Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming’

Living on a ranch when you are a preteen can be exciting some days, but most days are boring. There is plenty to do, however, most of it seems like work for a kid. Such as raking leaves from the lawn, doing dishes, playing in a corral for the millionth time. Yes, things that seem exciting at first, can take on a patina of boredom pretty quickly. Take for example, the day my brother and I were in the loft of the main barn.7630265-cartoon-red-barn It was a huge, red barn with white trim just like those pictures you see in magazines. The lower part was filled with riding tack, hay, and various currently used ranch equipment and tools. But the loft, now the loft was enormous and while it was built to hold bales of straw and alfalfa, it was actually full of antique wagons and buggies. These were all located around the outside walls of the loft, while it’s middle was clear and clutter-free. It smelled of musty leather and rusty metal.

And on this Saturday, the main doors were thrown wide so the sun streamed in with a brilliant glowing radiance. Dust particles danced in the light like fairies at a summer solstice. The peak of the interior roof was probably fifteen feet above us. Along the main central framework was a rail that ran the length of the barn and out from the open doors about six feet. On this rail was a block and tackle rig that held a thick rope. The rope and rig were used to lift the bales of hay from the ground up into the loft area for stacking, although we estimated it hadn’t been used that way in a very long time.

BnT pulleyMy brother and I were exploring the wagons when I came up with a very brilliant idea. If we tied the ends of the rope together we could create a sort of swing. And, if we took turns sitting in it, we could push each other the length of the barn and pretend we were Tarzan, swinging from vines.

“What a grand idea!” We both exclaimed.

“Let us do this thing right now!” We chattered gleefully.

The first hurdle we came upon was the rope itself. It was so thick and stiff it was difficult to tie into a knot.

The second hurdle was when we finally got the knot tied to our satisfaction, its curved swing was too high off the ground to be able to sit.

I was an industrious child, however, and wouldn’t let something like these small details deter us from having an adventure. The knot was big enough and hung just low enough you could link your fingers together over it, lift your legs and be pushed through the barn. I felt like a genius and a grand adventurer as we took turns swinging on the rope, back and forth, back and forth … back and forth.

It took no more than twenty minutes of swinging before my brother was complaining that his arms hurt, this was boring, why did he have to push me when I was so much older… blah, blah, blah.

We took a break, I looked up at the back wall of the barn, and inspiration captured me once more. Halfway up that wall was a ledge, probably no more than two feet by two feet square. A wooden ladder was bolted to the wall and it reached up to the ledge. I had no clue why it was there, but an idea had formed. An adventure awaited and I would show my brother a wonderful, thrilling experience.

I turned to him as he squatted down, picking wooden splinters from a furry piece of wood he’d found.

“Bradley P., how would you like to be the first person to fly in a barn?” I looked at him intently, gauging his excitement. So far, he wasn’t very excited. His mussy blond hair partially covered his eyes and he absently brushed it out of the way as he looked up at me.

“I guess so, Belly.” His enthusiasm was so lacking, I almost felt the air suck away and out the barn door.Tarzan-Filmation

“Bud, honest, I think we can make you fly. Just listen to me, okay?”

I proceeded to explain in detail, using my hands, voice, and lots of gestures. I pointed to the rope, to the ledge, to the open barn doors on the opposite side of the wall. Recognition and understanding began to dawn in his eyes and on his face. He stood and walked to the rope, reaching above himself and clasping his hands together. He looked at me, disappointment shadowing his face.

“I don’t think there is enough clearance for my feet. I don’t think I can hold them up for that long.”

He was probably right. I gazed back and forth between the rope and the ledge for a moment. Then the answer came like a freight train screaming along a track.

“I have an idea!”

I grabbed the rope from him and pulled it with me as I walked to the ladder and climbed up three steps. I stopped and crooked my arm through the rung and began re-tying the rope farther up itself. This was easier because there was more rope to use, but it was also harder because I had to hold myself up there and tie at the same time.

It’s amazing what a person can do when they are determined, especially a young person.

I tied it as tightly as I could and held it while my brother climbed up beside me, then past me, took the rope and continued to the ledge. I climbed down and stood at the bottom, trying to calculate in my head where my brother would most likely reach the bottom of the arc he would be making as he swung down from the ledge.

“I will run with you to the end of the barn and catch you before you go out the door, okay, Bud?”

I faintly heard a small voice say, “Okay.”

I put my hands on my hips and yelled, “Go for it, Bud!”

I waited.

And I waited.

It seemed as if my brother was going to chicken out. I started to walk toward the ladder, to help him down and that’s when it happened.

He fell off the ledge.

