he jumped him in the playground andrnFred, by a stroke of luck, managed to getrnthe advantage. He knocked the boyrnagainst a wall and began to kick him inrnthe groin and around the face. By therntime they pulled Fred off the kid was arncandidate for the hospital, and the principalrnsummoned Fred to his office. Thernprincipal was an enormous man withrnround hulking shoulders and a hugernpaunch. “Hell, Fred,” the principal said,rn”I don’t know what I’m going to dornabout you. It looks like this is a case forrnthe police. If that boy’s parents want tornpress charges, I’m afraid you’re in for a lotrnof trouble.” “He’s been laying for me forrnweeks,” Fred told him. “It wasn’t myrnfault.” “Well, why did you have to keeprnkicking him? Why couldn’t you justrnhave knocked him down?” “Mr. Johnson,”rnFred said, “you maybe have neverrnthought about it, being such a big guy.rnBut a little guy like me has to think. If Irnget in a fight with that fellow every couplernof weeks I’ll maybe win one out ofrnfive fights, if I’m lucky. A little skinnyrnguy like me has to give a big guy like thatrnsomething to remember so he won’trncome back for more.” “Well, Fred,” thernprincipal said, “it sounds to me like yournhave a point there. Now I tell you what Irnwant you to do. When I start yelling Irnwant you to shout and holler and mayberncry a little, and ask me to let up on you.rnAnd don’t you ever tell anybody whatrnwe’re going to do, OK?” Then Mr. Johnsonrntook off his belt and started to beatrnon his desk with it until, Fred said, hernthought he was going to knock it tornpieces. “That’ll teach you!” the principalrnyelled; so Fred began to holler and begrnfor mercy and shout that he was sorryrnand that he’d never get in a fight again.rnThen the principal quit beating his desk.rnHe replaced the lengthy belt about hisrngirth, and winked broadly at Fred. “Yourngo now, son,” he said. “I’ll call this boy’srnparents and tell them I’ve fixed everything,rnand you’re never going to botherrntheir kid again.” Fred was about to makernanother pot of coffee when he happenedrnto look from the window of the trailerrninto the bottom. “Good Lord” hernexclaimed. “Richard’s there already,rnwaiting for us.”rnWe ran the cable out and RichardrnLewis winched each of the three vehiclesrnfrom the mud onto firm ground whilernFred, Marcia, and I stood behind thernborrow pit and watched. “It almost looksrnlike we knew what we was doing,” Fredrnobserved. Then Richard rewound therncable on the winch and Fred took hisrnThermos from the pickup seat andrnpoured him a cup of black coffee. Marciarnwalked back to the house while thernthree of us, ignoring the snow squall, discussedrnpending business by the planningrnand zoning commissioners. Richard saidrnhe was going to inform the commissionersrnthat the folks at Twin Creek werernunanimous in favor of putting a trailerrnpark in the area. Fred replied that he wasrngoing to take a can of white paint andrnpaint the letters E L K on each of thernLewis cows, erect billboards along thernhighway (ONLY TWENTY MILES TOrnTHE GREAT ELK SHOOT . . . ONLYrnTEN MILES . . . THREE MORErnMILES), set up a ticket stand at the entrancernto the Lewis ranch, and sell huntingrnpermits to hunters from Salt LakernCity.rnWhen the snow squalls stopped thernwinds came. They howled for weeks outrnof the Southwest, pouring across thernhigh desert country and removing thernequivalent of five or six inches of rainfallrnfrom the ground, leaving it dry and hardrnas fired clay and the mountains strippedrnof snowpack. Toward the end of May Irnloaded the horses and pulled them up LarnBarge Creek to Scaler’s Cabin, a disusedrnguard station belonging to the ForestrnService. From there, riding the geldingrnand leading the mare with the packs, Irnrode up the overgrown trail into thernfreshly greened wilderness of eariy summer.rnAt Fontenelle Lakes the grasses werernpressed down, rank with the scent ofrnbedded elk. West of the lakes CommissaryrnRidge rose steeply red, unmarked byrntraces of snow. The horses breasted therntrail at a trot and I drew rein at the top ofrnthe ridge to let them blow. Eastward thernsuccession of parallel ridges rolled towardrnthe desert basin, but to the west therncountry was steeper and more rugged, arnconfusion of dark ridges pitching againstrnone another at differing angles. Thisrnside of Commissary a trough ran south tornmeet the forested headwall overlookedrnby Electric Peak, a massive head of redrnore surmounted by a fringe of pine forest.rnThe declining sun, reaching underrnthe brim of my hat, burned my rightrncheek as we rode toward the park behindrnthe headwall, and a dark cloud standingrnlike the column of the Lord above thernsouthern end of the ridge.rnWe made Red Park in half an hour. Irntied up in an edge of pine and wasrnpulling the packs from the mare whenrnthe first roll of thunder arrived. Therncloud had spread and darkened, and Irnguessed that the storm would strike hardrnto the south before moving east towardrnthe Green River. I unsaddled the geldingrnand picketed the horses on the newrngrass. The next time I heard thunder,rnthe tent was up inside the trees and thernpacks lay around it on the pine needlernground. Mammatus hung from the boilingrnclouds overhead as the rain began tornfall. I tucked the packs inside the tentrnand ran to unstake the horses, who hadrndropped their heads and turned theirrnrumps toward the wind and hail. ElectricrnPeak drew down lightning in streaksrnof fire, and bolts struck around the parkrnwith a tearing sound, followed by therncrash. I tied the horses in the trees withrnnumbed fingers, wet to the skin andrnshaking violently from a deep cold. Insidernthe tent I stripped away my soakedrnclothes and crawled naked into the sleepingrnbag. I lay in the bag for an hour whilernthe shivering subsided slowly and thernstorm rumbled away to the north, followingrnthe line of the ridge. Then I dressedrnin dry clothes and emerged from the tentrninto winter, everything white but therndark green of the pine trees and hail arnfoot deep on the ground.rnI gathered dry wood within the forestrnand built a fire. While the coffee boiledrnI repicketed the horses on the meltingrnhail, and brought the whiskey bottlernfrom the packs. Standing above the hotrnfire I drank coffee and whiskey from a tinrncup while the red wafer of sun wentrndown in Idaho, turning the mountainsrnpink with the evening light. Droplets ofrnwater from the dripping pine branchesrnfell with a hissing sound into the Pentecostalrnflames that warmed me from thernoutside while the whiskey worked within,rnand the horses pulled noisily at the newrngrass where the last of the hailstonesrnsoaked through it into the red soil beneath.rnI was dry, almost warm now, andrnin a few minutes it would be springrnagain. Taking the cup I climbed to therntop of the ridge and looked north to thernFontenelle Lakes, where the elk hadrnemerged from the timber to graze alongrnthe edge of the slough. They made arnherd of about 30 head, including severalrnnew calves and a few good bulls. Irnwatched them until the cup was empty.rnThen I walked downhill again throughrnthe trees, where a fire was already burningrnon the red wet earth.
January 1975April 21, 2022By The Archive