‘BEST TAXIDERMY IN ROME from Last Grand Adventure
So it was that we were fully supplied, our burros were rested and newly shod (I was shoeing them every 200 miles) and Carol was a ridiculously dressed creature when we left Burns.
You might not think that the change from boots to purple sneakers and from white cowboy hat to a rice-hat style sombrero would make any difference to the people who saw us but it did. It did!
More than ever before people would run their cars up alongside the wagon to stare at us with open mouths then gun their engines to escape my woman who was dwarfed by the huge hat that hid her whole head!
The truckers began talking about her over their C.B.’s. They dubbed her ‘the woman under the hat.’ And, I blame it on the hat that it was about this time that people began to imperiously demand over and over again, “What is the purpose of this?”
Carol didn’t care about their attitude toward her. She walked blissfully south day after searing day, deeper, and deeper into Barren Valley with a thankful heart. She was rewarded too! She found a twenty-eight gram gold nugget there in Barren Valley and when she came to show it to me she declared, “Barren Valley isn’t as barren as people think!”
It was August 14 and hot. I would have liked to stay awhile and do some prospecting but because of the extreme heat the burros were drinking fifty gallons of water a day and I was concerned that we hadn’t enough water to make it to the end of that long desert crossing. So we pushed on, getting in as many miles as possible.
I needn’t have worried. God always provides what we need. The very next day he sent David Stoddart, owner of Rye Grass Ranch to us with a full tanker truck of water! It was a wonderful gift and we filled every jug and bowl available so that we could rest a day there where the water was delivered!
Gold, water and even advertising were found in that valley called Barren. The advertiser, ‘Taxidermist Mark’ bought five days of advertising, brought us more water, asked us to move more slowly, and brought us his sign to carry. The sign read ‘BEST TAXIDERMY IN ROME – HEADS $250.00.’
I guess I’d better explain the sign! Mark was wanting to get the attention of the antelope hunters driving through that part of the Great Basin Desert. He had his work station set up at Rome, Oregon. Do you understand the sign now?
We stayed at Rome overnight. We enjoyed a good meal at their diner and visited Mark as he skinned antelope and cured the hides.
Now, those of you who are quick on the draw will have queried, “How did the burros react to the bloody hides?” I’ll tell you. It wasn’t only the bloody table where Mark worked on the hides that I had to drive by when we left Rome the next morning. Mark had mounted a full-sized bear standing on it’s hind legs with claws extended in threat and teeth showing and that bear towered up over the gateway as though he would fall upon anyone or anything that dared pass. I had to drive our nervous, snorting burros past the table were Mark worked on the fresh hides then maneuver them underneath that bear and out onto the road!
We were both surprised that our team went ahead willingly; just huffing and snorting a bit and Disney, who was a leader that day, did some quick steps to the side away from the black bear, but all in all, they were good!
Trust was building on both sides. Our burros had learned to trust us and we were learning to trust them.
Speaking of trust… I can tell you that we were also leaning heavily on God. We learning to trust Him just as our burros were learning to trust us.
Startling evidence of His divine protection was given to us shortly after we left the friendly people of Jordan Valley, Oregon.
We had stopped along the highway to let one man across the street take our photograph and to answer the questions of another who stood beside the wagon. Carol stood with her arm around Bean’s neck. It was a peaceful day without much traffic and I’ll always be thankful for that fact because one of the few vehicles coming toward us was a pick-up hauling a big white horse-trailer and as he flew by at about eighty miles an hour the back door of the horse-trailer broke off with a roar and slammed into the highway pavement just in front of our burros. The doors initial impact spattered Carol and the burros with hot shards of broken pavement, and then bounced a second time beside the wagon before it spun out to rest in the middle of the berm behind us.
The man taking the photo was aghast. He quickly climbed into his car, telling us, “I could have been killed!”
It had all happened so fast and so unexpectedly that the burros hadn’t even startled. We dumbly took stock of each other. No one and no animal were injured. A huge hole showed where the door had first touched down in its fall, and scrape marks plainly showed the trail it had taken. The driver of the pick-up truck must have realized that the door of his trailer had blown off but he never slowed or stopped.
The man who had been asking the questions asked another, “Do you have a phone? We should call in and report that guy!”
We weighed our wagons and our team on the border scale as we left Oregon and entered Idaho on August 21. Both wagons together weighed four thousand; five hundred pounds and we were about to take on four hundred more pounds of water. Rags took the heavy weight record at five-hundred and forty pounds. All the others came in at four-hundred and sixty pounds.
I had been told a few times that it was too bad that we didn’t have a matched team, meaning that four blacks and two grays didn’t match in color but now I had proof that they were a matched team in size and weight… except for Rags.
Except for Rags… I wonder if you’ve noticed how many times in my tale I’ve used that phrase or one like it. Rags is always the ‘exceptional’ burro!
Speaking of ‘exceptional,’ John and Kathy Madariaga of Jordan Valley are exceptional people. They hosted us in their home town, took us to the Idaho State Fair and now as we made our way into Idaho moving along the banks of the Snake River in temperatures over 100 degrees they came twice to track us down and bring a cold bottle of apple juice for Carol and a cold soda for me.
Working outside in the heat really slimmed us down. I was having trouble keeping my pants up when we entered Murphy, Idaho. The first citizen to greet us was an equally skinny Paul Ver Hagen who gave us a tour of his tidy home and then told us, “I’ll be gone for a couple of hours. Please feel free to use the shower and washing machine and make yourselves at home while I’m gone.”