"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Monday, June 4, 2012





    There I was, standing face to face, eyeball to eyeball with perhaps the single, most terrifying and feared animal on the face of the planet. Aboriginal pictographs found in New Mexico caves clearly show an abominable monster described in ancient Indian legend and handed down from generation to generation. A miscreant so despicable the mere mention of its name struck terror into the hearts of westward pioneers, miners, mountain men, and cowboys alike. Even the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the Center for Diabolical Absurdity would just as soon see this devilish aberration join the ranks of the Sabertooth Tiger, Wooly Mammoth, and the honest politician on the list of extinct species. Its Latin name is ODERUS PEEYOUUS TREMENDOUS, but there I was, glaring into the peepers of the beast more commonly known as "The Great North American Mammoth Skunkapotamous!"
In their now famous journals, explorers Lewis and Clark described in great detail an encounter with a Mammoth Skunkapotamous of enormous proportions
in which the party witnessed a fully, in the rut, massive racked, bull elk carelessly stumble into the path of a marauding pack of peeyouuses, whereupon he immediately shed his antlers, slithered away, and was shunned by all the other elk for at least two seasons.

Another chilling account is described by the old mule skinner himself, Lecil Hadley Esq., in which he describes how as a child his family told him of happening upon a wandering Mammy during their trek westward in the late 1800's. Leece states that near present day Laramie, Wyoming, the family's wagon train encountered the beast on the prairie, whereupon their team of oxen broke into a dead run to escape the evil creature and didn't slow down until they reached the banks of the Big Hole River in Montana.
So ruinous are these abominable creatures, they have been known to completely defoliate entire valleys, forests, and cause whole towns to desert and move elsewhere, so dastardly are their deeds.
At any rate, there I was, frozen stiff as a Yukon tee post as indescribable terror raced through my body. Realizing the futility of any attempt to flee, I turned and faced the Mammoth Mammy. Bracing myself, and trying not to exhibit any fear, I was shaking like a hound dog trying to pass a peach seed. Bravely, I attempted to stand my ground, praying my luck didn't turn muddy.
"Skawww-Nerrr-Yip Yip Yip," growled the infuriated Mammy, its horrid breath taking the curly out of my blond locks as the p o'd peeyouusus stomped its feet in agitation. "Skawww-Nerrr-Yip Yip Yip!"
Quicker than you can inhale a gnat, the odiferous fiend spun like a cutting horse, lifted its tail and took deliberate aim. It was at that moment events began to get rapid.
The situation suddenly became as predictable as sunset. I understood fully that I was directly in the line of fire and I was this monster's intended target. Left with no other choice, I could either beat a hasty retreat, or receive the full brunt of this beast's foul wrath.  "Skawww-Nerrr-Yip Yip Yip!"
To say the malodorous demon was becoming increasingly agitated was like saying the Pope has a penchant for silly hats, and though it wasn't much of a chance, it was the only one I had.
Quicker than a bookie's runner I turned and let fly with the required loose bowelled-panic scream usually called for in such situations and exploded off in the opposite direction like a turpentined cat with its tail on fire.  "YEOWWWEEE," I screamed, as I commenced to running as fast as was humanly possible. Racing like my feet were on fire and my fanny was catchin', I could hear the growling, snarling monster behind me. It sounded as if it was gaining on me.  "Skawww-Nerrr-yip Yip Yip, Yip!"
Louder and louder, I could hear the beast's evil growling until at last my worst fear was finally realized. I couldn't seem to get out of my own way. I didn't seem to be moving and it was almost as if my feet were made of cement. Then I looked down and realized my feet, indeed, weren't even moving!
Just then the Mammoth Skunkapotamous
let fly with a volley of the most fowl smelling, putrid air imaginable. I could see the cloud of gas rapidly coming at me, but still, I couldn't move. It was as if time had slowed to a crawl. Everything was in slow-motion. It was more than I could bear.

Unable to move, I was frozen stiffer than a hog in a Montana meat locker. Just as the billowy fog of nastiness began to envelope me, I could hear something familiar. "Thomas, Thomas!" Someone was calling my name. Maybe help had arrived?  "THOMAS!"

It is absolutely uncanny, the similarity between my fifth-grade teacher, Ms Ridenhour, and her toe-curling halitosis, with that of being sprayed by a Great North American Mammoth Skunkapotamous. And while I've never actually encountered the dreaded Mammy, Ms Ridenhour seemed to be a recurring daily nightmare I couldn't escape, and her breath smelled worse than a packing plant before the pure food law. In fact, Ms Ridenhour's breath was so un-nervingly fragrant it could melt asphalt and was the reason I had no eye brows until I reached high school.
    "THOMAS, what is the capital of Kansas?" she screamed, our noses nearly touching as I bolted upright from my desk, my eyes straining to focus.
"Uh, Oz?" I answered.
Even before the roar of snickers and guffaws from the class had subsided, Ms Ridenhour was pointing her lethal yardstick to the blackboard to indicate where I would spend the rest of class, standing at attention with my nose in the center of a chalk-drawn circle. It's a well-known fact that most of my formative years at Misery Elementary school were spent standing with my nose pressed against a blackboard. That, and vigorously rubbing the sting out of my fanny after a counseling session with Principal Oger and his prized paddle.
Come to think of it, maybe a Skunkapotamous encounter wouldn't have been half bad? At least my eyebrows might have stood a chance?