By Arlene Blevans
Sent to us by Sally Gillette
Bob and I had completed our plans to get a real early start Saturday, October seventeenth, drive to Imnaha, from there we would go up Deer Creek where we would pick apples, and from there up Big Sheep. We were to meet Wayne in the evening at the Wilson Wilde bridge. He was t leave his car here, returning home with us. The next morning someone would drive them out t the break of Big Sheep, returning to town while Bob and Wayne hunted down into Big Sheep returning home in his car.
We had planned on going up Big Sheep in time for Bob to get in some hunting before Wayne came which would be rather early as he had to be at the theater at 6:45 to run the projector.
Saturday morning a series of frustrating incidents kept us fogbound until eleven thirty, when w made our get-away with old station wagon loaded with apple boxes, lunch box, guns an ammunition. Also skinning knife and my dog.
However, we neglected to put in blankets. I did have one very small, very thin cushion to sit on.
This oversight was regretted before the night was over. Fortunately our food supply was adequate.
We were blessed by a fine example of “October bright blue weather”. The air was washed clean with recent rains, trees brilliant with unshed yellow leaves, and it was most certainly a good day to be abroad.
Little Sheep Creek is especially beautiful in the Autumn with greener(?) hillsides, sumac, foliage and berries a brilliant red and elder berries in purple profusion ripe for picking. Woodbine grow in abundance along the creek, smothering shrubs. It is in full bloom at this time of the year. We relaxed, enjoying ourselves immensely, looking for deer along the hillsides.
Operation Apples was a success, insomuch as we filled all of our containers with very nice apples. The picking of them was a different story. To begin we had to go through a corral crowded cheek to jowl with burdock weeds. To those fortunates who are unacquainted with them, I shall explain that they are a rank weed, growing waist high, which at this season are covered in globular burs consisting of a central seed pod from which radiate wiry spines tipped by a vicious hook. These are about the size and shape of marbles and at even the slightest contact come off in patches larger than your hand, adhering to your clothes, cementing the fold together in a deathlike grip. All in all, they are the most evil reaching-out-and-grabbing wee known to man, causing all livestock much inconvenience.
We pulled the worst off, climbed the coral fence and became entangled with fence-high nettles suffering nettle burns that lasted far into this most memorable night. The dog is a slick-hair, s had little trouble but Bob and I spent some time ridding ourselves and each other of them. We were some time getting the apples as the tree was old and gnarly and had never known a pruning hook. Most of the apples had to be shaken down then picked up under the low hanging branches.
But in due time we had de-burred ourselves to a certain extent, loaded our apples and were again on our merry way, happily enjoying ourselves until we had a flat tire. Bob pulled out onto smooth place, got out his tools, and plopped himself down on his back, squarely in the midst of patch of cockle burs. The way he took on, I thought at last he had been stung by a yellow jacket.
Now the cockle burr is a cousin once removed from the burdock breed. Not so vicious nor s hard to get rid of but plenty bad. I got him a seat and back ventilator contraption from the car t lie on. It is made from coiled wire and is covered with _________ or some such. I detest it an would rather sit on a waffle grid. I hoped he ’d ruin it in the mud and throw it away, but h brushed it off carefully and put it back in the car. More of this pad anon.
After fortifying ourselves with sandwiches and coffee we decided to go on up to the creek an hunt from the car. So I scanned the hillsides with my hand shading my brow, Indian-wise an Bob hunted the other side of the canyon but no deer. On fact we never saw one deer all day.
It was getting late so we decided we ’d turn around the next wide place in the road and go back t the bridge and wait for Wayne. We drove on and on and it finally dawned on us that we were out of turning places. We drove on for many miles and began to climb away from the creek. The sun was sinking and glared us right in the eye as we topped out from one draw to dip into another. have always suffered from acrophobia, which is a fancy way of saying that I am scared witless o high places. I well remember one day when we were topping the highest point of Aldrich Mountain in the Malheur Forest. I went under the dashboard and screamed like a maniac. But that is another story and one I’ d be glad to forget.
