Tag Archives: Wyoming

I Can Tell A Tree Branch From A Deer For Chrissakes! – The Rest.

I touched my Dad on the shoulder and he swung around.  “You hear that?” I whispered.  You always have to whisper.  Deer can’t hear humans whispering.

“Hear what?” He said.  His response wasn’t a whisper.

“Those twigs snapping and that clumping sound, it was definitely a deer. Something back by those trees over there.  Yeah, look I see it?”  I was still whispering.

He followed my extended arm.  “I don’t see anything. Where?”

“Right there. See?”  I pointed again, starting to get a little agitated.
The shape of a magnificent buck, the one from “Bambi”, was standing just out of the tree line.  He was standing proudly, just visible through the fog, his nostrils flaring, sniffing for the telltale signs of humans with guns.

See that buck in the background? That's what I'm talking about. I saw it.

“Do you see ‘em, Dad?  He’s gotta be an eight-pointer! Six-pointer at least.” I whispered again, but a little louder due to my excitement at spotting the animal in the distance.  It’s hard to whisper when you’re excited.

 A six-point buck, for those uninitiated, is a good-sized male deer with three brow tines on each antler. One who has made it through a few hunting seasons in order to grow antlers that size.  An eight-pointer, even bigger, and older.

“I don’t see a damn thing. Are you sure?”  He still wasn’t whispering.
Well, I didn’t think I was hallucinating this buck, but I might have been. In preparation for my shot, I lifted the rifle to my shoulder and looked through the scope.  The buck was there, lined up in the cross hairs.

“Whoa,” my Dad finally whispered, stating toward me.  “Are you sure it’s a deer?”

I shook my head in affirmation and sighted the buck again. He had turned his head to the right and I brought the sight lines just below the base of his skull.  I was certain he was looking right at me.  You know how when you look at someone through binoculars and you swear they looked right at you but they couldn’t possibly have seen you with the naked eye?  The buck didn’t budge.  He probably figured out what he had walked into by that time and didn’t figure there was much he could do about it but hope I missed.

My Dad was watching me carefully.  “Go ahead,” he said, “if you’re sure.  Don’t jerk it.”

I slowly squeezed the trigger. You have to squeeze the trigger or the rife will jerk up and you’ll miss. The still, morning air, was shredded by the sound of an explosion.  The rifle slammed into my shoulder so hard I had to choke back a cry.  You don’t cry on hunting trips.

When the last echo of the rifle shot subsided I looked to where the buck had been standing.  I didn’t see anything.  No deer body writhing in pain on the ground by the tree.  No deer blood.  No deer brains splattered on the tree trunk, nothing.  I was secretly glad.  Almost within the same instant of squeezing the trigger, I wondered how I would have felt had I killed the animal.

“Well, let’s go have a look,” my Dad said.

He found the bullet lodged in the tree about three feet higher than the head of an average buck.  At least I had hit the tree.  Not bad, I figured from that distance.

“Missed him, I think,” he said.

“Scope must be off,” I said.  It was the only possible explanation you see.

He checked the area around the tree explaining that he was looking for any signs that I might have wounded the animal.  You didn’t let any animal go off and die if you were the one responsible for shooting it.  You had to track it until you finished the deed.  That was humane.

My Dad reached up and broke off a “six-point” branch off the tree.  It looked remarkably like a deer antler.

“Think this is your buck?” he asked.

“No.” I said it with some manner of indignation.  “I can tell a tree branch from a deer for chrissakes.”

“Watch it son,” he warned.  “Okay, let’s work this area a little, but if you missed him we probably won’t see anything around here for hours now with all the racket”.

He was a little upset with me for ruining his chances of getting a deer on that particular morning.  If you shoot, you don’t miss, I guess.  And if you don’t miss there’s no need to carry all that extra ammunition either.  After all, he never saw the buck.  If he had, I would never have been allowed to take that shot.  He would have been all over it for a trophy with them kind of braggin’ rights.

“My feet are freezing,”  I whined, wishing he would call the whole thing off and we could just go home.

He reached into an inside vest pocket and pulled out a fifth of whiskey and screwed off the cap.

