Saturday, April 27, 2013

He's not Gruff, He's Ram Tough!

Have I mentioned Estes Park lately? I believe I have. One of the things I find really cool about Estes Park (though I imagine the novelty has worn right off the residents) is that you can see deer and elk there. I don’t mean up in the hills outside the town. I mean in the town. Driving along the main road into town we saw a small herd by the side of the road. On someone’s lawn. Eating the bushes growing right in front of the picture window looking out from the living room. People honked their horns as they passed but the deer are so used to that their only reaction was to lift the occasional tail and fertilize the lawn.

From what I could see, those tails went up a lot. That dude may have short, gnawed-on bushes, but he is going to have the greenest lawn you ever did see!

Deer over here, elk over there, I kept half expecting Marlon Perkins to leap out of the bushes and wrestle one of the beasts to the ground in front of a camera crew.

Those of you old enough to get that one: Bravo, and thanks for reading!

Those of you to young to get that one: Ask your parents. Better yet, substitute ‘Steve Irwin’ for ‘Marlon Perkins’, and thanks for reading!

Those of you so young you don’t even get the Steve Irwin reference: Google it! Then go do your homework, or play outside… but after you finish here. And thanks for reading!

After spending some time wandering about Estes, (see previous posts “Book Store to Signing in Three Easy Steps” and “Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates”) it was time to head back down out of the mountains… and by ‘down’ I mean back to an elevation of just 6,200 feet. For those of you reading this in the Boston area or anywhere else that’s pretty close to sea level, either go outside or open a window and stick your head out and look straight up. Now pick a spot up there that’s a mile above your head. I’m not exaggerating — a mile. Got it in sight? Okay, now look about a thousand feet higher than that. That’s what I was heading down to, so I blame thin air and oxygen deprivation for what I’m about to tell you.

The road wound down the mountain, curving this way and that, with occasional widenings of the shoulder forming ‘scenic overlooks’, where people could pull their cars over to get out and take pictures of the view from more than 7,000 feet. We came around a bend at one point and saw a few cars pulled over, but the people with the cameras were all facing across the road and up the mountain rather than at the river view beneath the overlook.

“There must be some wildlife up there,” said SB as she pulled onto the shoulder.

She was right. A small herd of Bighorn Sheep were grazing their way up the steep incline, away from the road. SB got out her camera and we joined the two people on the overlook who were trying to get pictures of these animals, so reclusive when compared to the sheep and elk of Estes. One woman was actually over on their side of the road, trying to hold her camera up high enough to get a shot over the rise and through the trees, but I couldn’t tell you how much luck she was having. The herd moved a little higher up the slope… when suddenly some idiot ran across the road and started climbing. This moron was trying to get high enough on the slope to get a shot of the animals without the intervening trees, completely ignoring the fact that he was climbing up in full view of the herd, that these were wild animals without even the slight domestication of the Estes Park wildlife, and he was going up where they had a definite advantage of mobility.

Oh… did I mention that this idiot was me?


So there I was, half-way up this steep slope, squatting down behind a rock, trying to find a good angle for a photo. It was a digital camera, so I was taking shot after shot just hoping to get something that was worth all the effort. I had moved a bit sideways at one point, and now the slope below me dropped off in what amounted to a 10-foot cliff overlooking the road. I was keeping an eye on that drop-off as the herd moved a little closer. The little movie screen at the back of my mind had been looping that bit of film so many of us have seen when a hunter doused himself with doe urine figuring it would allow him to get right up to the buck. What happened instead was his wife took this sweet little video of a deer stomping her husband into the ground for a full two minutes.

Ah, yes: the real man dies but one death, while the true idiot dies millions of times on YouTube and FaceBook.

That dude had flat ground to run on, had good footing to fight and dodge on, and that deer kicked the crap out of him. I was on the side of a steep hill with a cliff below me. I had my eye on the herd buck, and as long as he kept on grazing I figured I was okay; it wasn’t like he was eying me aggressively or anything.

Suddenly, though I swear I hadn’t moved or made a sound, the herd buck’s head lifted and he stared right at me.

If I’d had a tail, it would have gone up. As it was I nearly fertilized the side of the mountain.

He stared at me as I slipped, as quietly as possible while keeping a sharp eye on him, slightly downslope and just a hair toward them, parking by one of the pine trees that grew right out of splits in the bare rock. My new position put the buck on the far side of a boulder that he could have gone over like you or I would step over the threshold into a house, and maybe 100 feet away. My plan was, should the buck come over that boulder toward me at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour, to use the tree as a shield while I screamed and cried like a baby, looking for a way to climb the thing without having my stupid ass smashed right over the cliff by about 200 lbs of raging ram.

I continued taking a few pictures as the herd worked its way up the steep incline, noticing they all meandered past on the far side of the staring buck from me. Not one of them chanced walking between us, though whether they were just being security conscious or were afraid to intersect with the intensity of the ram’s stare because, hey, who doesn’t hate the smell of burning wool, we’ll never know.

As I was wondering about that, the ram made a deft little move that included a four-footed hop, and suddenly he wasn’t behind the boulder between us. He was on top of it.

That little part of my mind that had reminded me of those videos of the hunter with the doe urine suddenly took it upon itself to wonder whether anyone down on the road had a video camera trained my way, and was curious to know the picture resolution they were using. Would it be able to record the exact moment when I wet my pants? I didn’t think I had done so yet, but I have to say I wasn’t 100% positive on that one. Would we be able to, as the sports shows say, ‘go to the tape’? Would I be in any shape to watch the tape after my visit with my new proctologist, Dr. Ram? Or would I first have to have my head pulled out from where he was going to stuff it? These were the questions running through my mind as my hands worked on automatic, taking picture after picture. The herd moved along, unhurriedly, as the biggest Billy Goat Gruff kept a wary eye on the two-legger with the camera, who was in turn looking about for a nice bridge to hide under.

I sat there as still as could be, wishing I’d had the foresight too bring a pulled pork sandwich to use as an escape route (and if you don’t get that reference, shame on you! Go back and read “Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates” for crying out loud!). Eventually the entire herd had moved higher up the mountainside, and the ram apparently grew bored with standing up on that rock posing and flexing. He clambered down the far side and began to move off with them. He did pause once, though, to look back at me one more time. “I’m going to start eating now,” that look said, “but I am well and truly aware of just where you are, so don’t get any of your bright ideas or I’ll see what kind of a hang-time I can get on the throw.”

The look I sent back only said “Yes, sir!”, but it said it a lot.

I hopped skipped and jumped back down to the road where I discovered I had managed to accumulate some really cool pictures, a neat little story, and an intense need to use the bathroom all at the same time!

Okay, that was a longer story than I’d intended, but hey, you read this far, right? Wasn’t it worth it? Just to make sure you feel that way there are some fairly cool photos posted at the bottom of this drivel. Enjoy!

Talk to you later!

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