But to go back to our adventure, we were now hundreds of feet above the riverbed. Besides being acrophobic I am also one of those unhappy individuals who cannot leave the driving to the drive but must look the sun in the eye around every bend, watch the narrow road and at best look gloomily down to the stream far below wondering how many times we ’d turn over in the unhappy event that we missed the road. Which is stupid as Bob is the best driver I have eve known. Eventually we spied a rich little meadow which had all sorts of space to turn in, but ala to get there we must ford the creek which looked innocent enough, but when we were almost u the far side our hind wheels hit a chuck hole and there we were.
Bob did his best. He got out in the icy water, wetting his legs up to his knees, shoveling rock away and reaching in, getting his arms wet in a vain attempt to remove enough rocks. He eve rigged up a pry pole with a long pole, a log and a log chain. But the sad fact became very apparent that we were stuck until outside help came.
In the meanwhile the sun went down and I busied myself laying a fire, and with crossed finger pawed frantically through the jockey box hunting matches. I thought of Dad, who never le anyone leave our homestead on upper Imnaha, even on a short excursion, without asking, “Yo got matches?” You may know that before they left they had matches. I almost gave up the hunt but found a few dirty, worn matches in the far corner of the box and soon I had a roaring fire.
Time passed, and it became quite apparent that Wayne would not come until after the show.
Now for the rocks. A recent waterspout had covered the entire area with rocks of all sizes an shapes but they all had this in common – they were all sharp cornered and most miserable to walk on. However we found some nice flat ones to sit on. Not at all bad, I thought.
We sat toasting our shins, munching peanuts. Bob relaxed and sang old songs. Presently thought rigor mortis must be setting in, so I dragged my creaking bones to an upright position and staggered up the hill and back. Bob got up, taking a flashlight in one hand and in the other double-butted axe (which one of my Granddaughters described once as “that thing with two chappers on one stick”). He stumbled over the rocks downstream in search of firewood. We’ need a lot to last until two o’clock as the temperature was dropping rapidly now that the sun was down. Somehow he got the section of log he had used for the pry pole and got it set in the middle of the fire. Later we used the pole itself as “pushwood”. We had a cup of coffee. While our front were warm, our backs were freezing as we turned like a turkey on a spit to keep the heat equalized.
I became so weary that I climbed into the car, which was sitting at such a tilt that I was squeeze up in a most uncomfortable position but I slept, to awaken shortly almost frozen. Bob said m dog had stood watch all the time I was asleep, up to her knees in the icy creek, close to the car.
There had been some sort of an owl or some bird giving out most eerie sounds, alternating with sort of gurgling hideous noise. So I presume she thought that if that fool woman had no more regard for her safety than to go that far away from the fire alone, and if Bob was so ungallant a to sit on a rock toasting shins when he should be en garde with his rifle at the ready, that it was up to her to see that nothing came near me, especially that horrible sounding creature. When I go up she went grumpily down to a bed she ’d dug in the only bare bit of ground available, an stayed there until we left. And so the night wore on.
Constellation Cassiopeia appeared. The big dipper rose over the hill. The moon came up, casting an unearthly light on the mountains. The wind soughed through the mountain tops. The owl serenaded us. The streams gurgled and splashed. Little animals skittered around in the underbrush with the firelight reflected in their eyes. Eventually Venus, currently the morning star put in an appearance, brighter and larger, more beautiful and closer to the earth than we had eve seen. Playful gusts of wind came frisking around the fire, freezing our backs and blowing smoke in our eyes. Our coffee gave out. Bob laid down with his head on a rock, a block of wood at hi back and his feet to the fire. I dug out all moveable rocks, got my pillow wadded up for a buffer between my head and the rock. I found a coat of Bob’s in the car. I put the hated seat cover over the rocks, thinking it might improve matters. It only aggravated the situation, but I was too tire to remove it. Finally in sheer exhaustion we slept.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, as Dwight would say, Wayne was building up a tale of woe transcending our own. Coming down Creighton Lane at a great clip in order to make a fast get-away to meet us in time to get back to operate the projector, a front wheel threw a tire ruining tire and tube. Also the drum was badly damaged. It could be fixed with a lug wrench. the brake fluid was all lost, too. Wayne stood by his bushed car waving cars down. Or trying to. Five passed without slowing . The sixth stopped but had no lug wrench. Mike Brennan was next.