“Try this,” he said, and handed me the bottle.

“I grabbed it and gulped down a big swig of the golden brown liquid, just like I’d seen him do many times.  My stomach instantly burst into flames.

“Take another,”  he said with a small smile curling his lips.

“No thanks, I’m good,” I choked out.  “I feel better now.”  I added that last part so that he wouldn’t think that I wasn’t tough enough to take it. My feet were still cold and my stomach was smoldering.  I felt a little like throwing up.

My Dad took an ample swallow from the bottle then slid it back into his pocket.  He took a cigarette from the pack in his vest, and tapped the filter end on the side of the box a couple times, and put it in the corner of his mouth.  He cupped a lighted match in his hands and the cigarette glowed red. He crushed the match out on the ground by twisting the toe of his boot so the match was safely out and buried under the soil.  He dragged heavily on the cigarette and exhaled smoke mixed with his breath into the cold air.  Standing there in his gray felt cowboy hat with the cigarette hanging from his lips, I couldn’t help but think that he looked like he belonged there, a true Wyoming hunter, even though he had been born and raised in Long Island, New York.

I, on the other hand, knew with some degree of certainty that I belonged back home in bed.

“Better get on after that buck,” he said.

We never saw another thing all day. The fog lifted, after the sun got higher in the sky, and I still have my feet.

I let my Dad read this story once, years later, and he returned it to me saying “I’m sorry you had such a bad childhood.”

I asked him how the hell he got that from this story.

“I’m just sorry,” he said.

I think he was just sorry I hadn’t gotten that buck.


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I Can Tell A Tree Branch From A Deer For Chrissakes!

My last two posts have been a little, well, like ranting, so I thought I would switch up a bit, and run a story that I wrote a long time ago about my Dad and our deer hunting trip.  I thought of my Dad, and this story, yesterday as I listened to a friend who had lost his father to pancreatic cancer a few days before.  But what I really want to know is your impression of what the story is trying to say.  You’ll see at the end what my father thought.  I think he was way off base…

The fog was thick and heavy in the valley.  We could see maybe 50 yards at best and it showed no signs of lifting.  It seemed to be getting thicker as we walked.  It was 5:30 in the morning, late October, and cold, to me, really cold.  I was standing there worrying about how long I would still be able to feel my feet, wishing with all my fifteen-year-old heart that I was still in bed.
Still I was forcing myself to listen for any movement, any sound. A twig snapping or leaves crunching under an animal’s hooves that would spring me into action.  I was ready.  All I could hear was the soft rustling of the Aspen trees.

“Not going to see much in this soup,” my Dad said, breaking the icy silence.

He had been planning this father-son excursion for many weeks and the weather was not making him happy.  He usually walked in front of me, so I rarely heard what he said.  He would occasionally turn back towards me when he said something so I wouldn’t have to answer the standard, “yeah, I guess.”  This particular time he turned around and looked at me, maybe just to make sure he could still see me in the fog.

Valley fog, as this is called, is a result of heavier cold air settling into a valley, with warmer air passing over the mountains above.  Fog like this can stay for several days depending on the conditions, so it wasn’t like the sun was going to automatically “burn” this off, but my Dad said it anyway.

“It’ll burn off when the sun gets up and we warm up some,” he said.

It wasn’t my first hunt, although this was the first time out that I could remember where it was just me and my Dad.  I was gingerly carrying a thirty aught six pointed correctly toward the ground in front of me, the way my father had taught me.  I always thought you walked with the gun slung over your shoulder, I mean it does have a “shoulder” strap, but my Dad insisted the safest way to carry a loaded rifle was by holding it under the stock and point it toward the ground.  Personally, I thought it might improve the chances of shooting one of our feet off, but I didn’t argue.  My Dad obviously knew.  He had made many “safe” trips into the mountains foraging for food.

I had no desire to be a hunter, never have.  I still don’t like the taste of wild game.  I understand the logic of hunting seasons.  Without this human intrusion into the wild to cut down the populations of deer and elk, the limited food supplies in the winter would not be enough to sustain the growing herds. Killing actually guarantees survival of the majority.  It’s simple management of a natural resource—and commonly referred to as “sport” in northern Wyoming.

