Sunday, May 18, 2014

Power Lounging in the Garden of Eden

a short story by Burl Dunn
Copyright by Larry Burl Dunn
So I'm ready for a six-month vacation. I’m on a very special rafting trip. I won't tell you the river, but it's one of the many great rafting trips in the four Corners of the U.S. It's either in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah; my lips are sealed. People zip down the river every spring and summer, most in a raft powered by a 10 horse power motor. Many use the various outfitters and paddle themselves with a guide or go on an oar boat paddled by a guide. I’ve never done that.
My girlfriend braided our first rope from WWII parachute cord. I made an oar frame that looked a lot like Meryl Streep's in "River Wild." We have shot class 4s ... shot familiar class 3s just scouting from the river. It's been real.
We've also gone at water levels that most people find to be a drag, but when you go slow you see things, new things, things that 99.9% of people don't give a second glance. Aye, there's the rub – that second glance.
There are some spectacular washes where everyone stops to play. But I saw this really skinny wash about 10 years ago. Have you ever gone in the slot canyons like they have in Utah? Have you gone through a place so tight that you had to squeeze every ounce of breath out and then force your way through in one big push? Yeah. That's tight.
Well, I found one on this river. If the water is low you have to pull away from it to stay in the current. If the water is high you might just graze the bushes as you whisk by. If you're like me you might think, "I wonder what's back there?" Well, I know what's back there. Some birds and bees, and, soon, me. And as far as I can tell, that's it. I haven’t seen mountain sheep in this area. No bears. Probably there’s a cougar or some other cat around, but I haven't seen scat.
I pulled in one year and flopped my way through the mud until I had some rocks underfoot. Then I tore myself to hell fighting through the brush. Finally, I could shuffle along a rock wall above the bed of the wash where all the mess is. I angled up and got to the good stuff. There is an Anasazi storeroom where they could keep grain and stuff. The heat and light are moderated by the sweetest Cottonwood tree God put on this earth - bar none. I wouldn't kid you. Have you ever been under one of those Ents? They feel like an entire ecosystem; huge limbs support branches of leaves, dappled sunlight filters through them. Sweet green grass underneath. Hell, you'd think you were on a Morman Temple lawn. There is a spring there. It drips a gallon in four hours.
So I went in. I have two friends with rope skills. Billy and Josh got things rigged on the first trip and hauled in camping gear, seeds, flour, lard, baking soda, and bacon, of course. I don't feel like going into all the technical stuff with the ropes, pulleys, and anchors. I'm into the romance of the escape. Basically, we set up the off-loading gear on the first trip. We made sure no one was close behind us on the river. We landed and set up all the anchor points and then took off. On this trip we’re jumping out,  we’ll put up the rope and pulleys and unload the food. And me. My friends will make one more trip that spring to bring me grains and canned goods, and more coffee. Yeah, and a lot of good weed to tide me over until I make a crop.
Billy, Josh, and I burned one after a quick offload. Those two guys are the only two people who know I am here and they won’t tell. In the few moments of off-loading that they told me the incredible story of the river fugitive. He had robbed a bank and shot a policeman in Cortez, Colorado and had last been seen in river country. A massive search had been organized, planes, helicopters, river guide volunteers, hiking patrols – the works. They scoured the very area where I was hiding! Sure, I’d heard aircraft noise, but I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t think for one moment that it had anything to do with me. My friends opened my eyes. “Man, if they had found your place, they would have figured you were the guy. They would have shot you and ask questions later.”
My friends thought I’d made a narrow escape. I knew I was home free.

 “So,” Billy said, “Look for us on November 1st or, if the river simply can’t be done then, look for us every Saturday after that. We’ll come in the first time the river is high enough.”
I have always been accused of smoking too much weed.  I smoke until I forget what I’m doing. I look down and see the joint and go, ‘Oh, yeah.’ Then I put it away and do something. Or not. I remember lying under the Cottonwood leaves and imagining how this place looks from above. It’s desert up there. I mean dry, miserable desert. The river ecosystem is below the cliffs and the cliffs are, like, 100 yards straight up. On the off chance that someone hiked to the very edge of my little spot and looked down they would see green. The Anasazi storeroom is inset into the cliff. In fact there’s a ledge about 20 yards wide and 50 yards long where I spend a lot of time. I sleep there. I cook and eat there mostly. My stuff is tucked away there. So this spot cannot be seen from directly above. From the exact spot my desert hiker looks over the edge, my mind goes up and up. There’s just nothing but green to see. Until the leaves fall, at least. Now, being at this bend in the river means that the opposite bank is the weak spot in my defense. How weak? Well, you can’t land there, the cliff goes straight down – no beach.  If you hiked to the very edge of the cliff and looked across you’d see green – my blessed Cottonwood tree. I was safe. I’d need to do a lot of planning for fall and winter, but I wasn’t a fugitive, I didn’t have to stay there forever. Maybe I’d go when the leaves fell. Have everything stored and hidden and float out with Billy and Josh. I took one more hit and put a new jug under the drip from the spring.

I started the marijuana first. It takes so long, six months, to grow in nature. Next came kale, beets, and turnips. Then the squash and melons. I had several tomato plants from a greenhouse. Billy and Josh had rigged up a way for me to haul up river water for the garden. I did this at night. The garden took off like gangbusters. I look over the leaves daily, killing any worm or bug that seemed intent on getting a free lunch. Bats and birds ate the little bugs.
I’m leaning against my tree. A soft morning breeze pushes away any bugs. A Canyon Meadowlark is singing. Hot coffee in one hand, a fat joint in the other. Maybe I’ll stop the smoking tomorrow and start a book. Oh yeah, I think I’ll start a yoga routine every morning, straight or stoned.
I’ve got six months ahead of me, power lounging in the Garden of Eden.

To be continued…

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