be at least it a little bit civilized and polite.

This time, however, sarcastic jerk was just too tempting…

There they were, below me: a small bison herd snacking and napping at the base of the hill…and a giant tourist herd bison-spotting and selfie-ing on the road just past the poor bison.

Angel: “Be nice!  You live here, you get to see and do things they don’t.  They just don’t know any better.  Go back and around the bison — like you’re supposed to! — then you can go onto the road and teach them about the wildlife and the really good places to see them.”

Devil: “Fuck that!  Walk out right through the herd and laugh at all their expressions!”

Ummm…score one for the devil.