Sunday, May 31, 2015

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, May 28, 2015

I've slept a little better and I'm more rested when I wake up at six AM. I stay in bed until nearly seven o'clock and am down by 7:07. Porgy has made the coffee and started a fire. I thank him for those things. I get the potatoes going, scramble up eggs, set the table, get out coffee cups, and do all the other morning prep.

After breakfast, Porgy says, "Thank you, good breakfast."

"You're welcome," I replied, surprised by his acknowledgment.

I clean up the dishes. Laura calls to see how things are going and to tell me she'll arrive sometime next Thursday. "You must be living in the kitchen," she says, after I tell her about being the cook. She understands what it's like. She's been in this position herself.

I have time today to post a blog, look through some pictures, chill out, work a crossword. I even have time to take a short walk by the river. I get pictures of all the blooming things; flowers, buds, willows, mushrooms.

It's nearly lunchtime and I’m heading back to the lodge. I call out to Porgy to ask what time he wants lunch and he says there's a great horned owl sleeping in a tree. "Come and see it if you want."

The two laborers, Porgy, and I stand beneath the tree and gaze up at the great horned owl. We take pictures. Porgy says, "Someone go up closer and it'll fly off." I'm the one rude enough to get close enough to the tree to make the owl fly away. It's soundless as it heads deeper into the forest and out of sight. I had wanted so badly to see an owl. I'm glad Porgy spotted it. I’m glad I was outside at the right time.

We have sandwiches, soup, salad, and fruit for lunch. I’ve just got everything put away and cleaned when the truck with the sand arrives. The driver is invited in for lunch. Making one sandwich is easy. He eats, chats with Porgy, and leaves. The guys fill and dig and smooth out the ground around the propane tanks. Two of the three tanks are now covered. The sand truck will bring another load tomorrow.

I bake banana bread. I use real flour and it comes out exactly the way it should. Third time with banana bread must be a charm. Or not using coconut flour. It's perfect, but being gluten filled, I won't eat it. This reminds me of the story my mom told me about her recent visit with my niece. They were having a pretend tea party and Shea was serving up some pretend cake or something. Suddenly, she paused and looked at my mom to say, "I have to tell you this is not gluten-free and it has lots of sugar." My mom said she and Shea promptly ate the entire thing.

For dinner, I heat up the spaghetti and meatballs, make a salad, and make garlic toast. The laborers really like the food. They get seconds. That's always a compliment.

After dinner, one of the guys goes to shower and the other heads off to bed. But before he does, he asks me where to put the recycling in Spanish and I answer. He tells me I speak very well and then proceeds to tell me that he really wants to get married but it's hard to find anyone out here. He means in Wyoming, not the wilderness, I presume. I smile and nod, but don't respond. I don't want him to get any ideas about my marriageability. He tells me I'm brave to have stayed here all on my own. "Weren't you scared?" he asks. Not in the least.

Porgy does the dishes. I rinse. I go out and sit with the cat. She makes herself at home in my lap. Then that time is over. Everyone is out of the lodge by 9:30 and I go upstairs. Not too exhausted, not frazzled out, not in tears.

Today was a good day.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, May 29, 2015

Unbelievably, May is nearly over.

It's been a crazy three weeks.

I'm awake at 6:30 AM.

I'm downstairs only minutes after seven o'clock.

Porgy has started water boiling. I make coffee and start up some steel cut oats. Set the table. Put out the banana bread and bread for toast, and start frying up sausage. The laborers come in just after eight o'clock and breakfast is on.

They get out to work. There's a lot of cleanup to do. We load all the trash into the back of the ranch truck along with the shingles from the propane shed roofs. I burn all the burnable trash. It's a nice feeling to have the incinerator shed all emptied out.

After lunch the plan is for me to drive the truck to the Pinedale dump with the laborers following behind. They'll unload it for me and go home to Jackson. Then I'll be free to do any shopping I might need to do and then return to the ranch. I’m not sure exactly how I got roped in for this, but whatever. In preparation, I take a quick rinse off bath and put on jeans and a flannel shirt—going to town clothes rather than the snow pants and everyday sweatshirt I've been wearing all winter long.

