Through the Fence 6-22-09
June 24, 2009
My sister’s transition to country life has been a bumpy ride. She is finally getting used to the slower pace, people’s double names and nicknames, the hard physical nature and long hours of ranch life. But she is thriving on the sunshine as well as the friendliness and trustworthiness of what she calls us “country people.” I wasn’t sure how she would adapt owing to all the years she’d spent in the city, but she is learning. Her rough-hewn boyfriend hasn’t cut her any slack, so she’s been forced to toughen up, ready or not.
Like the other day, when he was cutting a path with a bulldozer through some heavy brush. They were working on a high ledge above the river on my sister’s ranch. She was scouting the way through the timber in a Polaris Ranger, helping him navigate the extremely rocky terrain. She was slowly maneuvering the vehicle over some large protruding rocks with their two Blue Heeler dogs along for the ride. When she came to some seemingly impenetrable cover, she got out to take a closer look. She thought she’d left the motor idling in neutral gear. Suddenly, the two dogs got into a scuffle, and before my panicky sister could say “Sit, come, stay,” her fat and very pregnant dog fell off the seat and laid flat down on the accelerator. If the ATV had been in drive, it would have run her straight over. But for some reason, the vehicle was in reverse.
The vehicle lurched abruptly backwards over the rough rocks, bumps and prickly pears. It swerved crazily through the dense brush, rushing ever closer to the edge of the 75-foot cliff where the Ranger would plunge straight into the Colorado River if it couldn’t be stopped. My sister scrambled hurriedly after her vehicle, imagining in her altered mental state that she could somehow grab it and stop it if she could catch it. All the while, she was yelling, “No, no, no! Stop! Stay! Whoa!” – as if any of those commands could magically stop the runaway Ranger, or as if the dogs would know to get off the accelerator and slam on the emergency brake in the nick of time.
Almost as abruptly as the dog scuffle had started, it ended. The ATV came to rest about 50 yards from where it had taken off, teetering precariously near the edge of the bluff. My exasperated sister almost caught up to the Ranger when she slipped on a large pointed rock sticking up out of the ground. She lost her balance as she grabbed at the front bumper. She missed her grasp and fell backwards, landing squarely on her bottom in the middle of a clump of cactus.
She sat there for a few minutes in shock and pain. All her city life experiences had done absolutely nothing to prepare her for this moment. She managed to get to her feet slowly and turned around to survey her backsides. It looked like a big old denim pin cushion with hundreds of sharp cactus spines piercing right through her jeans and deep into her flesh. She knew she’d never be able to remove all of them within a reasonable amount of time. Besides, the approaching hum of the bulldozer’s engine told her that her boyfriend was getting close, and she’d better be on the job when he broke through the next clearing. So she very gingerly peeled off her jeans and climbed back into the ATV, clad only in her pink drawers, a T-shirt and some cowboy boots and continued on through the brush.
She was bruised and bleeding and still trembling from the deadly disaster she’d narrowly escaped. When her boyfriend saw the predicament she was in with her prickly jeans turned inside out on the seat beside her and the dogs all smiles in the back seat, he just shook his head. He was a little embarrassed, of course for her to be so inappropriately clad in front of all his ranch hands, but he would have been even more miffed if she’d stopped the progress they were making by trying to pull out all the cactus needles. This is one Memorial Day weekend that she will never forget. And if she does, I will be there to remind her!
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Lisa welcomes e-mail correspondence from readers, and is also available for public speaking engagements. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.