Every Fall, thousands of gun-totting, Jim Beam-swilling, Coors (pronounced Curs)-drinking marksmen, true macho men, head for the foothills in search of deer, elk, bear, rabbit, pheasant, duck and other assorted “natural” food sources.  They get drunk, lost, cold and sometimes shot at.  They walk for miles chasing and circling an animal that’s often been through this before and somehow knows the game.  I figured the deer could spot us pretty good too since we were all wearing bright orange vests or hats, the purpose of which was to reduce the possibility of other hunters shooting us, since, of course, deer don’t wear vests or hats.  I didn’t learn until later that deer only see in black and white, so bright colors don’t matter much if you’re trying to hide from a deer, only if you’re trying to be seen by other hunters.

If you manage to “bag” one of these animals, it must, of course, be gutted. This is a totally disgusting exercise for most of us I would think.  I know it was for me.  I could barely stand to gut fish.  This “gutting” is done out in the wild which, two-fold, serves as a food source for scavengers, and lowers the weight of the carcass making it easier to haul out of the forest.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of gutting an animal, particularly a deer, consider yourself lucky unless your future dream is to be, maybe a surgeon, and warm, steamy, sticky blood and entrails doesn’t faze you much.  I found that it generally made me throw up in my mouth.

Then you have to haul, mostly drag, the corpse through miles of freezing forest.  Up hills that didn’t look so steep going down, and thrown in the back of a pick up truck, or slung over the fender of the car in transit to its final destination: the garage.

Here the hunter’s prize is hung to “age” the meat, but it’s real purpose, I think, is to show it off to the neighbors who haven’t or didn’t get a deer this season, and to drive the neighborhood dogs into a frenzy.  I hear it a lot, but “aging” doesn’t sound like a good thing for something generally refrigerated to keep it fresh.  None of these deer carcasses, hanging around in the neighborhood garages, were in refrigerators, but I guess it was cold out most of the time.

In order to get home to the garage, you have to first pass a Forest Service check-point where a government employee, getting double-time for working on a Sunday, confirms that you have indeed killed and gutted an animal that you have a permit to kill and gut.  Not a mule, horse or cow, for example. Trust me, it happens.

There was a song out there back in the 60s, written by singer song writer, Doug McGuire, titled “Bernard the Mule”. I doubt that it was ever on the top 100, but it always made me remember those hunting trips with my father.

“Way up in Wyoming where the weather was cool, Up on the mountain stood, Bernard, the mule.”

Then in the chorus, “Oh Bernard, I’da never turned you loose. If I’da thought, Bernard, they’d mistake you for a moose.”

The song nears its end where the government employee at the check point sees that the California hunter, who has probably never seen a moose before, has done shot hisself a mule. He looks at the shoes, the brand, and the government number stamped on him, and “he smiles and says ‘Got some mighty fine meat!”

I mean the mule is already dead and slung over the fender of the truck so there isn’t much the game warden can do.  Anyway, it’s rumored to be based on a true story, and Davie Coulter whose name appears in the song as saving “Bernie’s rear from a dog-food can”, actually is/was alive and well in Wyoming somewhere.  (I’m doing this all from memory.  I know the song by heart.  I used to sing it every time I had a few drinks and wanted to humor myself more than those in attendance.   A few years ago I found a copy of the original 45 rpm record, online, and had to have it.  Yes, I have something to play it on.)

Anyway, like I said, I had no desire to be a hunter, but I was 15 and this was Wyoming.  It was necessary for the attainment of manhood.  My eyes scanned the lower tree line.  My feet were turning into solid blocks of ice and I was silently cursing myself for not putting on that fourth pair of socks.  Then I heard it, a couple of heavy thumps and the snap of a twig.  Off to the left, just back of where we had come.


