We saw like dogs – muted, far sighted. The valley ceased to exist in a hundred yards in every direction. The early morning blizzard hushed natures pallet and deepened the uniform hues of the desert floor all at once. We were driving in a snowglobe down a road we’d never seen before. The horizon rolled into consciousness like an old tube TV changing channels. Instead of black and white reruns or Walter Cronkite we saw a level plain of sage, bitter, and salt brush. Jackrabbits couldn’t see as far we could, their globes much smaller and easier shaken. They tested our white trucks speedy and most likely camouflaged approach with the edge of the glass, which they burst through at the last second.
We locked in with a coyote who proceeded to run like hell. He moved like a racing dog. A determined gate with a lowered head and a throttle stuck open. This is ranching country and he knows the gig as well as I do. If I had a nickel for every time I awoke to high powered gunfire directed at his kind I would be betting on Ferraris in Dubai. Maybe he was running from us, maybe he was running from what lay just beyond our vision.
As we pushed on the skeletal remains of what I took to be a lost revival tent came into view. Around it were several twenty foot tall perches and lean-tos, all shoddy built with long pine poles from far away and covered in sage brush roofs. Skeletons of mattresses and wire braces rusted against the falling snow. The whole works looked like an abandoned circus from the days of covered wagons. We were near the Hastings Cutoff, the botched and untested route that sealed the fate of the Donner Party. Maybe they had a seance here or they drank of the wrong waters. Whatever it was it made my hair stand up. I am not a superstitious man, nor am I a purveyor of ghost stories. Perhaps it was the weather and the sentiment of traveling unknown country in the confines of a snow globe, but this oddity afforded me that tickle of uncertainty that I’m sure the coyote felt as we crossed paths only minutes before. What was this place? What is this place? When I got home I searched for any possible lead to this desert monument and came up blank.
I like that all of the answers aren’t at my fingertips.
What good are hackles if you’re not gonna use them every once in awhile?