I set out the lunch things. Porgy says to keep it simple so we can blast right off after lunch.

I look out the window and see the sand truck has arrived. Good. The laborers were brought out to help fill the space where the new propane tanks are being bedded. The more work done today the better. Porgy wants to leave this afternoon. The laborers want to leave. Gerry might stay until tomorrow.

Phinehas calls and he and I have a quick and fun chat.

After the sand is dumped they all come in for salad and sandwiches, cookies and banana bread. The banana bread is a hit.

"You're all dressed up," Porgy says. I find it funny that jeans and a flannel shirt is considered dressing up.

Lunch is discussion time. Porgy and Gerry want to take advantage of the laborers’ presence to get the backfilling done. Porgy suggests that I might drive out to the dump myself. I would have to leave this instant. The dump closes at four o'clock and it's nearly two already. It takes at least an hour and a half to get to Pinedale. Also, going alone would mean I would have to unload the trash myself. It's a lot of stuff to unload. The sand truck driver says, "Don't do it, it'll be too much."

Discussions continue. Gerry and I could go to the dump, get diesel and wine, and come back while Porgy and the laborers continue to work and then leave.

Or the guys could transfer all the trash from the truck to the sand guy’s dump truck and he could take it out. The transfer would be a lot of throwing upward and Porgy is against the idea.

I'm only concerned about the trash because there's food trash in there and I don't want the stench to attract animals. I don't want any animals getting into the trash and making a colossal mess.

We talk about Porgy taking his truck to follow me in the ranch truck to the dump and the two of us unloading it, me doing any shopping I want, and then returning. This is suddenly the plan.

"We need to leave right now," Porgy says.

I go upstairs and grab my bag with cash and my driver’s license. When I get back to the table, Porgy says, "Change of plans."

Big surprise.

"All dressed up and nowhere to go," Porgy tells me.

I shrug. Nothing around here is set in stone.

The sand guy leaves. The four guys go fill in the propane tank area. The new plan is for Gerry and me to go to the dump in the morning. The laborers will head home when the work is as done as it can get for today. And Porgy will try to get home in time to watch game seven of the hockey tournament going on.

I clean up the lunch dishes. With a light lunch the cleanup is easy peasy.

Then I go outside and sit in the temporary sun, work a crossword puzzle, think about my friend Tim's suggestions and critique of my book, and catch up on the day’s events for my caretaker’s log in my notebook. The cat is nowhere to be seen. The noise of the backhoe is keeping her in hiding.

The laborers and Porgy leaves just around 4:00 PM.

I try to Jedi mind trick Gerry into leaving too, but my methods don't work on him. He wants to finish up some work. He says we’ll drive to the dump in the morning. He does more backfilling. I sit outside, call for the cat. Do some thinking about my book, try to quell my disappointment at not being alone, and go in to eat tuna for my alone dinner.

I call my grandmother.

We have salad and fruit for dinner, my second dinner. Gerry wants to make it easy on me. He also says he's been eating too much, because the food has been tasty. There aren't many dishes to clean.

After that, I go outside and say hi to the cat. There's a rainbow in the eastern sky. Gerry comes and tries to sweet talk her. After a while she lets him pet her ears.

Gerry takes the ranch truck up to Industrial Park and fills the tank with gas. We are all set to go in the morning. "The earlier we go, the earlier we get back," he says. That's the plan, but I feel a little odd about leaving the ranch without anyone but the cat to watch over things. I haven't been out for 152 days. As Gerry drives back from the Park I stand waiting by the fence. "I'm going up to bed," I say. I'm exhausted. It's only 8:30.

"I think I'll go to bed too," he says. "See you in the morning."

I take the last of the wine and go sit in bed and watch part of a show until I can't stand to keep my eyes open any longer.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, May 30, 2015

The day starts early. Leftover oatmeal for Gerry and granola for me. We’re in the truck heading up the road to Pinedale at 7:40 AM. It's a long way out. Miles and miles of mud and dirt and long, beautiful, lonely road. I'm suddenly glad to see how far these workers have had to come in order to disturb the solitude.