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Sitting Bull Didn’t Kill General Custer

There was something very interesting in my AARP newsletter that I received yesterday.  I put off joining AARP as long as I could, just so you know.  They kept lowering the age for eligibility.  I kept denying I was reaching it.  I didn’t take advantage of senior menus, or senior discounts either.  To the point of shaving off the goatee I sported for many years because someone at the “Big Bear” restaurant decided, without asking, that I was entitled to the senior discount one evening.  A few years down the road and the goatee is back, the hair is grayer, and I demand any discount whether I think I’m entitled to it or not.  So I signed up for AARP so that I can be kept informed of other posssible discount opportunities I might not be aware of, like cruise tickets and hotels in Italy.  What I found interesting in the newsletter, the only thing really, had nothing whatever to do with discounts.

It confirmed something I already knew.  That the state of Wyoming, where I grew up, has the second fewest average number of residents per square mile of any other state or US territory.  You know how small it is?  According to 2010 US Census data, the state of Wyoming has 5.8 residents per square mile on average.  And there’s a lot of square miles in Wyoming, and a lot that don’t have anybody on them, for square mile after square mile.  Then, occasionally,  you’ll come upon a town with 33 of them.  Residents that is.

I lived in Laramie for a few years, back in the 70’s, and the University of Wyoming is located there.  There are some pretty serious football fans in Wyoming too, and the local airport would be crowded with private aircraft on game day.  The stadium would be full.  So full, that the 26,000 odd fans would become the third largest city in the state every Saturday.  It just so happened that my apartment was across the parking lot from War Memorial Stadium and I would go to the games at half-time to get in free.  They stopped checking ticket stubs back then, for whatever reason, during the halftime show.

So how does some of the rest of the West stack up with these Census numbers?  Alaska has 1.2 average residents per square mile.  Go figure.  That would make them number one.  Who the hell wants to live in Alaska anyway, except crab fishermen and oil workers?  And I’ll bet they don’t even really want to live there.

Montana has 6.8 residents per square mile.  Montana is where the famous “Battle of the Little Bighorn” took place.  Just outside of Hardin, Montana.  Hardin has a population of 3,532.  Some of the “average” residents.  Anyway, there seems to be a lot of belief out there that Sitting Bull put the final bullet into General George Armstrong Custer during that battle.  A battle which took place on June 25, 1876.  Known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” the US 7th Calvary was surrounded and out-numbered by thousands of Oglala Sioux under the command of Crazy Horse.  Custer’s beloved 7th Calvary suffered a 52% casualty rate, 268 dead.  Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, was too old at the time to fight.  He was, however, the “holy man” who brought the tribes together to fight as one.  “The Little BigHorn Battlefield National Park” is worth visiting if you’re ever up in that part of the world.

“I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle.” –  Sitting Bull.

New Mexico has an average of 17 residents per square mile.  Named the “Land of Enchantment” because of its scenic beauty and a history as rich.  The oldest house in the United States is located in Santa Fé, New Mexico.  Billy the Kid is buried in Ft. Sumner, population around 1,250 give or take.  White Sands is there.  Pure white sand stretching for miles on the horizon.  The National Atomic Museum is in Albuquerque.  The first atomic bomb was built in Los Alamos, north of Santa Fé, and detonated in Alamogordo, population 35,989.  That’s just the rich history off the top of my head. 

There are 56.3 residents per square mile in Arizona.  Most of them are in Phoenix.  Arizona is just hot.  But it’s a dry heat.  I know what that means now.  One-hundred-five in Austin, Texas is not the same as 105 in Tucson, Arizona.  In Austin you can’t breathe because of the humidity, which puts the heat index at 120.  Hot. Hot. Hot.  Arizona is real nice in January.  I used to call up my friend in Indiana on New Year’s Day and tell him what I was grilling on the barbie.  We once had snow on Easter Sunday, when I lived in Tucson, though, in the 90s.

Mark Twain 1909

Nevada has 24.6 average residents per square mile.  Nevada is all about Silver and Mark Twain to me.  Mark Twain was editor of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise for a time.  There is a museum in Virginia City devoted to that period of Mr. Twain’s life when he went in search of silver in “The Silver State” with his brother.  Nevada still has working silver and gold mines,…and brothels.

