Our Meadow

“Name at least 3 artists who sang Night Riders Lament,” my brother, yells from behind.

I struggle to hear. We’re above tree line, it’s snowing, the wind is blowing 40, and the drifting snow wipes out our horse tracks faster than I can answer the question.

It’s a game we play, he’s trying to keep my mind off the cold feet, the frozen tears and the stinging face. I know the trick well. But it works.

I start humming the song as the pack horses struggle through the snow and my ride horse tries to discern the trail.  We’re heading in to the heart of the Wind River Range to spend a week together chasing elk. We top over an 11,000 foot pass and drop down the other side. The wind is a bit calmer here, and as I pull my scarf down I know we’re 7 miles in and we have 3 to go.

A lot of planning has gone into this hunt. It has to. We’ll be camping at over 10,000 feet. Mid-October this high in the Winds the weather is always dicey. Through the years we’ve had week-long white-out blizzards, and other times when it’s 50 degrees and sunny. Traditionally though, I can guarantee it will be windy, cold and snowy. We’ve invited friends up here hunting before. Most don’t come back or aren’t invited back. It’s too much work.

Other hunting buddies think we’re crazy heading up here. They tell us there’s easier ways to harvest an elk. They’re right, and as I ride I ponder why we go to this effort to essentially punish ourselves at this snowy and windy camp every year.  So why do we do it? We don’t do it because we want or need to test ourselves and our limits. . . we’re way too old for that.  So why?

I see the rock cairn that indicates the fork in the trail. I point it out to my brother without saying a word. I’m a bit too cold to talk right now. He knows I’m saying we only have two more miles to go.

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