Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 10-15-12
Resourcefulness is ever present if you’re a rancher. In conversation with friend Kathy about the severe draught as well as the raging fires we’ve been experiencing led her to reminisce about the Derby fire of a couple years ago. Which is to say, the flames ate up the countryside almost to her door step. Her house and buildings did not burn, but for weeks she was without power.
No electric stove, no electric lights and possibly worst of all, no water for showering, bathing or commode. As on most ranches, one does not get rid of useful buildings no matter how outdated. (You never know … is the watchword). Therefore Kathy’s bathroom needs were served by the Chic Sales outhouse which had never been abandoned.
But what about her bathing needs? She managed water for cooking (on a wood burning cookstove or a small campstove) by having super-sized jugs of H2O trucked in. But how does one maintain daintiness of one’s person in an all-over, complete-dunking manner?
Solution: The creek. Said body of water wended its way not too far from the house. In fact to get to Kathy’s domicile via automobile one must drive over a bridge made from an old steel railroad car. To cross over can give the uncertain driver a case of the wim-wams. Directly underneath this intimidating structure, the water is Mark Twain deep.
Kathy’s ablution requirements were met nicely. Narrow steps spiraled down to the water under the bridge support. She fixed up the area with holders for soap, towels and clothing. Tennis shoes on the feet protected her tootsies from abrasive creek-bottom rocks. An added bonus: The dogs went swimming while she bathed. Although sometimes the presence of the canines led to somewhat embarrassing occasions. Should a visitor drive onto the bridge, the dogs scrambled up the bank yapping and barking, thus announcing: Miss Kathy is here, down here, right here. Come see! Which meant a mad scramble into shirt and jeans (for Kathy, not the dogs).
Still, the makeshift bathing room served the purpose in a nifty and effective fashion until the morning of the Blue Heron attack. Kathy had repaired to the outdoor washing facility armed with shampoo and conditioner intending to cleanse her tresses. She disrobed, inserted self into creek, ducked head into water, applied liberal amount of shampoo onto wet hair and swooshed it around till she wore a sudsy white cap. That was the moment the Blue Heron chose to investigate. The Heron is a largish bird, flies like a miniature SST and has a distinctive squawk. Why it wanted to fly under the bridge, it didn’t explain (possibly it was on a fishing expedition), but it zoomed under and met an apparition. A nude figure stood up to the waist in the water, arms akimbo on its sudsy head. The Heron put on the skids.
According to Kathy, the bird reversed its wing motions and flew backwards (she claimed). What she could see (she further claimed) were Heron feet retreating at rocket speed while from its throat burst a squawk that would have scared a ghoul.
Though Kathy continued using her creek-water bathing room until electricity was restored to her dwelling, she never again met a Blue Heron under the bridge. She did, however, catch a fish — by hand. ❖