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Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #75 on: December 17, 2017, 07:02:50 PM »
Your encounter with that cat is almost like a metaphor (I think that's the right word) for the sacrifices that people who have lived in that part of the country most certainly had to make.  Having to face hard choices to insure THEY survived.  It's like the big Kahuna picked you and said, "He deserves to have an experience close to what people of the past had".

I have no issue with the choices you made.  I only feel bad for the person that bailed on your story so soon. 

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #76 on: December 17, 2017, 07:32:09 PM »
HMoD,
I am sad for your anguish but I am also with Jalco as one who lives with several cats that one looks awfully healthy and has more lives left in her.  You made a tough decision in a difficult place.  Don't beat yourself up over it.

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Offline Txlj

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #77 on: December 17, 2017, 07:54:19 PM »
 What a shame to have to make that decision. But I believe you made the correct one. Unfortunately, sometimes in life we have to make the hard choices. Its not fair, it is, what it is. Sad someone bailed, they missed a moving moment.

Sent from flat land


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Offline rocketman

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #78 on: December 17, 2017, 08:55:23 PM »
Sorry you had to make that decision, but as others have said, I agree it was the necessary one given the potential risks. I also think Olivia just might make it. She looks healthy in the pictures, and by your description, she seems to be happy and somewhat comfortable rather than stressed and antagonistic. She'll get her share of bugs and lizards, and eventually larger prey. Did you happen to mention this encounter with the park rangers? Maybe they can find her and make sure she gets a good home in Dallas. ;)
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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #79 on: December 17, 2017, 09:01:57 PM »
Your encounter with that cat is almost like a metaphor (I think that's the right word) for the sacrifices that people who have lived in that part of the country most certainly had to make.  Having to face hard choices to insure THEY survived.  It's like the big Kahuna picked you and said, "He deserves to have an experience close to what people of the past had".

Hang10er, that is, I think, spot on.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #80 on: December 17, 2017, 09:02:47 PM »
The die was cast. The arrow of time only points in one direction, as does the flow of the Rio Grande. For better or worse, there were no do-overs. I was going to have to live with the effects of my decision, however hastily it may have been made. As I floated downriver in my tiny rubber bubble, I endlessly replayed those last few minutes on the beach in my mind. My failure, it soon became clear to me, was that I asked myself, “how can I save this kitten and finish my trip” when it should have been simply “how can I save this kitten?” In the heat of the moment, I failed to really stop and think things through. My greatest sin was not STOPPING. Not taking the time to sort the situation out, weigh the positives and negatives carefully, one at a time. Could I have transported her in a way that posed no danger to my raft or other waterproof items? Yes. I could have emptied the contents of my belly bag, clipped its drysack with all my emergency supplies to a belt loop of my pants with a carabiner, and zipped Olivia inside the belly bag. Would she have tolerated it? Maybe not, but I could have used intermittent jerky bites to distract her for hours, even days. At camps and rest breaks, she would have been fine, though getting her back into the belly bag might have been painful. But I was convinced that, as hungry as she was, she probably would have gone back in willingly, and stayed there, as long as the treats kept coming. For FIVE long days? Well, maybe not. We’d deal with that as it developed. At least I could have TESTED it first, to see if she was amenable. And if we capsized? Well, she’d probably drown. But then again, if she stayed on that beach, she’d almost certainly die. It occurred to me that Olivia riding sealed in my belly bag would be extremely (and weirdly) reminiscent of a pregnancy – a kitten carried in a womb. I guess I was experiencing some major guilt of a maternal nature.


It slowly became clear to me that, as my grandmother would have put it, “I missed my appointment with Jesus.” My decision had PROFOUND consequences for an otherwise needy and helpless creature to whom I had become bonded and for whom I had accepted responsibility. Now, let’s stop and clear one thing up: I’m am not a Christian, I am not a believer in any kind of divinity, but I AM a deep admirer of ANY religious figure from ANY tradition that advocates for tolerance, love, and mutual responsibility. Jesus is a hero of mine, as is Buddha, and many others. As my other (now dead) grandma would say, I missed my “come to Jesus” moment on the beach. I had a chance to do something good and I failed. Was the world a better, or a worse, place because of the decision I made on that beach? A cat was now alone, isolated, and in fear…even worse, doubly abandoned…and likely to starve, grow weak, and die or be eaten. Had I taken it with me, it might have also died, or it might have lived and become someone’s wonderful pet.  Seemed like a no-brainer to me, especially now that I’d figured out how to contain the cat in my belly bag to reduce its chances of destroying my raft or gear. I could have fed it jerky bits during the day to keep it happy in the bag, and unspiced ramen noodles for for dinner for at least two nights. Enough to help it get to RGV alive.


