Slowly he eased on down the makeshift path that was not much more than a goat path on the side of the bluff and headed towards the river. It was slow going and the path he chose was very treacherous with loose rocks, an occasional mesquite tree, and some scrub brush that dotted all along the sides of the bluff. He knew if got in a hurry that Whiskey could lose her footing and they would plummet down the side to the rocks and river below. Why he chose that path, he was not really sure. Perhaps it seemed appropriate at the moment, representing the rough and rocky road of his life. Twisting and turning, never knowing what would happen next with each step he took in life. Seemingly out of control at times and as dangerous as the path that they were on.
As we got closer to the bottom, things began to flatten out some and the little goat trail became a little more manageable.
The bluff was shear for the most part and there were no switchbacks to make its way down. It was a gradual, then steep and back to gradual the whole way down. At one point, he felt Whiskeys hoof slip a bit and she squatted and sat back as she slid down the path. After a short way, she slowly straightened up some and eased down further along, still in a semi squatted position. As we got closer to the bottom, things began to flatten out some and the little goat trail became a little more manageable. They made their way to the bottom and eased out on to the little sandbar, where he slid off Whiskey and led her over to the water’s edge for a cool drink. Looking up and the massive chalk bluff that rose before then, he shook his head, “Darn girl, what was I thinking? I could have gotten us killed. Whiskey continued to drink as if she was ignoring him and his craziness at the moment. “I am sorry old girl, I won’t do that to you again. Next time we will use the real trail that leads us down here.” I am just not in my right mind today.
He walked her off to the side, removed her bridal, took the lead rope out of a saddlebag that he always carries with him, and tied her off to a tree for some shade. There was plenty of grass along the edge for her to eat and she seemed quite content with that for now. He removed his rifle and fishing rod, took her saddle and blanket off her and laid it on the ground propped up against a rock. He sat down, leaned back against the saddle, and stared into the sky at the passing clouds above the bluff. He shut his eyes for a bit and let the soothing sounds of the running water over the rock bed dance in his mind.
Hunter opened his eyes to the sound of Whiskey Snorting. He spun around to find her nose to nose with a baby river otter. They seemed to be making friends as they inspected each other and sniffed at each other like to dogs sizing each other up. He slid off his boots, socks, pants, and shirt, grabbed his fly rod, tied on his favorite fly, and headed into the water. Standing there in his boxers, the river felt cool and refreshing against his legs. He stripped out some line, a few false casts, and laid the small popper against the shaded shoreline along the side of a small log. With few twitches and pauses, the water exploded, and a bass broke the surface leaping and twisting to the sky above.
Diving and running trying to dig around any rock, branch, or log it could find but was eventually brought in and released back to the wild. After an enjoyable time of fishing, he made his way back to the bank. Slid on his pants and boots, pulled out an apple and fed it to Whiskey, as he watched the otter swim and play along the bank. He listened to the hawk shriek as it flew above the bluff while he ate and fed Whiskey another apple, soaking up the views, reflecting, thinking about the time he spent with his maw and paw along the water, and the awaking and challenges of what lay before him.
He had a heaviness in his heart but a peace knowing that his parents were looking down on him and would always be there in his heart. The adjustments would be hard and the change a challenge, but Hunter was not one to quit. He would find a way to survive and live the life that would make his parents proud.
He put the saddle and the rest of the gear on Whiskey, mounted her, took a last gaze at the water, and turned to head back up the bluff. He decided to head downstream to take a different and less difficult route back, one that he and his maw took many times. A little smile crossed his face as he rode to the top. “Whiskey, we will be ok, Just you, me, and the rest of the critters. I will take care of you and you take care of me. Next time we will explore for some arrowheads.”
He heard a voice behind him say “Do you always fish in your boxers”? Startled he spun around, and there, sitting on a rock in the water was the prettiest little blonde that he had ever seen.
To be continued…