Out West '97

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Zelda, you're spoiling me

Peter Kohlsaat
Wednesday, July 30, 1997
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Gallatin River, Montana -- Zelda is so weird. She won’t sleep if there is a tarp overhead. She won’t eat her food, milk bones, peanuts, anything while the car is moving,
Fishin Fishin
or drink from her water bowl either. It can be 95 degrees in the van, she can be hyper- panting, but she won’t take a drink until the van stops and the motor is turned off. She can’t tear herself away from looking out the window. She can’t sit down while we are driving. Sleeping is totally out of the question. I can drive to Mexico. Four days of 15 hours drives. She will not sit down once. Pacing in her passenger seat. Back and forth. Out the window. In. Out. In. Feet up on the dash. Nose pressed to the windshield. Dog snot smeared all over the glass. Hanging out the window. Panting. Pacing. All day long. Looking for cows. All I have to do is say the word "cow" and she jumps out the window and starts to frantically search.

Of course, I always see the cows first, so I watch Zelda. When she first sees the cows there is an almost imperceptible moment of recognition. Her mouth parts slightly, a small gasp is heard, her ears perk, her eyes widen, she sits up a bit more alertly. Then if the cows are within hearing, she barks. Wildly. In her zeal her back feet leave the seat, almost hopping, as she says whatever she says to them. If they are startled and run, Zelda turns it up a notch. She is getting results. The closer the cows are to the van, the more zealously she verbally assaults them. When it is all over, she is much pleased with herself.

She is noticeably elated. It keeps her going. It is her reason to live. Cows. It works with horses, but it lacks the enthusiasm. Deer get a good chastising. Other dogs, but only if the car is moving. Parked; a dog on the sidewalk. Only a whine. Until the van starts up and then she sets in. What could she possibly be saying? We were camping in Mexico once and a cow wandered right up to the van. Zelda was at a total loss. She looked over at me with a look of sheer confusion. She wanted me to tell her what to do. I told her to "get it!"; chase the cow away. That’s all she needed. She did her job. The cow ambled away. Zelda would bark, turn to look at me, bark, walk after the cow, turn to look back, bark, until the cow was out of sight. She would saunter back, letting out this, self-satisfied "ppffft."

For a couple long days on the road, she’s OK, but by the third day, she starts acting abnormal. Her eyes start to get that glazed look. Her panting becomes a bit more frantic. She will leave her seat and put her nose between my knee and the dashboard. She will stay there, until I tell her to get back to her seat. She won’t want to stay there. She has reached some sort of threshold. But she won’t sit and she won’t sleep. She HAS to stand and pace. She gets manic. She won’t listen to me. I have to turn up the volume of the music. There is no solution. I can only hope that I take no trips longer than four days of 12 hours drives.

But she’s a great solo traveling companion. (With another person sitting in her seat, she can get rather annoying, barking, whining, carrying on.
Zelda guarding the fort Zelda guarding the fort
The passenger must make a choice-humbly relinquishing the seat. Or the window side of it, or putting up with the dog’s behavior.) She barks at intruders, warns of approaching people, will not let anyone near the van when she is in it alone. Eats the table scraps, veggies, bones, and all. Doesn’t complain about my choice of music, although she is much partial these days to Skeleton Key. Doesn’t dispute my choice of campsites.

Doesn’t give me that evil look when I have the occasional beer on the road. She loves to fish. Crosses the river only when I tell her to. She will "stay" until I tell her it’s OK to move. She loves the canoe, where will calmly sit or even curl up on the cold, sometimes wet, canoe bottom and go to sleep. She has never once done her doggie dos in the van, not even while locked in the van during the 18 hour ferry ride from Mazatlan to LaPaz, across the Sea of Cortez. When, upon departing the belly of the boat, I drove a short way, pulled over, let the dog out, she sniffed around a bit and calmly took care of business.

All in all, I fear Zelda has possibly set an unrealistic standard of traveling companionship, which I would, if I was a potential human companion, feel a bit uneasy about.

Fishing Report

Gallatin River, Montana, (where Portal Creek enters) --

This is why I drove across South Dakota. A cascading river the predominant sound. The smell of pine. No one around. The tarp is set up, the table, the kitchen. The Gallatin River full of trout, right out my front door. Upon my arrival it sent me an immediate invitation to start fishing. Which I accepted. Wading the slippery rocks, trying to maintain my balance in the heavy current, keeping my flies from being snatched by the trees that lined the shore was a distinct challenge and change from the Bighorn River and floating in my canoe. The water was cold and clear. Of course, like any fisherman wading a river, I wanted to be across the river, fishing on the opposite bank. It’s a greener grass-thing, but it was too treacherous. I fished for an hour. I caught no fish.

I cooked dinner early. Six. Smoked pork chops, steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, and boiled new potatoes. A nice cabernet. A cigar, sipping some Jack Daniels in my lounge chair reading The Beach, by Alex Garland. It was still light enough to read but by 8:30 I began to nod. I realized how tired I was. I’d forgotten that after the ball game in Billings, I stayed up to write about it. I emailed it from a Kinkos at 1:30 am. I spent the night in the parking lot of Rocky Mountain College on the edge of town. I got three hours of sleep. The college afforded me a glorious hot shower, which probably conned me into a feeling of peudo-wakefulness. I pulled the sleeping bag around me at 9 pm, the remaining light of the evening filling the van with soft illumination. I slept well. I had wild dreams all night long. I awoke to a very muddy river rushing by. Overnight it had rained somewhere upstream. No fishing here this morning. But there are hundreds of rivers and streams to fish in Montana. Zelda and I will just drive to the other side of the mountain until we find a river that runs clear.

Rush To Nowhere (Where Are You Safe) update:

From the border of Wyoming to Hardin, Montana I could not detect any Rush. In fact, I found an eerie lack of radio talk-shows in general. They must do their own thinking around here. But it wasn’t to be for long. Nearing Billings on Interstate 90, I began to hear the Voice of Rush. KBLG. 910 AM. News Radio 91. Then between Billings and Bozeman it faded. Once reaching Bozeman, I came upon the nation’s second-most popular radio talk-show host, Dr. Laura, broadcast on 1450 AM. This is Talk Radio’s renown one-two punch: Rush first. Doc Laura following. This leads me to believe that you are not safe from Rush in Boseman.

Bearlodge Campground, Black Hills National Forest, Wyoming

Bearlodge Campground, Black Hills National Forest, Wyoming 

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