Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Desert Spirit Guide Part One

My summer home on the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge

I don't know if I was missing the Iraq desert when I was looking for a job this summer or if it was simply the only one that was available because of its location, but either way I spent my summer living and working on the southern Idaho desert for the US Fish and Wildlife service.

The Minidoka wildlife refuge covers quite a large area and I was lucky enough to see all 20,000 acres of it, including the strange bits and bobs that lay hidden there.
X marks the spot, I didn't have a shovel so I'm unsure what great treasure laid beneath

I spent my summer doing all manner of things like spraying weeds from a four-wheeler, catching and counting butterflies, walking the boundary fence with a GPS, and even wrangling Pelicans. But I think oddest day was when I found my would-be spirit guide.

It truly started out as mundane as the previous days; I loaded up the four-wheeler, drove across the boulder filled dirt road, and unloaded the four-wheeler to begin spraying the infamous Scotch Thistle.

During any typical ten hour day of spraying I could drive several hundred acres so naturally I would bring along my mp3 player to listen to some fantastic tunes or a nice audio book.

On this particular day I was making excellent time in my quest to spray the deadly Scotch Thistle whilst driving around the sparse Russian-olive trees and through the stands of Sage Brush all the while bobbing my head and shaking my booty to the excellent summer playlist I had created.

I had learned quickly that the dreaded Scotch Thistle had a knack for growing tall under the protective shade of those blasted Russian-olive trees. And with each squeeze of my spray applicator another weed would be cast down into that eternal sleep where its seeds would no longer blow.

Me with a Scotch Thistle that stood over six feet tall

I had already seen a lot of weird things this summer; rock walls going nowhere, chimneys sprouting from the desert floor, even auto parts miles from the nearest road. But this particular day would top them all.

It was four miles to the nearest road when I found this. An awful long way to carry out the trash, of course the rest of the car could be under the sand and dirt.

I drove out from under a Russian-olive when I saw several rocks. Rocks by themselves are not interesting but these rocks seemed to have been placed and not like the random rock wall. These rocks were placed in a circular fashion spiraling around and into four rocks that held the center.

It was so odd that I got off of my four-wheeler and walked to the center of the circle to take a short video of the rocks.

These rocks certainly didn’t come anywhere near the splendor and mystery of Stonehenge but my writers mind was already thinking along those lines.

What if the refuge is here to keep people away from this place?”

“What if this is an important ley line and Roosevelt needed to keep it safe for his personal power?”

“What an incredible story this could become!”

As my mind continued to spiral on its own I went to look over my stone circle again and then I saw him.

He was standing in the shade of a nearby Russian-olive and he was close. So close I could easily have struck him with a stone (and if you had ever seen me throw anything you would immediately understand just how incredibly close he was in order for me to claim such a feat).

He stood there panting looking right at me. His fur was grey white and he stood slightly taller than a coyote but smaller than most wolves I had seen. Add that to the fact that there are not supposed to be wolves in the area I wanted to call him coyote but he didn’t act or look like any coyote I had seen.

True, coyotes will stop and look at you before running off; that is, if they are at a distance. Coyotes also don’t hang around when four-wheelers are involved; they scatter fast and disappear into the sagebrush.

He was not scattering, nor running. This animal just watched me as if my presence didn’t bother him in the least, as if he had been expecting me, all the while Sia sang in my ears about how she was the wild one.

He finally turned slowly and began to walk off. At this point I thought my animal encounter was through and once again I would be relegated to weed killer but I noticed him 50 yards up a small trail looking back at me.

Perhaps I wanted to see where this animal was going. Perhaps I was simply looking for a divergence. Perhaps it was something else; something that I just knew had to be done. Whatever the reason might have been I felt the overwhelming sensation that he wanted me to follow him.

I sat back down on my four-wheeler and pushed my right thumb against the throttle and navigated up the trail...

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