He stopped and fortunately had a lug wrench. He helped and soon they had car going, sans brake By the time he got to the bridge where we were to meet, he had hoped to leave his car, going i with us and bringing brake fluid out the next day. He had just one hour and two minutes before the show started. He made it with two minutes to spare, taking his life in his hands by driving almost 90 miles an hour. He didn’t start back, still brakeless, until one o’clock. About three thirty with a furious grinding of reverse gears, he came down the last sharp pitch, stopping just short o the creek. We came to with difficulty. I was so stiff I could hardly walk.
Wayne had some difficulty turning his car around but after he got headed the right way he snake us out with little difficulty. He parked his car on a hillside, then took the wheel of our car, backed it sharply up the hill, made a flying tackle at the road as he came down which was successful an we were on the way home, praising the Lord for our deliverance.
Our trip home was uneventful save our seeing a beaver with a branch of quaking aspen in hi teeth, crossing the road in front of us. This was past three a.m. and I would have thought al beavers would be home in bed. Bob has traveled every mile of the forest roads in what was the then Wallowa Forest and I nearly all of them. We have been over hundreds of miles of the Malheur Forest, and this is the only time we ever saw a beaver at work. Once however, when w were heading home about sunset at a high elevation in the Malheur, we came upon a sizeable pool, ringed about with quaking aspen in their autumn garb. We saw two brown heads headed across the pool followed by a wake which Bob was sure were beavers.
Wayne gave up the wheel on Little Sheep and Bob drove the rest of the way in, wharfing in a our own back year at exactly 5 a.m. I dragged my weary bones out of the car, stopping briefly on my way to bed to tell Hazel what had happened. I believe I said, “stuck in a creek” and went on. She was sitting owly-eyed in state of nerves. I must have been quite a sight with my hair stringing down my face like seaweed or maybe Spanish moss, and my face white and drawn from fatigue and motion sickness due t making those dips and turns down Sheep Creek at a more rapid rate than I liked. However, she said no one had ever looked so good to her in her life.
Hazel had to be waked at 4:30 the next day, but Wayne and Bob were off at an early hour. stayed up all day after getting them off as I never could find the right time to go to bed.
Bob and Wayne went directly to the scene of disaster, replenished the brake fluid, then hiked o across the creek and around the bend and on up the end of the road. But saw no deer. The hunted down the canyon and gave up getting a deer and were heading for home when the sighted deer.
They go out of their cars and trained their scopes on the deer, spotting a two point and a four point buck. Bob took the two point and Wayne the four point. They fired simultaneously. Bo made a beautiful shot, clearly severing the neck. Wayne missed. He subsequently found that hi scope was out of kilter.
They looked the long way up the hill, almost regretting that they had made a kill. The deer ha dropped instantly and started rolling. It dropped over a high cliff, kept on rolling, stopping at the rim of another cliff about fifty feet from the car. Bob drove the station wagon to the place h thought the deer would mostly likely land. Then he climbed up and pushed it over the rim.
Wayne was standing by to intercept it if it rolled across the road, where it would have rolled hundreds of feet in toward the creek. But it landed squarely above the station wagon. His horn were broken with his falls.
This would be a pleasant place to stop this story, but I must add that Bob and I were both ill for week with bad colds, which we laid to the night on the rocks.
However, we have recovered and I am able to remember with much pleasure the beautiful autumn day, the starry heavens, the grand camp fire, the crystal pure cold water from the clear creek, the fresh clean invigorating air and the pleasant fellowship by the fire.
And I shall long remember the unhurried beaver as he made us wait while he calmly paddle across the road in front of us in his appointed rounds. One regret I have; we heard no coyote wailing. They tell me they have been completely exterminated from this county, which makes m sad.
But we are safely home and all is well.