My heart seemed to stop and climb into my throat as I watched his tiny body hurtle down from the ledge. Here was my brother free falling through the air toward the floor of the barn.

Then I realized he hadn’t fallen, he had jumped and he was holding onto the rope.

He was doing it. He was actually flying in the barn.

I was ecstatic. My idea had worked!

My envy was overwhelming. I wished I had been brave enough to go first. Well, by gosh, I was gonna go next, that was for sure.

My brother reached the bottom of his arc and swung out and I realized a couple of things in that instant.

One, he was going a heck of a lot faster than I had figured.

Two, his feet were about two feet from the floor of the loft.

And then he swung past me. My clothes and hair fluttered at his passing.

Oh crap, I knew I would have to catch up to him and get him before he got to the door.

Oh.

Crap.

I started sprinting after him. I realized two more things as we passed the halfway mark on the barn.

One, he was going too fast for me to catch him and therefore…

Two, he was going to fly outside the barn doors.

Now, my heart raced, my lungs filled with air as I put on a burst of speed and closed the gap between us, reaching frantically for his feet.

I didn’t make it.

I slid to a stop just as he swung out into the sunshine, the block and tackle rig following it’s rail the full six feet to the end. There it stopped. It stopped quickly and completely.

My brother, however, did not stop swinging. He continued to swing out, out, and finally up and up, until he was past the horizontal mark of the rail by about three feet. Then he hung there for what seemed like eternity.

I stood helpless and gasping. My little brother had turned during the swing across the barn and was facing me now. I could see his eyes so big and huge and hazel. His mouth open in a rictus of silent scream. His knuckles white as they clenched the rope in a death grip. His pleading face saying everything he couldn’t actually say. Help me.

My stomach clenched and time seemed to stand still. I tried to think of anything and everything to save him. My mind was numb and churning. I was going to kill my brother. I had killed my brother. I was in so much trouble.

Then time started again and he started his swing back.

He was coming back!

I wasn’t going to lose my brother. I could save him.

I opened my arms and took a wide stance. I was ready to grab him as he swung inside and toward me. His legs and feet hit my belly and chest with a solid thump. The wind whooshed out of me, but I wrapped my arms tightly around him. I grimaced at the pain, however, I was determined to hold on, bracing my feet against the floor.

I slid.

And I slid and I slid. I imagined Superman braced against a runaway train, sliding against the momentum.Supermantrain

Yes, I do imagine like that.

We finally came to rest in the middle of the barn. My brother hanging from a thickly tied rope and me, hanging from his legs, both our eyes squinted shut.

I opened mine first and looked up at him. His face was squinted shut and so were his eyes. If you can ever describe a face as squinting shut, it was my brother’s. The silence was only broken by an occasional bug buzzing lazily.

I stood up and gently took hold of his pant leg.

“Hey, Bud, you can let go now. We stopped.” I shook his leg lightly to let him know it was okay. He didn’t move.

As a matter of fact, it took me at least ten minutes to get him to open his eyes. Then it took another ten to convince him to unclench his hands, drop into my arms and then slide to the ground.

We sat there on the floor of the loft, not speaking, watching the dust motes dance in the sunlight. He was massaging his hands to get the circulation back into them and I was thinking. I was thinking of all the “what ifs” that could have happened and I could have lost my brother.

But they didn’t happen.

I stood up and took out my pocket watch to look at the time. It was almost time for dinner.

“Hey, Bud, we gotta go back home. I don’t think we should tell mom about this.” I put my watch back in front pocket of my jeans and reached down to help my brother up.

“Yeah,” He said softly, “I don’t think she would understand anyway.”

We walked to the stairs and started down to the ground level. My brother was in front and he suddenly stopped and looked up at me, a question in his eyes. I raised my eyebrows.

“Do you think we could slide off the roof of this barn? I saw a stack of hay on the side when I was out at the end of the rope.” His hazel eyes looked at me with a different kind of pleading now.

“Sure, Bud, let’s take a look tomorrow. I think there’s a story about that.”

How many times have you been watching a movie and had the insane urge to scream at the screen, “Don’t open that door!  The bad guy/monster/ghost/boogie man is behind there!”  And then the blonde/brunette/redhead disposable actor does it anyway, then they get killed, and you say, “I told you so…”  We feel all superior in our knowledge that we’d never do something like that if we were ever in that situation.  I know how you feel.  I said the same thing.

Notice that I used the past tense.  I don’t say that anymore.  Let me tell you a story of why I don’t.