As far as Olivia’s prospects on that beach…don’t kid a kidder. I didn’t reach sixty years old with a long career in the wilderness and around wild animals and wild people by believing in fairy tales. I am a realist. That’s how I’d survived all manner of disasters: hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, lightning strikes, illnesses, injuries, animal attacks, equipment failures, falls, broken bones, burns, muggings, holdups, kidnappings, stabbings….you name it. The cat was young, it was abandoned, it was untrained, and it was in a wild environment beyond its ken, one absolutely teeming with skilled, well-adapted things ready, willing, and determined to eat it. No one was going to come along and rescue it before it died. Its days were numbered. And they were few. No sense sugar-coating the truth: does nobody any real good. Believe me, I considered ALL the alternatives. I had several days on the river to do just that. I killed the cat.


So what? Right? It’s just a cat. That’s a tricky one. I kill animals all the time. I’ve killed (a very few) by vehicle, by accident. Euthanized others that were beyond help. I’ve killed a lot more by hand, for food: hunting birds and squirrels and deer or elk; cutting off the heads of chickens and rabbits on my farm; selecting bison and cattle and pigs for slaughter by a butcher. And then there’s conservation: the hundreds of Brown-headed Cowbirds whose necks I’ve broken or lungs asphyxiated, or other native species whose presence was no longer welcome or balanced because of stupid mistakes we humans have made. I am no stranger to judicious, albeit conflicted, killing. But it’s never easy. A friend once told me, “when you start to find it easy to kill your chickens, it’s time to stop.”


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.


In the end, we’re all just meat-bags. And yet, somehow we’re not. Every living creature on this planet is also the unique end-point of billions of years of evolution. Every living creature, and every non-living atom, is a part of a whole so vast, so complex, so interrelated, so beautiful (if you open your eyes and heart) that we can barely comprehend the totality, if at all. No man is an island, no creature an atoll. There is grace and nobility and wonder in that. And mystery. Profound mystery. The history of the last 500 years is the history of mankind realizing how small, and how large, its role in the world is. You think you’re special? Let me clue you in: you are but a host to non-human microbiota. For every one cell in your body, you are the host, feeder, and transport for ten non-human cells that are absolutely essential to everything you do every second of your life on this planet. Some are commensal, some are mutualistic, some are parasitic. But all are part of the delicately-balanced web of life. And so what are YOU? Is there a YOU? Hard to say. At best, we are temporary carriers of DNA. With self-awareness, imagination, moral judgement. And a consciousness of our own mortality.  Ay, there’s the rub.


To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.


I had become sicklied over by the pale cast of thought. My enterprise of great pitch and moment had turned awry, and lost the name of action. Around dusk, I reached a beach south of the Great Loop, east of the Great Comanche War Trail, hours east of the beach where Olivia was now hunkering down, alone, against the coming night, and I made landfall. The spot was a steep slope, muddy at the water’s edge, covered in hoof-prints and cow shit, but bisected by a trail leading quickly up and inland to a wide pasture on the Texas side, well-timbered on the margins and shady. I secured my raft, unloaded my backpack, and climbed inland to the pasture, dropping my pack in the shade of a mesquite tree. Still with red-rimmed eyes from hours of crying and recrimination, I toured the pasture and selected a campsite, emptying my backpack and preparing my bedroll. I laid out my extra clothes, my messkit, and my food bag. Then I opened up my belly bag, pulled out my maps, my Holux GPS, set it in an open spot with a clear view of the sky, and switched it on.  Soon I would have a very good idea of where I was.


28 degrees 59 minutes and 28 seconds north, and 103 degrees 15 minutes and 31 seconds west. Not exactly on the river according to my map, but awfully close to where I thought I was. Good enough. Almost eleven miles today.


Just then, around 4:45pm, as the sun sank low but not yet below the horizon, a bull, three cows, and a calf appeared in the pasture, lowing nervously. I was between them and the entrance to the river: the rest of the bank was completely blocked with Giant River Cane and tamarisk. This was their nightly routine: descend here to the river, drink, and then move inland to bed down for the night. But I was gumming up the works. I moved far to the side of the entrance to the river, but it wasn’t enough. The cattle stood there, staring and complaining, but not moving, for a half hour and then dejectedly, sullenly retreated. They would complain for the rest of the night and into the next morning.  Even the cows were disappointed in me.


An impressive cloud formation blew in from the southwest and ran into an upper-level high right above me: long, wispy clouds skidding to a halt and spreading across the sky, catching the setting sun, blazing with hints of fire and forming a winding, glowing wall from horizon to horizon. Bad weather trying to form, but not quite getting it together. I pulled water from the river and fired up my stove; ate a hot dinner, made a cold bed...and just as the first stars appeared in the sky, gave my myself up to the oblivion of sleep.






