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Small Miracles

Above Mancos

It rained all day Saturday. The first bad weather I've seen since June. Perhaps a sign of winter coming down.

I read most of the day. Not much else to do.

Around 5 o'clock cabin fever got the best of me, and I decided to drive down the road a bit and get my email. I carried the laptop out to where the truck was parked, parallel to the back of the trailer. A handy place to hook up the generator.

You know how you walk through the rain? Hunched over, head down, hood up, skipping over and around puddles, rushing a little to get to shelter? You've done that.


It staggered me. Knocked my glasses off, but somehow I held onto the laptop. The basic instinct of modern Homo Intelensis: whatever you do, save the data.

Bright blood spattered down on the silvery cover. Somehow, though I had the whole field to walk around in, I had managed to collide head first with the leading edge of my trailer overhang.

I had to lean against the truck for a minute, holding my head with one hand, blood streaming down my arm. Then I set the laptop on the hood and went back inside to survey the damage. Dripping all the way. I ran through a lot of paper towels in the next few minutes. It wasn't easy to tell through all the blood, but it seemed like there was a 6-8 inch gash running at a slant from high on my forehead to just above my left eye.

The bleeding slowed. I drove the 15 miles into Mancos chittering down a rain-rutted road, one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding pressure against a folded and refolded and bloodsoaked hunk of paper towel.

It was raining in town, too.

Women. I have yet to meet a woman who did not melt at the sight of young animals, or fail to focus with grim satisfaction on the prospect of playing nurse.

And certainly not in Mancos.

Everywhere I went, women gathered round me with a mix of concern and exasperation, as though I was an errant but somehow still beloved child. In the filling station, I had to back away from a woman not much younger than my mother would be, who actually licked her fingers and reached out as though she had every intention of wiping me down like a soiled kitten.

Everywhere I went I was offered bathrooms, Kleenex, paper towels, and sage advice. The best was from a clerk at the liquor store, where I purchased a medicinal 6-pack of "90 Shilling" beer. One handed, no less.

"Butterfly bandages. You can get them across the street at the store."

Right. Over there I got the same reaction. I must have looked a sight. Both of the female clerks left their customers standing at the register while they fussed over me, brought me a variety of dressings, and cleared off a section of counter to lean against.

They'd have bandaged me right up, too, if I'd allowed it.

The men just shook their heads and shrank back out of the way while women did their thing. And all these women had that same look of exasperated focus. It must come with the double X chromosome, a genetic unspoken certainty that men just never are going to grow up.

Made me feel like a young boy caught with a frog in his pocket.

Maybe it was the fascination of a facial wound. Had it happened to them, no doubt they'd have been devastated, sobbing at the prospect of losing their looks. To me it was just a pretty good chance at another mark on the exposed reef that once was my skull. With any luck, I might be able to pass it off as a fencing scar.

"Olympic trials, you know. Summer of '68. Old Dieter gave me that. Made me thank him for the lesson, too."

It did take 6 of those butterflies to close the wound. The thing started throbbing, so on the way back I opened up some of the medicine I'd gotten at the liquor store, and applied a little to the back of my throat.

Halfway up the hill, it started snowing.

I had to stop in the middle of the road while a doe and two unspotted fawns tried to figure out what I was, and what they wanted to do about it. It's amazing how quickly they can disappear amid the snow and trees, once the decision is made. Like wraiths.

It was about 7 o'clock as I came up the final approach, perhaps half a mile from the trailer. There was a car parked in front of a stock gate, beside the cattle guard. Hood up. When I stopped, a guy in camouflaged coveralls came over and told me they were all right. They'd dragged their muffler loose in a field, and were trying to get it all the way off.

There were a couple of women in the back seat. They were bundled up, and didn't look too happy.

On the way I had noticed that a lot of the impromptu campsites previously filled had been emptied. People just got discouraged with the rain and cold, I guess. Not a very good weekend for playing outdoors.

I am parked next to a patch of trees, in a relatively isolated spot, but the trailer can be seen from the road. Around 10:30, after supper, I was having ice cream and watching a little TV, when suddenly there was a knock on the door. The blinds were up, but I couldn't see much out there. Whoever it was could certainly see me. I looked at the clock. 33 degrees.

I picked up the big maglite and opened the door.

It was the camo fellows from the parked car. They asked if I had jumper cables. They'd been out in the weather all this time, and had walked a good ways through snow to find me.

I must have looked strange to them, there in the woods, a bald man standing in a doorway in shirtsleeves, brightly backlit and toasty warm, his head held together by bandages, carrying a heavy flashlight like a weapon while the TV droned on about weather they already knew way too much about.

They just looked cold to me.

As soon as I got them hooked up, the motor came to life with an unmuffled roar, then settled unto an uncertain chunka, chunka, chunka, chunk. They seemed satisfied. They handed me my cables, jumped in, and drove off noisily down the hill.


That was yesterday. A day of small miracles. One is that I didn't knock myself completely senseless in the rain, or put out my left eye. Another is that Mancos is a town full of helpful and determined women, who saw me patched up in spite of myself. Still another is that the camo guys were able to find me in the dark.

And finally, of course, there is snow. To a boy raised in central Texas, snow is always a miracle.

The ground looks hard out there. 35 degrees. A good bit of the snow is gone, melted or blown away. The sun shines fine and very bright on what is left.

Sunday. The skin on my head feels tight.

I hope this is an uneventful day.


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