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Dell and Jenn
A Utah State Forest: 9/29/21
© 2021 James LaFond
Bob and I had met Dell when Bob was fishing. I was foraging and Dell was driving his janitorial cart to the restrooms at the trail head. Dell was a dairy farmer who worked hard until retirement and then sold his farm so he could enjoy some of the beautiful country that had always surrounded him, looming on the near horizon of life and the distant one of his mind, which he had never explored as a working man.
Dell is a big man, like a jolly six-foot Saint Nick. He is very interested in losing weight and learning about foraging, particularly gleaning some of Bob's knowledge of edible mushrooms. They leave tomorrow for Arizona, working for a company that manages state and national forests and parks, summering in fair Utah and wintering in warm Arizona. Don, their supervisor was leaving when Bob and I rolled up with a pint of elderberry syrup and another of elderberry jelly.
Dell and Jenn were thrilled that we came to see them and had been curious about what one did with elderberries. They were mostly packed up, the temperature having dipped down into the thirties. The elk hunters would be coming into camp overnight on the 30th so that they could hunt at first light. The recreation phase of the land use was ending. The hunt is nigh.
I will get my mountain hike in tomorrow before the gunmen ascend fort heir first night on The Mountain.
Jenn had dozens of photos of unique mushrooms for Bob to classify as their two dogs, a medium black lab and a small brindle hound, cavorted and stayed close to us. To the left of their RV was the remains of their Gnome Garden.
Dell said, “When the mushrooms were popping it looked amazing. The children are so wonderful. Look, this is their rock paintings,” pointing at a small boulder with assorted painted rocks upon it. “Each child dates his work and paints with the paints we supply. Then, they go in this tote and we will bring them back next year and put them out in the garden so that each child will be able to chart their artistic life.”
“Now look, we will be down in Arizona at [redacted] park for the autumn, winter and half the spring and you are welcome any time. There are plenty of guys like you, retired, or homeless, or lost a wife, and like a comfortable place where they can camp for the winter. There are full baths, showers, even blow dryers and you can stay for 90 days—only ten dollars a day. We'd love to see you there. This foraging life is fascinating and we look forward to learning from you fellas.”
And so we shook hands and gave thanks and Bob and I drove off through the most beautiful wooded canyon I have seen: deep green pondarosa and fir, light green aspen, yellow cottonwood and willow, golden umber scrub oak and rust red maple.
“It's a beautiful country,” said Bob, “hunted every mountain in it. We used to take the elk back up that canyon there towards Moffit.”
And its a country that provides a place to ponder as the wind tears down out of the higher places into the merely high places and clouds of white, grey and soot dance within the frame of the blue sky over an ever receding march of jagged giants.
This gutter rat will miss this fierce place. Like Bob, I hope the winter is as terrible “as all get-out” so that the billionaires and millionaires from Chicago, Seattle and California coming here to escape the gutter world they made will “tuck take and run,” for warmer climes.
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