We see antelope, two lone elk, a skittish moose, and lots of ground squirrels—which all these guys call chiselers.

The closer we get to the town, as the number of houses increase, I find myself tensing and bracing. Relax, I think, just relax.

We unload 2200 pounds of trash at the dump. "You're a good worker," Gerry tells me. "I'm going to hire you." It takes us half an hour to empty the truck bed.

Then we go to the grocery store. I get my precious cans of coconut milk and more supplies to feed next week's invasion of workers. While Gerry goes to get diesel fuel, I walk to the liquor store and get wine and some beer for Gerry. I wait outside and stand up on a rock looking for the sight of the old Ford truck.
"Waiting for a parade to go by?" a man asks.

I raise my eyebrows in a noncommittal gesture. "I haven't seen a thing go by yet," I reply.

Gerry finally arrives—there’d been confusion at the gas station on the cashier’s part about two methods of payment and it had taken more time than it should have to fill three cans with diesel.

We stopped for lunch at what Gerry calls a nouveau pub. How easy it is to fit back into the human world. How sad, I think.

We’re back at the ranch around 2:00 PM. All in all, it was a six hour excursion. That's the longest I've been away from the ranch, from the lodge since I arrived. The first time I've been out at all.

Gerry gets back to work and I do little things around the place. I take time to call the cat out of the roof and we sit together on the chairs out in the sun. It's a lovely day. The temperature has inched up over 60°.

For dinner, I make rice noodles and top them with a fried egg. I put out fruit and make garlic toast for Gerry. We have dinner just after seven o'clock. I try to convey, as kindly as possible, my desire to be alone one more day, just one more day to myself, without hurting Gerry's feelings, I just want him to leave. "Fucking hermit," he'd said to me earlier on the way back down that long road toward the ranch when I’d said how glad I was that it was so far out and almost not far enough.

I never can get a solid answer as to when he might leave. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next, whenever all the work is done. Who knows.

He cleans up the dinner dishes while I put away the food and secure the kitchen against the mice for the night.

"Do you play cards?" Gerry asks. He beats me at Gin and then goes off to bed.

I see a mouse scamper out of the kitchen and go down the hall. I shake my head. Those impudent mice.

I take a glass of wine and go upstairs. I set up my computer in the bathroom and watch a show as I take a bath, wash my hair.

I may not have been alone, but it has been a nice day, an interesting day. Gerry isn’t bad company. He's got easier expectations than Porgy. Gerry, teasing me about the giant pot of tomato soup that had made more than one meal appearance (to Porgy's disgust and displeasure), tells me that Porgy got spoiled working up at Flag Ranch where the meals were a little bit more gourmet and leftovers were never served. I think that they should have told me what the expectations were exactly before they arrived. A girl can't succeed if she doesn't know what the rules are. Also, I have a hard time going from the mentality of "use everything, waste nothing," to throwing good food out. It goes against my wilderness survival methods, it goes against the way I live.

I fall asleep wondering if Gerry will ever go home.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Fitting Epitaph

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, May 25, 2015

The sun is out when I get up. Blessed sun. I get some coffee going, do a load of laundry in the sink, and hang half of it to dry while the other half still soaks. Then I take my coffee and go sit in the chair in the fresh air and sunshine. The birds are wild with delight. The ground squirrels are up and busy. The cat sits, sprawls, curls up in my lap. We stay there together for a long time. Then she wants to go for a walk so we do. Then back to the chair.

The bulk charge is running.

I go in and make an omelet and pan fried potatoes for my breakfast. Work a crossword puzzle.

The day invites me back out and I accept the invitation. The sun comes and goes. Drizzling showers pass over in the afternoon.

Up in the loft, I pack my things. There's a chance I'll need to move to another cabin if the loft beds are needed.

Michaela calls from Mexico. The connection is bad and she has to call multiple times. We get something of a conversation in somehow.

Then Porgy calls to see if there's any food he should bring in with him. With all the phone ringing it feels like a call center around here.

I look up some recipes online and make a cooking and baking game plan for tomorrow.

