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

Saturday, February 27, 2010


          Winter; that interminable time of year that brings with it cold winds, freezing temperatures, and forced isolation.  That period of mind-numbing boredom that falls between the end of hunting season, and the fishing opener.  It is that endless stretch of months, each with around fifty-eight days in them when cabin fever strikes and normally sane people begin to entertain curious thoughts that under normal conditions would be dismissed as crazy.
          Winter; when even the dog is brought inside as a humane gesture of compassion, but then the full magnitude of his gastric intestinal potency is realized when the both of you, confined in the same room, he sleeping peacefully, you staring aimlessly at your wife's issue of Home and Garden, he cuts loose with lethal a one.  
          Even the wife becomes an annoyance of epic proportions, and you entertain thoughts of fool-proof alibis you'll need for the authorities to explain her sudden disappearance.  Thoughts that suddenly snap you back to your senses because you realize the consequences of having to spend the remainder of your life in an eight by ten cell with a three-hundred pound serial killer named Leroy who fancies himself as some sort of weight-lifting Rudolf Valentino.  As winter wears endlessly on and seems to drag like the last day of school, these crazy thoughts begin to dart in and out of one's mind with greater and greater frequency.  Soon, nightmares of Oprah, Rachael Ray, and the Twilight Zone re-runs become routine as you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. 
          There are a few twisted individuals out there who steadfastly maintain winter is a wonderful time of year.  Yeah, I guess if your a Polar Bear.  They tout skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country snowshoeing, and building snow men as great winter activities, and one nutcase out there even advocates investigating, identifying, and following animal tracks.
          Statistics tell us that most suicides occur during this period of enforced confinement, and I believe I know why.  For many of us it's undoubtedly due to the onset of Leather Affliction Fatigue, or L.A.F..
          You see, for those of us with horses it is that dreaded time of year we decide to clean our tack.  This is most often brought about when we discover our inability to reach into the television set and choke the cast of The View.  More importantly, those of us with mules, who are already considered by most as being a couple of crayons short of a box to begin with, often have even more tack to clean than the person with but one animal.  And, as we all know, mules are like potato chips; you can't have just one.  Just why that is I haven't figured out yet, but I'll let you know when I have a break-thru.
          At any rate, in my case my lovely bride, Cathy, has lately been barking orders like drill instructor with Turrets.  Apparently my being idol and banging my head against the wood stove annoys her.  My hearing, suddenly not what it used to be, I have chosen cleaning our tack the lesser evil of the three-hundred-sixty-two other tasks she has lined out for me.  I now understand why pack station operators and the packers who work for them are often times nuttier than granny's fudge.
          Anyway, I calculate that by April I should have our half-dozen saddles, seven packsaddles, twelve hundred bridles, halters, cinches, hobbles, reins, bosals, pack manties, panniers, and other assorted items she'll find for me to clean nearly finished.  That is unless I have failed to clean them to her demanding specifications, at which point I'll be back to watching The View.  Then again, maybe following animal tracks cross country on snowshoes wearing only a freshly cleaned pair of chaps and a beenie might not be such a bad way to go!

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