Having a good outdoor partner is a very critical part of our experiences
afield. With the right partner, you can almost enjoy a great conversation,
without saying a word. We remember the trip not by the game or fish
taken, but by the company we shared the experience with. However,
sometimes you are not able to pick your partners. This is one such
My best friend Mike and I, had arranged a two-week horseback trip
into the high country. We knew that when we arrived, there would
be another hunter joining us, as the guide takes three people per
trip. We met the other hunter, L. We talked until early morning
and finally hit the hay.
The excitement and anticipation of the upcoming trip wasn't a recipe
for a good rest, and morning dawned much too early. The smell of
coffee and bacon brought about a remarkable change of enthusiasm
and attitude. After a good breakfast, we were in the saddle for
a 12-hour ride. It was autumn prime time. The hillsides were a paintbox
of color. Bull elk were bugling everywhere and kept us awake at
night, before the sandman took over. We awoke each morning with
an encore of the elk chorus. Game was plentiful, food was superb,
as all food is in the high country, the horses behaved and the weather
couldn't have been better.
The guide had over 30 years experience in this area, and he was
uncanny with his knowledge of the territory and game movement. However,
L would question each decision. After a week of this it started
to wear a little thin. We showed admirable restraint and continued
to listen to the stories and exploits of L. The guide exhibited
the usual cowboy, man of few words, calmness and politeness throughout
the whole ordeal, and seemed completely unfazed by L.
L and the Porcupine
The guide was in the lead followed by the rest of the 15-horse
pack train when things slowed down. Thinking game was ahead, we
strained forward in the saddle to see what was up. Ahead of us,
a porcupine waddled down the trail. The guide turned around to L
and asked "L, would you like a few porcupine quills for your
kids to take to school for show and tell?"
L replied "Sure."
The guide dismounted, walked back and removed L's jean jacket strung
behind the saddle. Catching up to the porcupine, the guide blanketed
that willing porky until L's jacket was barely recognizable. With
no trace of expression he walked back to L, handed him his jacket,
mounted his horse and rode off down the trail.
L sat dumbfounded, gingerly holding his 1000 plus quill, show and
tell gift. Trying to control ourselves led to a string of spurts
and sputters until the pressure cooker just had to burst. Fall off
the saddle laughing we rolled around on the ground holding our sides.
Through the tears in our eyes we could barely make out L still staring
at the jacket. It took 15 minutes to regain our composure and change
our shorts. L removed porky quills for the rest of the day. I still
cannot see a porcupine without thinking of L.
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| L and
L had arrived at camp with a 'comanchero' style of hat, the type
with large silver conchos around the crown. Bringing up the rear
of the pack train I noticed the constant flashes off the silver
from L's hat. We told L that his hat was like wearing signaling
mirrors to all the game in the country. L said it was his lucky
hat and had not affected his success in the past. Along the trail
L picked up every eagle and other large feathers that he could find
and stuck them in the hat. He found a lot of feathers. Soon the
hat resembled a crazed eagle carrying a six-pack perched on L's
About the tenth day, the horses encountered a very bad piece of
muskeg. It took a couple of hours to work the pack through. L decided
to ride his horse through this piece of bog. The horse made a valiant
effort and flailed, lunged and lurched its way forward. About two
thirds of the way through the bog, a violent lunge dislodged L's
hat and the next lunge drove that hat about six feet under. R.I.P.
The only way that hat would be recovered was with the aid of a backhoe.
Through the tears in our eyes we watched L dig for perhaps 15 minutes
but the horse had done a good job of planting that hat.
L and the Socks
On the trip out, we had a major river crossing. The guide had used
this ford in past years, and it was a relatively safe one. The guide
was part way across, when he started to have trouble, and was soon
swept downstream. The rest of the pack train, so used to following
the lead animal, surged ahead, and soon most of the horses were
swept away. About 100 plus meters down the horses found their footing
and climbed out on the far bank. Nothing was lost, but it was a
wet miserable ride down to a guide cabin. The cabin was small, and
rapidly became much smaller, when the garage sale of clothes, sleeping
bags, food and gear were spread out for drying. L had taken few
clothes on the trip and only one pair of socks, and now finally
had to remove his socks to dry them. The roaring fire soon felt
like a sauna, what with all the moisture and drying clothes, but
now a particularly vile smell was permeating the small cabin.
Was there something we hadn't noticed in the stove before we built
the fire? The smell was getting stronger and someone mentioned something
about gagging a maggot. A frantic sniff search revealed the 'eau
du locker room' odor. L's socks were strung on the line immediately
above the stove. An accidental jostling and the following cremation
of the hazardous waste quickly solved the problem. The remainder
of the trip was uneventful but the trip was very memorable and some
of those incidents still give me flashbacks.
The bird of fortune / misfortune depends on what side of the fence
you are sitting on and perhaps good luck / bad luck does come in
More of Bob's photos on the Photo