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  • Writer's picturePru Warren

A Scream in the Night. Well, Morning. And Not Quite A Scream.

July 26, 2023

It’s so cold this morning that the heels of my hands are protesting as they lay against the icy laptop keyboard. (I’m charging everything on the bed beside me. Wasn’t it smart of me to bring an extension cord? When I’m so tired I can’t even bend over to find a plug, I can still make sure all these near-useless electronics are running at full—if chilly—speed.)

Rusty and I agree that it’s glorious to sleep under heavy covers while the air around us is cold. We refuse to close any of the windows, and the front door hasn’t been closed since we arrived four days ago. The Elkhorn has volunteered to send someone creeping silently into the cabin to light the wood stove each morning to warm us up, but we poo-poo’ed that idea.

I’ve been lying awake since six-ish, staring at the ceiling and wondering why a log cabin doesn’t just fall over sideways. Shouldn’t there be a heavy pole at either end that stops the roof from tumbling down like a house of cards?

I had just worked out that it’s because the walls of the cabin are interlocked logs, forming a square (or a rectangular) base that wouldn’t push over…when a scream ripped the still air.

A scream?! What’s going on??

Then the scream turned into hysterical laughter. AAUUGHHHHHH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!

Not a scream. A horse, down in the flats of this valley, registering his opinion on something. It’s a startling and very wonderful noise. Sometimes a horse in this pasture over here will let forth one of these LISTEN TO ME whinnies, and his buddy in that pasture over there will chime in. LISTEN TO ME, TOO. Or perhaps it’s more like ARE YOU EVER COMING TO THE MEETING, DUNDER? Followed by I’M IN A DIFFERENT MEADOW ENTIRELY THUNDER, AS YOU VERY WELL KNOW. HOW DO YOU THINK I’M SUPPOSED TO GET THERE?

There are all sorts of possible dialogue combinations. Could be “Has anyone seen my horseshoe?” “It’s not over here.”

Or “Chilly this morning, innit?” “Totally—feels so good.”

Or just “Hey, Bill?” “Hey, Dave.”

I’m told by Lexie—echoed by Jack—that if one encounters a bear, the thing to say is “Hey, bear.” I’m not sure if this has a soporific effect on the bear or is purely polite, or is code for “please don’t eat me,” but I like that the traditional ursine greeting is hey bear.

Somebody just cantered a horse past my cabin and up to the reaches of wilderness beyond. I saw a dark hat go loping by and heard the hooves. Where you going? What you doing? Was the whinny that inspired me to sit up in this cold air the chosen horse? “Here I go!” he perhaps said. “Me and Joe Jonas are lighting out of here and you chumps got to stay right there! Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” The other horses probably muttered their whuffles, and one of them finally shouted out “Chex is a damned braggart, ah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” At which point all the other horses flicked their long tails contemptuously in agreement.

I got up in the middle of the night to pee and then fumbled my way through the darkness to the porch, stepping carefully as the outer space isn’t as forgiving to the naked foot as the flooring inside the cabin. I stood on the porch and looked up to the dazzle of stars blinking in frozen stillness across the black sky. I’m not a very good stargazer; people around me often see things I don’t. I suspect keen vision is required to really appreciate the marvels of the night sky…but even with my blurry vision, things looked cold and dazzling. If I’d had shoes on, I might have gone further than the porch to admire the full panoply overhead, but—bare feet. And also a little hey bear. You never know. I went back to bed, glad to have encountered Montana’s big sky at night.

Today should be less taxing. There are two breakfasts today; a continental spread at 7:30 (the bell rang for that about half an hour ago), and then the breakfast in the pasture at 10:30. There are three ways to get to that breakfast. You can ride to it, walk to it, or be driven to it. I was waffling on whether or not I’d ride, until Linda told us that those who were riding would leave at 8:30, make a big loop around the ranch, or into the Gallatin National Forest behind us, and circle around to get to the clearing or meadow or whatever. A two-hour ride after I was so weary? Frankly my dear—no. Just no.

So I’m walking it. Lexie, Douglas, and Trystyn are all going to ride—and may they be very happy. Lexie is already having significant problems with her knee, but Lance Jonas promised her there would be a chance to trot and lope on the way back from breakfast. (Lexie would want me to say “lope” instead of “canter.” Here in Montana, we lope. The cowboy that just rode past my cabin was loping, not cantering. My error.)

I love the feel of a canter—I mean a lope—but could I really ask Dunder to gather himself to run uselessly just because the very large person on his back wanted to re-create a moment from her youth? I have fond memories. Let Dunder have the day off, and I’ll mosey to the chuck wagon in my ratty old tennies.

(Besides—isn’t it gospel that you’re not supposed to run a horse back to the barn?? What about that, Lance?)

