Three Strike Rule

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My 19 lb. kevlar canoe had been enjoying a 3,500 mile ride through both the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Badlands/Big Horn Mountain Range perched on top of my Chevrolet Tahoe and it was paddled, finally, on String Lake in the Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, WY.

After more than three weeks of watching wild sunflowers roll by, I caught a deafening tailwind in Nebraska with gusts of up to 40 mph on top of steady blowing prairie wind.   I was rolling 68 mph on a desolate highway in the middle of the great plains when a great gust caught the canoe, she flexed, and the straps blew out.  All I could do was look in my driver’s side mirror and watch her sail skyward, up and over the opposing lane.  I pulled my whole rig to an emergency stop, one quarter of a mile up the road.  (My biggest fear was that the canoe had dented the Airstream on its way to greener pastures)

Highway flashers were on, and I was out, running back to see if the canoe was in one piece.  She was laying there provocatively, splayed out among the wildflowers, on her side, and not a care in the world.  I cussed her out and hoisted her up on my shoulder to start the trek back to the truck on “The Walk of Shame” in the 97 degree Nebraska sun, counting my lucky stars.  This time I strapped her down extremely tight and added another line in a criss-cross for “insurance.”  Several cars went by, but not one car stopped to offer any help.  If I were 30 years younger and wearing a pair of daisy dukes and a wet tee shirt, I guarandamntee ya I would have had help.

Un-freaking-believeable…after merging back onto the highway, it was only ten miles before the Bitch blew off again in the God forsaken Nebraska wind.   I knew I had cinched her down tight and right.  So, in disbelief, I set the flashers again and headed back out into the scorching heat and rattlesnake grass to see if my luck held out.   There she lay, tickled pink,  three football fields back, laughing at me in the tall prairie grass.  The Whore.

I was hot and I was pissed.  I said to no one there, “Why you green Bitch…one more time, and I don’t care if you are broken or not, you are staying in the ditch.”  Because Eff-U.  It was a scorcher in the sun, I was sweaty as Hell,  and my trucker mouth was going 100 mph.

That’s when I heard a little whinny.  A horse.  It was a chestnut brown gelding with a strong Roman nose and a triple 7 brand on his left hip.  His mane was rich cocoa colored and tattered.

There was a flash of a lone star belt buckle as a cowboy I had just passed on a cattle drive dismounted.  He had a greying mustache and deep lines around his steely blue eyes.  I caught the scent of sweaty leather and rolled tobacco with each wind shift.  Without a word (cowboys don’t talk much) he picked up my canoe and started back toward the flashing lights.  I drooled along after him–and his horse!

Together, we put the boat back up top and after looking at my set up, his hands went to work on a knot that he said, “Would do the trick.”  (I think that is all he ever said)   When it was done, I walked around the truck, inspecting.  Before I could thank him proper, he had vanished.  My eyes followed a galloping dust trail in time to watch him stop, look back, and  reach up to tip the sweat stained brim on his Stetson.  That’s when it dawned on me that I had met the Marlboro Man.

Somewhere out there, under a Stevie Wonder sky, pierced by all the stars in the Milky Way, is a man who just doused his evening campfire, confident that this little lady made it home just fine.

 

 

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