I finish my breakfast for lunch. Work a second crossword puzzle.

I keep the fire going warm all day to dry out my clothes.

I spend a good portion of the day outside with the cat. We alternate between sitting on the chairs and taking walks.

On one of our walks, I find a dead bird captured among the limbs of a willow. I don't know how it died. But it's beautiful there in its sadness, in its mortality. If I could die with that much elegance than going wouldn’t seem a bad thing.

I see the eagle. I see geese. The ground squirrels dart about excited with all the new yard obstacles. I bring in wood. I check things in the generator shed. I get some supplies out of the root cellar; eggs, the last of the onions, some tomato sauce.

I eat salmon, rice, salad, apples, and cheese for dinner. It's a feast.

The cat meows at me because her house has been moved to the barn. She sits on the rug in the sandblasted dust on her table in the screened in porch. She'll stay there all night. I can't stand it. I go get some of the blankets from her house and her food dish and make her up a soft bed on the table for one last night.

I pilfer the Myer’s Dark Rum from Willow cabin and send Kathy an email telling her I’ll buy her a new bottle. There are two shots left in this one. I make cocktails and eat the very last of the barbecue PopChips while I watch a show.

I fold up the clothes that have dried and take them upstairs.

It’s been a very pleasant day.

I go to bed thinking about my great uncle Paul. He was a sergeant in the Air Force in the 40th Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron and parachuted in to all kinds of dangerous areas to save soldiers. He reenlisted over and over again and said he did that so that my dad and uncle wouldn't have to go to war. He was killed in action during Vietnam on June 30, 1970, when his unit’s Jolly Green Giant helicopter was shot down over Laos. He was a hero. He's who I think about on Memorial Day.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I stay leisurely in bed until eight o'clock. I've got a list of things to do, but I'm going to take the morning easy. I take a cup of coffee and a crossword outside and sit with the cat in the sunshine. She's in a crazy mood, chasing things and sprawling over the chairs. She gives me a touch nose to nose—a kitty kiss.

We walk to the root cellar and get a few things. I check my email. I’ve just put my breakfast on the stove when a man walks past the window. I didn't hear any trucks.

It's the guys from JB. The gate was locked and they had to walk down. I thought Porgy would come in with them and hadn’t even thought about being sure the gate was open. It's only ten o'clock. The JB guys, Tim and Henry, take the ranch truck and the lock code and bring their truck down. They get right to work. Tim calls Porgy to have him bring a tool out.

I start making a batch of spaghetti and meatballs. Mix up some brownies and make some chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

I serve up lunch at 1:10—it’s just the three of us.

I call my mom.

Porgy arrives. He spends a lot of time taking care of scheduling on the phone. Trying to get people and parts out here all at the same time and as soon as possible.

Whatever bad air was between us is gone. Thank goodness.

I feel like I've been cooking all day with little to show for it. That's bad since there might be ten guys here tomorrow for lunch and dinner.

I go outside and split some wood. I carry it over the dug and open trenches and put it on the front porch out of the rain. The cat is on the front porch. I pet her between trips. Without all the machine noise she's braver, staying closer to home.

Then I go in and make some spiced beef for tomorrow's lunch. It'll go in pita bread. I make a salad and rice for dinner. Porgy is going to grill shish-kebab meat. He has a time getting the fancy charcoal to light.

Phinehas calls and we have a few moments to chat.

Dinner isn’t served until 8:30. Arnie and Gerry had drunk most of my boxed wine the one night they stayed up talking in the lodge. And I don’t have any left. Gerry has a bottle in his truck that’d he’d meant to give me his last trip in. He tells me I don’t have to share. But Porgy wants a glass so I share. Tim and Henry seem satisfied with dinner. Gerry and Porgy do the dishes. I put away the food and prep the kitchen against the mice for the night.

After everyone has left the lodge, I sit at the desk in the front room checking things online when something scampers across my foot. I jerk it back and let out a little shriek. That impudent little mouse.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm awakened at 6:30 and downstairs by seven o'clock. Porgy has started coffee and steel cut oats. I get the other coffee going, stir the oats, set the table, and make a fruit syrup. The four guys eat and then I clean up the dishes.

