Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
56Trip End Ongoing
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Long ago, when my cousin Beth (Earl's daughter) was just getting to that age where she would be turning into a woman soon, Earl was called to action to bury a cow that had died. Whether it was his own or not, I cannot remember, but he had a backhoe and was the man for the job. Living out in the country, there ain't a lot to do, so when the local boys heard that he was going to be burying a cow in the ground, the afternoon's plans made themselves! A group of boys of all ages gathered and watched intently as Earl dug a huge hole in the ground, pushed the dead heifer down, and covered her back up with earth. When he was done, he shut off the engine, looked at the boys, and said to them, "You see how easy that was? Just remember that next time you're looking at my daughter."
A 4-hour drive through desolate north central Oregon, getting pulled over for going 40 in a 30 (bullshit, I'll give you 36, but I was not going 40), no ticket though, crossing the mighty Columbia River into Washington, beyond groves of massive windmills, through some forested hills, and down some back country roads, to grandmother's old house we go.
He lived in the same old farm house that my grandma used to - the kick ass Puerto Rican gang leader grandma that now lives outside of Reno
A group of folks was sitting in the back yard under a tent, smells of fresh bbq staining the air. I noticed Earl immediately. A spitting image of his father, grandpa Burt. Grandpa, like his wife, was a force to be reckoned with. For one, he always had that horribly spiky beard that felt like it was going to rip your skin off whenever he kissed us as children. He was big. Loud. Always right. A bigoted and racist old-time sonofabitch, but another one of the hardest workers I will ever know. He literally worked himself to death. His last days of life were spent on a cot at his home. Unable to do anything for himself. Anything. So uncharacteristic of a man who could (and probably did at some point) single-handedly build a home from the ground up. Using tools, if needed
Yet, here he was, so captured by the figure and presence of my crazy Uncle Earl. Much older than I remembered him to be, and boasting quite the beer belly! (He assured us, later, that beer bellies are not hard - you just drink lots of beer and don't really exercise). Numerous neighbors were there, young and old. After a few minutes, a tall, thin, rag-haired kid came walking toward me. Although I never would have recognized him, I knew it was my cousin Tim. Smile, handshake, hug, and happy birthday. Immediately after, grub was on! BBQ ribs, lamb, chicken, and all the potato salad you could want. Impeccable timing!
People quickly found I that I played guitar and demanded a show. Lucky for me, someone also grabbed Norm's guitar. An old cowboy, big old handle-bar mustache and bucket cowboy cat. This was a real old timer! He played first. Some old folk song, perfect for life in the country, for life on the farm. Applause! "Well," I said, "all I write is sad shit, so, this might be a little different." I played one of mine
After a few long nights in Bend, the two slow, relaxed nights I spent in Granger were perfect. I was fighting off a flu (horrible cold sweats both nights to the point where my sheets were damp, light headed, body aches...) and just basic exhaustion. Also, I had almost put my eye out the day before. (Stupid story, but I have to share it). In Bend, on Saturday afternoon, I stopped by a little garage sale. Why not? I saw that they had some of those elastic bands with handles on the ends that you stand on and then can use as resistance exercises. My friend from Mariposa had told me that he uses them while on the road. I decided to pick up a couple and wanted to test the tension. The driveway underneath was all rough gravel, so I didn't want to stand on the band and damage it, so I just hovered my foot a few inches over the ground and looped the elastic underneath, then started pulling the handles up
It felt like my eyeball was in my throat. I dropped the band and immediately had both hands over my face, leaning over on one of the small display tables, cussing more than just about anything. Between "oh, fuck"'s, I was grunting in pain, but at the same time laughing a little for being so stupid. And, of course, the homeowner saw this all take place from two feet away. "Are you ok!? Oh my god, did you put it out?!" "Oh, fuck, I don't know yet, I can't open it." I chuckled a bit. He was chuckling a little bit, too. "Sorry for laughing, I feel so bad!" "It's ok," I assured him, "I'm laughing too!" It took a couple minutes before I could ever bear to open the eye, and was relived that at least I could still see something out of it. I went ahead and bought two bands, winking like a pirate with involuntary tears and snot running down my face for the remainder of the transaction. After returning to my truck, I just laid in back for two hours, putting a wet rag over the eye from time to time to try to help the pain. Oh, and took four ibuprofen. Tears and snot would continue to make their way out of my face for the remainder, and even into the evening, when I met my new friends. Much of the drive to Washington was spent with my hand covering my right eye, because any motion or focus or dilation was just pure pain
As I was saying, two nights on the farm was a necessary and wonderful rest. I cannot tell you how good it felt to close my red, throbbing, burning, bulging eye that first night. Good food, lots of sleep, old family, extended family, music, sunsets. The SUNSETS! They last for HOURS!!! A small system was going through at the same time I was, and both nights there, I was blessed with amazing sunsets that really did seem to last for hours, the western sky engulfed in flame, slowly fading and sinking beyond the silhouette of Mt Adams far off in the distance.
I told them that I was going to try my best to make it to Burning Man this year. "Have you ever done acid?" he asked me. "Nope. Well... not yet," I smirked. "Well let me tell you, be careful! Only do it around people you really know, and DO NOT lose them! I can't tell you how many times I woke up to the sun rising, lying on my roof." He also told me to put a $100 bill in the sole of my boot if I ever decide to do acid. "You won't remember where you put it, and you'll probably lose it, but someone else will find that bill, and kharma is a big deal when you're tripping acid." Words of wisdom.
Earl had remarried years earlier, and one of his new wife's daughters lived with them