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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

OF MULES AND MEN (and cussing.)

GRIP HOIST:  A device designed to rudely awaken all muscles in one’s body that have been comfortably cradled in fat for the last 15 years.  Also used occasionally for pulling things off of a hiking trail at the speed of a melting glacier.  Usually operated by a colony of Silverback Apes; humans with less intelligence than a grapefruit have been known to utilize this medieval torture device.

Yesterday, in the company of Michael Lewis, Danny Sullivan, and Phiefer, (whose last name I can’t recall due to the lack of oxygen at the 8500-plus foot elevation that caused me to attempt acts I normally would have watched others perform from a comfortable distance, well away from the sound of my chortling and laughing.)

At any rate, yesterday we went back up on San Jacinto Mountain to a location on the Strawberry Cienega Trail where a rather large, and robust tree rested comfortably across the trail in an attempt to remove it.  A tree with a rather discernible, if not smug, grin on its face.

Because we brought mules, we decided to unloaded the four-thousand-sixty-four pounds of steel cable, hoists, saws, McClouds, axes, slings, shackles, engine parts from a ’64 Galaxy, and two, small, plastic bottles of Wal Mart water in the off chance we might get thirsty, and carried them three-hundred yards by hand to the tree we needed to cut because…well, because!

While Mike and Phiefer began getting all the rigging laid out and set up to pull the tree off the trail, Danny and I resumed sawing with the cross-cut saw on the downed tree where we had left off the previous week. Three hours later we finished.  Mike pointed out we might have made better progress had we turned the saw the other way with the little, sharp, jagged, pointy things downward.  We will take that into consideration the next time.

Mike demonstrated the operation of the grip hoist for the rest of us by pulling the handle, first one way, then pushing it back the other.  Exhibiting exemplary supervision skills, he then turned the operation over to the rest of his able-bodied crew, pulled out his camera, and strategically positioned himself in a safe, shaded area, and began shouting words of encouragement as we began pulling and pushing on the hoist handle.

 “Heave - Ho, heave - ho; pick up the pace, girls, or we’ll be here all day,” he shouted enthusiastically, as the camera recorded the burly tree’s laughing at us.

Failure was not an option this day; mostly because none of us wanted to make the trek back up the mountain again, and because, quite frankly, the stubborn tree was beginning to annoy us in large degree in its refusal to cooperate.  Then it occurred to me what we were doing wrong; we weren't cussing enough.

Soon we were happily swearing like a ship full of sailors on leave.
“Heave - ho... heave - ho,” Michael encouraged.

“Gol-d%^#ed, sum-a-biscuit-eatin b&#^$,” we grunted, as we struggled with the stubborn hoist handle.  The tree didn’t budge.  Then, one of those strokes of genius I’m so famous for appeared out of thin air.

“What if we direct our profanities at the tree,” I asked Danny?

“Worth a try,” he said, as we commenced cussing at the still grinning tree.

Suddenly there was a loud, “CRACK”, and then another!  It was apparent mine and Danny’s backs weren't happy with our futile cranking on the hoist handle.  Then, several minutes later, the tree began making the same sound; “CRACK!”

“It was moving,” we all voiced in unison.  “It’s moving!”

In closing, as we admired our efforts in getting the stubborn giant well off the trail, and having repaired the tread work, there is something to be said about a difficult day’s efforts and a job well done; but we were all out of profanities so we just silently marveled in what we had managed to accomplish.

In all seriousness it was a terrific day.  Michael did a fine job planning the task, the tree cooperated, nobody died, and we had a blast tackling a tree that was certainly a challenge.  Our bodies, however, might disagree!


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