I have been an “average” resident in all of those states at one time or another with the exception of Alaska.  Like I said, nice place to visit in the summer maybe, but living there would be hell.  As you can tell from the average of 22.1 in the five states I have lived, I don’t like crowds much.  Open spaces are for me.

And the state or US territory with the biggest crowd per square mile?  That’s an easy one.  Really.  Washington D.C.  There are on average 9,856.5 residents jammed into a square mile.

Now I have to get back to my AARP newsletter and see if I’m missing out on any senior discounts I can use.  WTF.

Comanchee, the sole survivor of Custer's Last Stand.



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Is There A Stranger In Your House Spying On Your Every Move?

This one sounds kind of scary, but it’s really not, unless you didn’t know that your personal computer has this capability.  It got scarier for me, though, because there are now websites inviting you to join the class action lawsuit.  “How Does It Feel To Have A Stranger In Your House Spying On Your Every Move From A Hidden Camera On Your Computer?” screams the attorney’s website.  “If you have an Aaron’s, Inc. Computer, contact us now for a free case evaluation…”

What, a hidden camera in computers rented from Aaron Rents?  Well, it seems that a Wyoming couple is suing Aaron’s, Inc. for spying on them.  Brian and Crystal Byrd, of Casper, WY, claim the company showed up at their door with a webcam image of Bryan sitting at the computer.  We don’t know what Bryan was doing other than sitting, but we can only hope for the best.  They were at the Byrd’s doorstep to repossess the computer which had, in fact, been paid off early.  It was mistakenly considered to be in default by the local Aaron’s, their first mistake.  The second one was showing them an unauthorized webcam image.

Well, first of all, the camera is not “hidden” in the computers.  Clearly every customer would know that the camera is there and can capture your image.  At least they should.  The real scary part comes with the knowledge that if they can take your picture without you knowing it, they have the ability to remotely access the computer.  Which means they can intercept and monitor everything you’re doing on that rented computer.  Things like screen shots of your bank statements.  Websites you’ve visited.  Keystrokes.  Images you’ve captured on webcams.  Think they could listen in on your video calls?  Sure.  The Byrd’s allege that Aaron, Inc. did this on a routine basis, collecting data and storing it on their servers. 

Did they do that?  I think not.  What purpose would it serve to show up at a repossession visit with a picture they took of you using the computer?  To prove you had it?  Or to prove you were stupid enough to spy on them?  It makes no sense.  Aaron, Inc., officially denies that this spy software was used by the company or put on its rental computers or used by its independently owned stores.  But how do you explain the alleged unauthorized webcam image?  You have to assume the software was at least installed on the Byrd’s computer by the local Aaron’s Rents store.  The lawsuit alleges that this was confirmed by law enforcement.  The BIG question is why?

And why would you think it stops there?  Do you think “Big Brother” can watch you?  (By the way, the technology has existed for years that allows your television to receive as well as transmit.)  If you don’t know much about the operation of a computer and it’s connectivity to the World Wide Web, then he probably is watching you, just like Aaron’s.  Minimally there should be firewall protection on your computer that prevents this type of invasion.  Your home network should be secured and password protected from unauthorized use as well.  If you don’t know what this is, find out and right now.

Do you know the amount of information that is obtained from you when you visit most websites?  Websites place cookies on your computer, a small text file with a unique ID tag, matching with an ID tag on the website server.  It stores information, like the pages you visit and how long you viewed those pages, and your IP address, and even your location, city and state.  Information you gave the site, and information they “captured” when you signed in.  

I have a website.  I can get daily stats reports.  Even this blog tracks who is reading the stories and where they are coming from.  Do you think I can remotely take your picture?  No.  But I can tell I don’t have enough readers, and you know that over 1,800 readers have “hit” the site just by looking at the counter on the page.  I know which stories they’ve hit, how they got here to read them, but I don’t know if they read them, and I don’t know if any of them are spreading the word about how great these daily doses of interesting stuff are.

