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2 July 04

Lake San Cristobal, Colo.

I blew into Creede around noon yesterday, and stopped at a BBQ joint on the south of town. Had a brisket sandwich out under the trees.

Then I took a turn around town. Stopped at the Forest Service office to make sure I could have a campfire. Bought a sack of expensive groceries at the Kentucky Belle.

Just down the street I came across an outdoor wiener cafe. A roly-poly guy in an apron, who I took to be the cook/owner, was sitting at one of the tables in the back. Nearby, smoke was pouring from a pit about the size of an oil drum.

"You look like somebody who could answer a question for me."

"Depends on what it is."

"You know where I can buy some bulk firewood? I need a pickup load."

He broke into a smile. "Try the sawmill. Five miles west, left hand side."

I thanked him, but declined a polish dog. He was doing a fair business otherwise. The entire establishment consisted of a covered trailer about 8 feet long, which had a fridge and supplies and a window to push plates out of, maybe 6 or 7 picnic tables, a stack of cordwood, and a couple of cookers. I don't know what he paid for his parking spot. It was right in the middle of the foot traffic on the main drag. But other than that, he pretty much had his overhead under control.

The Rio Grande Valley west of Creede has sprouted a lot of developments and fishing camps over the last few years. Summer homes, I guess, but some of them are sizable. The sawmill was right in the middle of all that, next to the road. It looked deserted, but the gate was open. Stacks of lumber everywhere. Finally I saw a couple of dogs, and nearby an old guy slumped over in a pickup, eating his lunch. He directed me to the back, where there were 3 or 4 long windrows of cast off cuts.

I filled up the pickup as high as I could manage and still clear the fifth wheel. Looked like a month's worth of campfires, unless I got in with some drunks. The bark side of the wood was charred and burnt over, and I got a little sooty. I asked the guy about that.

"Oh, well, yeah. This come from the fire over to South Fork." He grinned at me. "Hell, it's guaranteed to burn. It's done burnt once already." I couldn't argue with that.

"How much I owe you?"

He pursed his lips and looked the load over. "Two dollars?"

I paid him. My life complete, for the moment, I set out down the valley to Lake City, in brilliant sunshine, through some of the prettiest ground in Colorado.

When I pulled up at the lake, my favorite spot was taken by a couple from Floydada, Texas, and their three kids. I took the site next to them, leveled up, grabbed a beer and some reading matter, and set my chair at the top of the bluff. Ahhhh. Peace and quiet.

"Hey! Y'know what? We gots two moms." There was a boy and a girl about 5 and 6, and an older girl around 8.

"Hey. Well. Good. Two moms. AND a yaller tent. You got everything you need."

"What you doin' ?"

"Readin'. What you doin'?"

"We're talkin' to YOU." "We went fishin' today, but we didn't catch nothin'." "That's 'cause HE wouldn't shut up, and he jumped in the water an' scared the fish, an' he got a spankin'."

The boy didn't seem too upset about it. He just shrugged. All in a day's work.

I put down my book. "Ya'll gonna be here long?" The little girl just shrugged. The older one, Mikaela, scrunched up her face for a moment, and allowed as how she thought they were leaving tomorrow.

"Our tent fell down in the rain. It went Kerploosh!" "We were all inside." "It was scary." "It was fun!"

I looked over there, where their father was fanning a smoky fire. Mom was busy stirring something at the table. One big tent for everybody. Lots of lines strung between the trees. Clothes and towels hung up on 'em.

A couple of chipmunks zoomed over the edge of the cliff, came to a jerky stop, then skittered on toward the trailer. The little ones whooped and took out after them. Mikaela sighed. " I can't get anything to come close, 'cause a THOSE two."

A distant voice called. "Mikaela, ya'll leave that man alone. Ya'll come and eat now."

"Yes, ma'am. Bye, Bob." And then the young'uns: "Bye, Bob." "Bye, Bob." The boy made a little song of it as they trooped away. Byebob, Byebob, byebob byebob byebob.

My beer had gotten hot. I looked up at the trailer. And there, sitting up on the back of my couch looking back at me through the screen, his bushy tail erect and fanned out behind him like a throne, was the dim outline of a squirrel. He quivered. I swear he was laughing.

I'd left the door open. Great.

I yelled and beat around behind there with a flyswatter for a while, but he wasn't coming out. I decided to just leave the door open and hope he would find his own way out. I ate a ham sandwich and looked at my book for a while.

It was about 8 o'clock and starting to get dark outside, the sun going down behind the mountain. So I grabbed another beer and went out on the bluff. Started a small campfire. Thank god for charcoal lighter. The wind picked up a little. Sky above and lake below were quiet, filled with red light and clouds. Sparks flew up from the fire.

And then, inches away, over my right shoulder, I heard that little voice again.

"Bob? Hey, you want some S'mores?" "I made 'em myself." "No you didn't, I did." "We all made 'em." "They're real good."

Ah, well. Of course I do.


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