I make ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. By the time I’ve finished that it's already time to set up for lunch.

Two new guys arrive. They’ve been hired to help fill the trenches and do other odd jobs.

I heat up the roast I made last week and serve it with the homemade barbecue sauce. I put out sandwich stuff, slice cheese, cut up an avocado, cut up a watermelon that Gerry brought, and heat up the tomato soup. When it's all ready to go, I ring the bell, but no one comes. Not for ten or fifteen minutes. I'm experienced enough to know not to put the warm food out until people head this way.

The guys settle around the table and eat. During lunch, the two propane guys arrive. They want to get right to work and don’t come in to eat.

After lunch, Tim puts some sealant around the pipe that has been leaking all winter long. That should fix it. I’m very happy. That will be one less thing for me to pay attention to every day. Then he and Henry pack up and leave.

Six for dinner is easier than eight.

I clean up the lunch dishes and have to get out of the kitchen. I go walk around, look for the cat, take pictures of the work. I grab some things from the root cellar and get some time alone in the house. I could use a nap. I'm feeling a little grouchy. Being around all this noise and all these people is tough.

I call my grandmother. Then I make myself tuna for dinner. I haven't eaten enough today and I'm starting to feel it. It should help to take away some of my grouch.

Michaela calls. It's Wednesday and I had wanted to talk. I've grown used to our weekly chatting habit. We catch up and laugh. We both needed that.

I eat my dinner alone. It's delightful. I wash and put away dishes. Then I start the dinner prep. My alarm goes off to remind me to record the weather. No precipitation in the precipitation bucket today.

One of the propane guys leaves. Five for dinner is easier than six.

I've got all but the meat out when the guys come in, beers in hand. Cocktail hour is more fun when I have wine to join in with. There’s a little left in the bottle Gerry brought for me. But I’m rationing it very carefully.

"It'll be about ten more minutes," I say. They haven't given me a warning about when they would come in and I feel like I had guessed pretty well.

"What's for dinner?" Porgy asks.

"Spiced beef to put in pita wraps with cheese and sour cream and guacamole and a homemade ranch dressing. Baked beans and watermelon."

He doesn't say a word. A simple "That sounds good" or even an "Oh" would be better than what feels like this disapproving silence. I tell myself that it doesn't matter. The food will be good and he doesn't have to like it. Then someone said something about hors d'oeuvres and I almost lose it. Ten minutes, guys, can't you just wait ten minutes?

Gerry comes in the kitchen and we pull out crackers and chips and salsa and cheese for them to snack on before dinner. "It's nice to have something to snack on with the beer," Gerry says.

I start to say something and then I shut my mouth. Instead I say, "Yes, it is nice." I don't need to be overly sensitive. It's not personal, it's mealtime.

The new guys seem to like the dinner.

While they're eating, I see the cat jump up on the outside table and start to eat her food so I go outside to chill with her.

After dinner, before bed, the two laborers go out and chop a lot of wood. I had told Porgy and Gerry that I wasn’t able to keep up with the increased demand (and the cooking and the cleanup) and they’d added this task to their guys’ list. And I’m thankful. Glad I spoke up.

Gerry goes off to bed.

Dinner has been served progressively later as the guys have been working longer days. This means that the cleanup takes up a better part of the evening and by the time I get things done it’s bedtime. It's nearly nine o'clock now, but I cut and boil up some potatoes so it’ll be easy to make homestyle potatoes for breakfast. I chop up an onion.

Porgy and Kelly finally leave the lodge and my plan is to watch a show while I take a bath. But then Porgy comes back and makes a phone call. I can't close things down and go upstairs until he's gone.

I adjust my plans and take a quick bath instead. By the time I’m done with that, Porgy has left the building. I run downstairs and put the potatoes in the fridge with the onions and shut things down for the night.

I wonder what it is about my personality that has such a hard time with so much socialization. I feel like someone someday will say, "Yeah, she was cool. So long as she was out in the wilderness all by herself." It's probably a very fitting epitaph.