[TO BE CONTINUED]
« Last Edit: May 08, 2018, 11:40:10 AM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Demon Deacon

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #81 on: December 17, 2017, 09:33:14 PM »
In fairness, the one where you take the cat with you has already been done.

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Offline iCe

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #82 on: December 17, 2017, 09:37:29 PM »

Erwin Schrödinger would say that all possibilities exist at the same time...

In fairness, the one where you take the cat with you has already been done.


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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #83 on: December 17, 2017, 09:44:19 PM »
In fairness, the one where you take the cat with you has already been done.


I'll be discussing that shortly.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #84 on: December 17, 2017, 09:45:29 PM »

Erwin Schrödinger would say that all possibilities exist at the same time...

In fairness, the one where you take the cat with you has already been done.


The problem is, I looked.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline badknees

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #85 on: December 17, 2017, 11:09:20 PM »
HMOD,

Your action or inaction didn’t kill a cat. The fate of the cat was changed the day it wandered off, or was abandoned. You passed through the timeline of selection. You survived, the cat may or may not. I for one, see your decisions as rational and prudent. Regrets and recrimination doesn’t change the logic of your actions. You didn’t take the cat with you. That was your choice. That is who you are. Doesn’t make you a lesser being.

BTW.....This is only my opinion and doesn’t intend to represent the views of anybody or impose them on anyone either.
Not all those who wander are lost.
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Offline Talusman

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #86 on: December 18, 2017, 09:10:35 AM »
HMOD,

Your action or inaction didn’t kill a cat. The fate of the cat was changed the day it wandered off, or was abandoned. You passed through the timeline of selection. You survived, the cat may or may not. I for one, see your decisions as rational and prudent. Regrets and recrimination doesn’t change the logic of your actions. You didn’t take the cat with you. That was your choice. That is who you are. Doesn’t make you a lesser being.

BTW.....This is only my opinion and doesn’t intend to represent the views of anybody or impose them on anyone either.

Agreed. Randomness of life. That cat may outlive us all!
"To Think is easy. To Act is difficult. To Act as one Thinks is the most difficult!"

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #87 on: December 18, 2017, 09:46:19 AM »
HMOD,

Your action or inaction didn’t kill a cat. The fate of the cat was changed the day it wandered off, or was abandoned. You passed through the timeline of selection. You survived, the cat may or may not. I for one, see your decisions as rational and prudent. Regrets and recrimination doesn’t change the logic of your actions. You didn’t take the cat with you. That was your choice. That is who you are. Doesn’t make you a lesser being.

BTW.....This is only my opinion and doesn’t intend to represent the views of anybody or impose them on anyone either.

That is a brilliantly expressed opinion, BK.  And the qualification at the end is deeply appreciated.  Some of your post I agree with, and some not.  But I value the perspective. The truth, if there is any one truth to be had from this story, will probably be revealed by the many words of each us, rubbing up against what happened, abrading it, chipping away at it, polishing it into something truer than any of us could express alone. I love this forum.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #88 on: December 18, 2017, 09:59:02 AM »
You are a great writer and storyteller!  I had to put a treasured pet cat down two weeks ago so this portion of the story was a bit emotional for me.  I would have done what you did.  I would have reacted the same you reacted as you floated downriver.  I’ve replayed the circumstances of putting my cat down every day since then.  What if I had done this or not done that, etc.  As you have learned that is not a good place to go.  You gave Olivia something she truly needed.  Sometimes we are called upon to end suffering.  The process, whatever it may be, is never easy.


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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Round the Bend in 16 Days: There and Not-Quite Back Again
« Reply #89 on: December 18, 2017, 10:57:38 AM »
I get that the cat seemed domesticated, but it was in a wild environment.  And like someone already stated, HMOD didn't make the decision that put the cat where it was.  I am one who truly believes we don't always know how we're offsetting the balance of nature with every little thing we do.  We just can't see enough of a period of time to know.  Don't confuse me with some global warming believer and I really think this is not the place for that conversation.  I just try to go through nature taking memories, pictures and experiences and leaving footprints.  Nature is brutal, vicious and sad along with beautiful and amazing.  That's what it takes to carry on, survival of the fittest.  There's a food chain and everyone has a place.  As hard as it might sometimes be, I try not to interfere.  Is it right to save the poor bunny who is about to  be fed on by the coyote? 

I am glad HMOD told this part of the story and it makes for a better story knowing how it affected him.  I haven't done a "cross the park" hike or even a OML, but I can easily imagine how the setting, the isolation, the challenges still ahead compounded and played into the decisions regarding the cat.  How he handled it, is how he handled it.  I'm ready to get on with the rest of the adventure (it exceeded being called a "trip" a long time ago!)

 


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