I’m not a tech-weenie, but I can promise you I wouldn’t buy or rent anything that I didn’t thoroughly check out and understand how to use.  I have to believe it should have been obvious to Bryan when the picture was snapped, with my understanding how the process works.  Maybe he thought he did it?  Maybe he did and it was stored on the hard drive which Aaron’s could access.  Technically, they’re alleging that Aaron’s could have turned on the webcam and watched the house, well anything happening in front of the camera.  I don’t think they could control it remotely, at least not without making a sound.

And one of the Wyoming law firms that is representing “Brian Byrd and Crystal Byrd, et. al., v.  Aaron’s Inc, et al. (That et al. is an abbreviation in latin which means “and others” in case you didn’t know that.)  is none other than the famous law firm of Jerry Spence.  They see the money and that’s about it.  This isn’t really about protecting the public against violation of federal privacy and technology laws, but it should be.


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“Dear.” “What?”


A rabbit tried to run a suicide mission with my truck this morning on the way to work.  If I had bumper stickers on my truck, one of them would say “I Brake For Animals.”  Another one would say, “Ban Open Pit Mining, Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark,” but we won’t go there today.  I’ve already been accused by a loyal reader of being too activist lately.  Anyway, I swerved to avoid the rabbit which I estimated to be less than a year old.  He/she (didn’t have time to verify sex) put on the brakes the same as I did, and reversed field completely running back through two lanes of traffic to safety.  Luckily no other cars were coming on my right.

I swerve for animals too.  Without thinking.  Not really a good thing when there is oncoming traffic.  But I like that about myself.  That I value the life of a squirrel, or a rabbit, or a porcupine, or a dog enough to risk getting side-swiped or rear-ended in my truck with the high insurance deductible.  Cats not so much, but I still wouldn’t purposely hit one.

I’ve had no choice but to hit animals though, and I don’t stop to assess the damage, that I can remember.  I’m a hit and run.  In most cases I can’t stop because of conditions, but most of the time I’m usually just too shook up.  I wouldn’t be much help, I suspect, to the animal pancake anyway.  If the animal isn’t a pancake, it could get dangerous.  Either way, it ruins my whole day.

Couldn't help being just a little activist. Photo by Tim Patterson. Flickr.

Like the time I was driving through Denver, Colorado in the 1966 VW Bus known as “Bernie.”  I saw the person first.  Darting through traffic, cars traveling at 70  mph.  Slamming on their brakes.  I didn’t see why she was trying to get across four lanes of traffic until it was too late.  I looked to my left and saw the dog taking a whiz on the barricade just seconds before he darted back to his owner’s voice.  The first car missed him and he almost made it past Bernie before he bounced off the front bumper.

I didn’t mean to hit it, I was trying not to kill the dumb ass that stopped their car on the side of a busy interstate highway to let their dog take a leak!  My heart was pounding out of my chest.  I can feel it even now just talking about it.  I didn’t go back to check either.  I was soon bumper to bumper in five lanes of traffic and couldn’t go back even if I’d wanted to.  I stopped at the nearest rest stop outside of Denver and assessed the damage.  No dog parts, no blood, no dent in the bus.  Sure felt like I hit him.  (I had time to check the sex in this case.  He wasn’t peeing like a puppy on the center barricade.)  That happened well over 35 years ago and it still bothers me.

My favorite story about an animal in the road though, is when my wife and I were traveling on a two-lane state highway in Wyoming on our way to Flaming Gorge.  We’re tooling along pretty good in the truck camper, and my wife says, “Dear.”  I say “What”.  She says, “Dear,” a bit louder, and I say back, also a little louder, “What?”  I glanced at her and she’s not even looking at me.  She says again, almost a panic in her voice “DEER!”  Just before I screamed what back at her, the mule deer standing in the middle of the highway came into my view.  It was a “white-tail.”  I slammed on the brakes.  Remember, I brake for animals, but if you hit a deer with a truck there won’t be a lot left of either.  The truck and camper slid a few feet and came to a stop.  The deer, looked up, right at me, and slowly walked off the road.

We laughed for hours.  WTF. 

And just so you know, I didn’t cry at “Brian’s Song” the first or the last time I saw it.  And none of the witnesses know where I live now.  WTF does that have to do with anything, you ask?  Well, nothing.         


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