Sure, the aches and pains mount as I near 69, but the more immediate perils might simply be dumb moves at home.
Today, I subjected Cowboy to near-heatstroke by walking on our exposed mesa top way too late in the afternoon; lost my cellphone, loaded against better advice with personal information; and, in the pre-dawn hours, leapt like an alarmed ophidiophobiac when I once again stepped on that low-lying, whoopee-cushion of a toy given to Cowboy by our well-meaning, 15-year-old friend, Sophia.
Cowboy seems to deploy the toy at night in high traffic areas, like the path to the bathroom. It squawks loudly when stepped on. I’m sure that none of this occurred to Sophia when she chose the gift, but Cowboy seems to know that hiking poles, handholds and scorpion-avoidance shoes all are useless defenses against sudden late night launches of his startled master by this round, buck-toothed, corduroy-covered dog thing. Actually, I once saw Cowboy himself step on it unawares and bolt. Every time I do, I imagine a circle of canine cronies applauding and doubling up with “Arf, arf, arfs,” rating my leap like judges scoring an ice skating move. I have put flashlights within reach in all rooms of the house and, if you happened to notice flashlight beams darting about our place in the middle of the night, I’m afraid you would know that dreamrancher, who would have curtains only if he could swoop around on them like Errol Flynn, was on his way to the indoor plumbing. Conversely, I don’t want to bother any neighbors with glaring indoor lights, at least after a reasonable hour.
Recently, I nicked myself with my new lightweight, battery-powered chainsaw, which I purchased to spare myself the back pain inflicted by my old, gas-powered behemoth. The new thing is so light, I dangled it like a school girl’s purse as I pranced proudly between junipers the other day, gashing myself in the lower leg with the braked but razor-sharp chain because, silly me, I was wearing shorts for the occasion and left my chainsaw chaps gathering dust in the garage with the rest of my real, pre-septuanegerian tools and sporting goods.
As for Cowboy and canine pals in general, I have come to understand at age 68 my deep-seated fear of lost dogs. I know now that the pain is the same I felt — and never recovered from — when my father left home when I was 10. Our first dog, Ralph, supposedly ran away in Clayton when I was about 8 because he had been lying on the hot floorboards of the Jeep or Plymouth, or whatever cramped jalopy it was, as we left Las Vegas, New Mexico, for tamer environs of the Midwest. Later, back in New Mexico with another version of the family, minus my father, I had to say goodbye to another Ralph — a big, goofy malamute-shepherd mix — when we had to suddenly leave a phony, debt-riddled ranch outside of Santa Fe. So, I am sorry about the hot afternoon walk, Cowboy. I remember having to carry, after an overly hot walk, one of your predecessors, poor Molly, who was so sweet, by the way, I said she was made entirely of brown sugar. That walk in August nearly did us both in, and I was in much better shape than I am now. You are hard to turn down, Cowboy, but I should know better.
All this is occurring to me, by the way, while I’m also thinking myself pretty smart for again wearing hiking boots for my walks in the rocky Placitas foothills instead of the low-cut hiking shoes that really haven’t protected me from desert gravel, excessive supination and cactus spines.
Fortunately, I am lucky. Cowboy cooled down quickly under the bed today, near the air conditioning vent, tented in like a desert sheik, once we got home. And, in the eclectic world of upper Placitas, an outfitter who lives nearby happened to be out exercising a handsome white gelding, while riding an equally good-looking buckskin, and spotted my phone lying in the duff under a juniper where I always stop to give Cowboy a drink.
I’m here to say I have been learning or re-learning most of these lessons. We are so fond of Sophia, however, that I can’t bear to get rid of the squeaky toy, and it does remind you, after all, to keep your eyes peeled indoors as well as out. My brother, Pat, used to keep a very realistic-looking coiled, rubber rattlesnake in the middle of his front room. I asked why.
“Keeps you on your toes,” he said.
The chainsaw cut on my leg has healed nicely, thank you. And I promise to wear my chaps next time. Meanwhile, I am saying nothing about the hiking boots to women friends — Lori and Susan — who easily out-walk me, without injury, wearing Tevas.
Despite taking all these lessons seriously, I just hope I haven’t found out my true calling is writing for the AARP newsletter. And Jim Belshaw, no, you cannot have my truck when my luck runs out.
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Note: For more Belshaw and the best truck-friendship line of the burgeoning summer season, see https://dreamranch.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/june-wildfires-swampcoolers-and-beans/