Laugh Tracks in the Dust 8-1-10
August 17, 2010
I said last week that I’d finish talking about our recent little vacation to Albuquerque, N.M., to see long-time friends and their wives. Our second “mooching” stop wuz with old college buddy Potter E. Klector.
Potter is an good old farm guy who grew up on an Idaho farm near Shoshone. He made good in life and the Klectors now enjoy retirement in a new home in Placidas, N.M. From their home and yard, they enjoy an unparalleled view of Sandia Peak.
As we spent a couple days catching up on our lives and noshing on his wife’s fabulous gourmet cooking, Potter and I had a chance to relive some good times from our callow youth.
The one we probably remember best is when Potter came home with me from college and we went searching for dens of coyote pups. A boyhood friend and I knew of some rocky holes where we’d found coyote pups in previous years and decided to take Potter to revisit them.
Well … we were walking in single file along the base of a picturesque bluff near the Marmaton River. It wuz springtime and the ground wuz covered in a thick layer of the previous year’s half-rotted leaves. My boyhood friend wuz in the lead and wearing cowboy boots. I wuz in the middle wearing my traditional outdoor footwear of gum boots, and Potter wuz in the rear wearing tennis shoes.
We were walking about 5-feet apart when my friend in the lead turned over a bunch of leaves and exposed one very large and very angry copperhead snake. My friend in the lead knew nothing of what he’d turned over, but when my eyes spied the coiled up copperhead, I had about a half-second to make a decision on what to do.
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During that split second, I realized that Potter in his tennis shoes would be the snake’s prime target if I jumped out of the way, so I made an on-the-spot decision and stepped squarely right in the middle of the angry copperhead and stopped dead still and yelled for everyone else to stop, too, because I wuz standing on a copperhead.
The three of us froze and I told them the snake couldn’t bite through my rubber boots but we should all look around closely to see if the snake had a companion that might bite one of us. The quick survey found no second snake, so I asked my boyhood friend to hand me his 22-caliber rifle.
When he did, I very carefully wriggled by foot and exposed the copperhead’s poisonous head. Then I equally carefully put the barrel of the rifle on the snake’s head and dispatched it with a single shot.
After the excitement died down, ol’ Potter said he wanted to skin the snake and make a trophy out of it. After we got home, we skinned the snake and took the skin back to college with us where Potter dried the skin and mounted it on a diagonally-cut piece of black walnut covered with black velvet. I must admit that it made a very handsome wall hanging.
During our recent visit, I asked Potter what happened to the copperhead trophy and he said sometime during the flotsam and jetsam of his life, it had simply disappeared – but not from our memories.
However, Potter’s interest in wildlife has not diminished. During his life, including his retirement years, he’s become an accomplished wildlife photographer in the continental U.S., Alaska, and such exotic places as Africa, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands. He even publishes a calendar of his photos every year. Plus, he’s become something of an expert on the ancient and modern Pueblo Indians of the Southwest and collects various utensils that they used in the everyday lives and ceremonies.
All in all, we had a wonderful time reconnecting.
On our way home, ol’ Nevah and I went through Santa Fe and when we reached Wagon Mound, N.M., we decided to sidetrack east through Roy, N.M. to retrace a trip we made as newlyweds to visit friends who lived there. En route, we crossed the Canadian River in a very scenic gorge about five miles west of Roy.
Our friend who lived in Roy in the 1960s, now lives in Bridgeport, Texas, so after we drove through Roy, I called him on his cellphone to tell him I wuz traveling through his old stomping grounds.
When we got back to Kansas, I had an e-mail from my Texas friend that I want to share. It read: “Yes the drive across the Canadian River bridge is spectacular. Saturday nights, we used to park our cars on each side of the bridge, turn our radios up and dance on that bridge. Done that many times. Before my dad sold the ranch and moved to Kansas in December of 1955, we lived north of Roy about 6 miles, right on the highway there. He had 3,000 or so acres there and about 10 miles north of the bridge on the Canadian River he leased another six sections from the state. A lot of that was on the Canadian River and its rim – all pretty rough land, lots of canyons. But the beautiful thing was that lease cost him something like 2-cents an acre. The Canadian was a very treacherous river. I know of about four people from Roy who lost their lives just south of the bridge. One time my dad and horse got into quicksand and both of them ’bout didn’t make it out. I killed my first deer on the Canadian River there. I wish I was living there today. That’s home to me.”
A lot of water has gone under that bridge since those good ol’ days.
Well, I’m home in the Flint Hills again and it looks pretty good to me – even if it is too hot and too humid. I’ll close for the week with these words about the Flint Hills by ag journalist Ken Root: “The Flint Hills are unique for those who can see beyond the roadside, and realize that nature’s beauty does not have to be dazzling, but may be long and low and lasting … God made Kansas either first or last. The gentle slopes may have bored him and caused his hand to form high peaks and mighty rivers, or he may have finished the Rocky Mountains and just coasted home.”
Enjoy your own home, wherever it may be, and have a good ‘un.