The year was 1980, I was 14 going on 15 and my brother and I had decided to see a Friday night movie.  The only movie playing in the small Wyoming town we lived in named Pinedale was a horror b-movie classic called “Prophecy, The Monster Movie“.  It turned out to be a bad take on what happens when there is too much mercury in the water.  A giant trout jumps out of the water of a beautiful backwoods lake, the animals all go crazy, but the worst part was the bear/pig/skinless monster thing that is a female looking to protect her family of monsters.  Talia Shire and Armand Assante don’t make it any better.  But to a fourteen year old’s limited exposure to horror, it was terrorizing.  The movie wasn’t particularly gory by today’s standards, however, I had to leave the theater and peek through the curtain to finish the movie.  It scared me more than I’d ever been scared before.  The ride home with my brother in the back of the little red Toyota pickup was cold, silent, and watchful.  We both knew at any minute that monster would come through the back window and kill us all.  Needless to say, nightmares ensued for a few days.

But that’s not the real change, no my friends, I still made the same comments as I grew older and watched more horror movies.  With false bravado I would say, “Don’t open that door!”

A couple of years passed and we’d moved from a ranch in Pinedale, Wyo. to a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo.  I had been driving for two years.  I was sixteen and as all sixteen years old who drive, I was very cocky and sure of myself.  It was a mid-winter night.  Jackson in mid-winter in 1982 was bitter cold, frosty, and deep in snow.  The snow was piled high on the banks of the road going into the ranch.  It wasn’t too late, close to midnight.  My brother and I were coming home from watching a horror movie that was even more forgettable than the one in 1980.  We were reminiscing about that time in Pinedale, when that movie had scared us so bad.  I drove down the packed snow road through the ranch in the same little red Toyota pickup.  The snow plows had piled the snow high enough on the banks that the darkness coupled with the dim head lights created a sense of driving through a tunnel.  The only true clear vision of what was ahead of me was the packed snowy road and the sides rising up like frozen stalagmites around a cave.   Dimly I saw  the outlines of forest trees passing by just past the banks.  Perhaps I was going a little too fast for the conditions, perhaps.  But, we were discussing the funny way we were so afraid back then and how we weren’t afraid of it now.  I haughtily made the comment that if I’d been the one driving the truck when the monster burst out from the brush in the dark, I would never have stopped like Talia Shire did.  No, I would have just hit the gas and run that damned monster over.  We both agreed that would be the case.

Within seconds, at the very edge of the dim headlights, a huge, dark figure burst from the side of the snowbank into the middle of the road.  It’s gigantic burly head swung in our direction and dangerously glowing red eyes gazed malevolently at us.  I saw the bear/pig skinless female monster roaring with grotesquely crooked teeth, ready to rip out our throats.

What did I do?  What would you do?  I gripped the steering wheel tightly and slammed on my brakes.  I slammed those brakes hard.  So hard that we went into a slide, slowly gliding closer to the evil monster thing.  We were helpless now, I had no control of the truck and I was going to die.  I just knew it.  I glanced at my brother.  His hands were braced against the dashboard and his eyes were bulging out in fear.  Our little red Toyota pickup slid closer.  The monster became clearer as we slid closer and came to a gentle stop probably 15 feet from it.  I had just done what I’d sworn I would never do.  I had stopped.  Now we were dead, just like in the movies.  I blinked rapidly still seeing the monster for a second raising it’s wrinkled pig/bear head to roar at us.

Then my vision cleared and I saw what was truly there.

The biggest male elk I’d ever encountered was huffing energetically in front of us.  His nostrils were blowing steam puffs into the cold.  He stood tall and broad-shouldered in front of us, regally daring us to come closer and taste the death of his antlers.  We didn’t take the bait, so he shook his massive head, turned and leaped up the other side of the snow bank back into the darkness.  The little red Toyota pickup, my brother, and I just sat there.

The silence was only broken by the warm idle of that little red Toyota pickup.  I looked at my brother, back at the empty road, then back at my brother.  He looked at me.  We burst out laughing.  Probably a little too hysterically and with huge relief.  We couldn’t help it.  We laughed for at least three minutes.  I shifted into first gear and slowly drove the mile and half home.  Neither of us said a word on that drive.  I parked in the driveway.  We both got out of the little red Toyota pickup.  We went inside and went to bed.

We didn’t talk about it again until after many years had passed.

But that’s a different story.  The point of this one is that I decided at that moment to never say “Don’t open that door..” again.  Ever.  I’d learned my lesson.  Art does have a basis in reality and horror can make you do things you wouldn’t ever think of doing if you were just watching it.  Like an outsider looking into a movie safe and warm in your chair.

Hence the basis of my novels.  What would happen if you put a normal person into a horrific situation.  Would they always do the wrong thing?  Or would they act with the same detached insight we have in our haughty chairs?

Let’s go on this path together and find out.  Will you join me?

M.