About those high-topped Cowboy Boots…

I went to work in the Summer of ’77 between semesters on a fluke job when I ran into a guy on my hitchhiking escape from Hateful Town. It was the Jimmy Carter era of gas-lines and general hopelessness, and there were no jobs (not even mowing-lawns) for an unconnected, intermediate college Serf-in-Training, even (or especially) at the Brain-Factory of Big-Universitytown. Being without wheels because no-money, I hit the road with my thumb-out to go see a palace that a few good friends (ok, ONE guy – but he was right) said was rather special.
I made my way (slowly) Northwards and circuitously via Eureka, up the coast then inland to the NorCal Trinity Alps: destination Thompson Peak. I camped rough off the side of the road one night in the middle of an Indian Reservation, after declining a ride with a very drunken but amorous local woman. At the trail-head of Hobo Gulch I met Jim, an itinerant Econ Professor from SUNY by way of a Visiting Professorship UC Santa Barbara. He was scruffy and holding the reins of a mule when he asked me if I was headed anywhere in particular and, “Did I want to try my hand at gold-mining?” For the princely 1-tenth of 1% of the found-gold, or $10-a-day.
Apparently his team of UCSB muscle-bound Aquamen had fled the quiet, tall, Mountains to return to the rambunctious Surf-Scene, when I showed up as an answer to his prayers. He had a pile of equipment and cans of food. Corned-beef hash mainly, and the mule and a donkey needed loading, so I learned to tie a “diamond hitch” or a “trucker’s hitch” to secure the load – from a time when a wagon was a “truck” and when you didn’t have a truck you tied it on an animal. Among the equipment was also some dive-stuff, and got to learn how to use scuba gear attached to a hookah-rig. I would also learn how really goddam cold snow-melt water can be despite a wet-suit, and how to glue-up patches on an aged wet-suit that needed a few more layers of neoprene.
Up there at the camp I met Old George who had traveled on the last clipper ship to go around the Cape Horn on its way to California, and who had started an Investors Advice newsletter back before Forbes Magazine. We were there to excavate by dredge-and-sluicebox a 100-foot section of “his” river as a bit of necessary improvements to his Homestead Claim, in order for the Forestry Service to recognize another 7-year lease.
I have a book on my shelf about the early Naval demolition and exploration teams that were established in WWII to reconnoiter beaches and landing spots, they were the precursors to the UDT and later SEALS and it’s called “The Water is Never Cold”. Yeh right, they didn’t swim in Alpine lakes or lay in a freezing creek with a vacuum-cleaner type contraption, sucking-up bits of sand and gravel in the elusive hunt for Gold. We had to time our exposure or risk hypothermia. I’d spend just half-an-hour in freezing water while Jim drank beer, and then get out and stand over the camp-fire shivering for an HOUR trying to warm-up again. Gold drives men to do crazy things and ignore pain and reality and endure lots of hardships – AND it makes men deal with horses and other domesticated critters. We found a lot of tiny flakes and “colors” that were captured and collected in the shag-rung at the end of the sluice-box, but the hunt for gold was not the real purpose of our work, it was to help Old George keep his claim in the mountains he loved. Anyhow, what else was I going to do that summer…?
A month later I hitched down through So-Cal and out to Colorado, and met-up with Jim again outside Silverton on Lime Creek for a “REAL” shot at gold – and had to work with horses. Horses have individual character and personalities. His expensive big black semi-thoroughbred horse had been stabled with some ne’er-do-well’s who lived in a trailer on ranch-land, and he suspected it wasn’t the same horse that he had dropped off a few months earlier. He believed that they had sold his good horse to make some ready cash, and switched it with another of *mostly* the same color. This was before chips and implants or even tattoos and not everything seemed to match. They said it had just gotten wilder over the winter – and it was – and catching it every morning to saddle it was a chore left to me. There was a white mare also, who was fat and docile and wouldn’t do a damn thing unless she felt like it, and would often stop and move off-trail and begin to eat anything in sight. The big thoroughbred was more sure-footed and often tried to brush me out of the saddle by riding under low branches, or turn quickly on the steep hillside so I would tip-out into space. I learned how to ride that summer, and so once upon a time I spent some semi-serious time as a bit of a cowboy, and I think I’ve earned these boots.

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About NotClauswitz

The semi-sprawling adventures of a culturally hegemonic former flat-lander and anti-idiotarian individualist, fleeing the toxic cultural smug emitted by self-satisfied lotus-eating low-land Tesla-driving floppy-hat wearing lizadroid-Leftbat Califorganic eco-tofuistas ~

2 thoughts on “About those high-topped Cowboy Boots…

    • I guess I thought I needed a Declaration of Validation, because cubicle-life is so thick and confined and deadly. Plus I’ve lost almost 20lbs. so I fit into my Wranglers again.

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