The Perfect Tow Vehicle is bumpety-bumping over deep ruts and sandy washes.
We’re on our way back to a new camp on Bureau of Land Management acres between Wickenburg and Congress in central Arizona. I’m hunched over the steering wheel navigating the hills and valleys in the lane. I hope nobody’s moved into Al and Kelly’s spot. It’s the best camp for miles around. What a view of the desert and mountains!
In the middle of my self-absorbed ruminations, I see the black horse!
She’s right alongside the lane. I stop the PTV, grab my camera, and jump out. The horse is calmly munching desert grass. She briefly looks up at me, shows no reaction, and goes back to grazing.
I look around and see the gray!
Then the magnificent head of a white horse appears from behind a thicket of palo verde and brush on the bank of an arroyo. He whinnies to the gray and the black.
The black lifts her head and whinnies a reply.
A roan with white face appears alongside the white. The gray and the black join them as others come up out of the wash. They quietly follow the white off into the deeper brush where I dare not follow. I only get a brief glimpse of their heads and backs as they move through the tall bushes.
The crew and I are returning from a visit to North Ranch.
We’ve got empty waste tanks now and a full fresh water tank. I park the BLT so the door opens on an expansive view of desert and mountains. There’s a mature palo verde to sit under. Al and Kelly left a neat, well dug, fire ring with wood and kindling nearby.
Later I find out that the Casita’s antenna picks up eleven television channels and the Verizon signal is still strong like at our former camp down the hill.
It’s 82 degrees this calm afternoon. The sky is blue. No complaints from me!
Spike and Bridget apparently approve of our new homesite, too. They both give it a sniff inspection, lie down on their sides in the dirt, and take a snooze in the sunshine.
Later two white pick-ups drive up.
It’s the rangers. A uniformed woman approaches, introduces herself, and asks how long I’ve been here. I tell her “about a week.” She asks, “Where in South Dakota do you live?” She also requests to see my driver’s license. I can see I’ve got some explaining to do, what with me standing here in Arizona with tags from South Dakota and a driver’s license from Georgia. My story satisfies her and she goes back to one of the pick-ups to write up my permit.
Meanwhile the tall dude in uniform walks up to me.
He doesn’t introduce himself. Uh-oh, bad sign.
He’s looking at the pile of wood next to the fire ring. “You’re not supposed to cut wood,” he states flatly.
“Uh, that was here when I got here,” I respond. “I just moved up here from a camp down the slope over there.” I point off into the desert. We do not exchange eye contact.
He recites the rule, “You can gather wood but you can’t cut it,” then turns and walks back to his pick-up. Geez, can I relax now?
The female ranger hands me a permit allowing us to stay here until March 25th. I ask her about fire restrictions and she tells me there are none, and probably won’t be any for a while.
“Usually fire restrictions don’t begin until June,” she explains. Wishing me an enjoyable stay, she returns to her pick-up and the two drive off. Whew! I walk over to examine the pile of wood. There’s one cut branch. The cut end is dark from weathering, apparently having been cut quite some time ago.
I wonder about the rangers.
What was that . . . good cop, bad cop? Is one experienced and the other a trainee? And which is which? Hmmm . . . .
Several cattle make their daily visit.
Spike seizes the opportunity to throw his weight around.
The cattle aren’t impressed and take their sweet time leaving.
I’m debating whether to grill chicken tonight or simply finish up the tuna fish salad. This weighty decision is the biggest mental strain I’ve had all day.