Anyway, off Lexie goes, and may she be very happy. Me, I’m pretty happy right here, cross-legged in my pocket of warmth.

PLUS the only other thing on my schedule today is a massage at two. Mm! My neck and shoulders could use a soothing hand, and my low back has crispy, crunchy cracklings in it that I’m hoping the unknown masseuse can ease. The masseuse apparently cycles between dude ranches; we get her (or maybe him) on Wednesday afternoons. I know I can’t expect the skill of Gwynn at Body Dynamics (or of Brian, who I meet with when Gwynn is inevitably booked), but I’m okay with that. A massage creates in me a peaceful euphoria that I’m SURE is what smoking opium must have been like. When next I take up this blog, I’ll probably be just a little stoned. Yay!


I walked to breakfast, which was nice if JUST a little too long a walk for my truest desires… The horse people had already arrived by the time I got there, and we had a campfire breakfast.

The eggs were a little too smoky for me, but the pancakes were such a huge hit that they had to rebuild the campfire they were cooking on and get a few more going. Once we’d stripped them of butter, Rusty got us all using the strawberry preserves on the pancake, and once THAT was gone, Stephen persuaded many to try peanut butter. Scenic and fun Here’s the back of Lexie’s head, and Rusty in full pontification. As usual, he’s met everyone in the place already.

Tobi gathered everyone's hats, and then dropped them all in search of something more interesting. He's the baby of the camp and is much petted and enjoyed.

Stephen began a trend of hat decoration; the campsite was soon stripped of flowers.

Look. I figured out the gallery option in my blog! I used Lexie twice because six photos seemed called for. And if you mention that my nephew looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, he'll whip off an excellent Shaggy impersonation.

And I got to take a photo of each of the riders with their trusty steeds. Here’s Douglas on Ringo.

And Trystyn on Ollie. They both have two-toned hair. Ollie has magnificent shaggy feet; I tried to get a photo but they didn’t’ turn out well.

Finally, Lexie on Whistler. Lexie was assisting Whistler to chase off an annoying fly.

Off they set. I was walking back—happily, I might add—when Daphne, the owner puttered past in a golf cart. “Want a lift?” Well—jeez. There’s a quartet of white-hairs walking in front of me. Do I dare just give up and get in the cart? When THEY are still walking?? Am I too ashamed?

Fuck it. I’m in.

We had a lovely chat—about snow in Montana vs. snow in Virginia and North Carolina, and about the universal tendency of the male of the species to assume that once some piece of equipment was obsolete, the thing to do with it was to pile it up over there. Daphne is slowly working away at piles of rusting bits and bobs scattered about the ranch by former male owners who figured—eh, there’s already some shit sitting rusting over here; I’ll just add to the pile.

Yep. It’s universal.

I stopped into the lunch room to pick up my bag lunch (which I suspect Rusty will end up eating, as I have a massage in half an hour), and they were playing Tennessee Whiskey while cleaning up from the campfire breakfast. Lexie was waiting outside and I said that I almost didn’t make it out because of Chris Stapleton.


Oh, how fun! You don’t know this song? You’re so lucky! I dogged her back to her porch and made her listen. She offered grudging admiration, but of course we never like the music we’re forced to listen to, the book we’re forced to read, the food we’re shamed into trying. She made me turn him off after the first chorus. Fair enough. If Chris can’t get you after the “warm as a glass of brandy” run, then you can’t be got.

I’m killing time on my porch. The breeze is blowing. Some slow-moving flies are offering the chance at target practice. I’m in the shade on a sunny day. I have a water bottle of ice-cold spring water at my elbow. Hard to imagine how it could be more idyllic.


I never took a photo to illustrate the massage, so--sorry. You’ll just have to imagine the massage cabin, all by itself and filled with flickering electric candles and spa music. The massage was a good one! The masseuse practiced a kind of massage I’d never heard of (cranial-sacral fluids, or something). As with most forms of “body healing,” I found her patter quite woo-woo…but damned if it didn’t help! She began by having me lie on my back and then she held my heels. She didn’t tug on them or move them or massage them; she just held them. She did not say “what’s going on with your right hip?” but only because she was more discrete than that. By the end—and she did get into tracking individual muscles from root to end, stopping along the way to torment the sticky parts—I felt more balanced.

I wasn’t stoned by the end, but just about all of my muscle aches have been soothed into relative peace. WINNING!

Rusty’s gone fishing. Douglas and Stephen are sitting on Lexie’s porch, and they’re all amusing themselves by going after these slow-moving flies. She says they’re building a fly graveyard in one corner of the porch to warn off the others.

Time to stare happily into the vista before me and maybe crack a book. I’m beta-reading an author friend’s next novel, and it’s a honey!

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תגובה אחת

27 ביולי 2023

Make sure you pack some of that cold air to bring back with you!

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