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.
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."
"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.
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.
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.