4-Wheeling at the Butte
I climb on the seat behind Harv on the bright yellow 4 -wheeler and wiggle around to get comfortable in my elevated position above him: “Room With a View”. Still I can barely see above the top of his head really so have to crane my head from side to side to see what’s in front of us. Sometimes I forget about what’s going on down the road and just look at the views I can see flashing by if he is going fast on the narrow, dirt paths we take out in any given direction.
Today, the skies are full of huge, cumulus clouds that hang very low and look like they are ready to pop. We figure that maybe we shouldn’t go too far in case we get caught in a downpour and need to head back home. We choose a path leading us behind the back of Elephant Butte, a pretty drive with two accesses back home although, once we get out there we “get carried away” and forget the weather threat and verge off onto an adjoining trail we haven’t been on before that leads us further away from “the butte”, the endearing name everyone out here calls this mammoth butte that is the background of our community, whose presence is as familiar as the little cabin we built.
Riding along, Harv slows down so we can enjoy the sights and scents. Out this far, with nothing else to compete against, the rich scent of sage fills your nostrils and you can almost feel the menthol effect even from a distance. Up close, I always slip some of the leaves off the stem, crush them a little and hold them close to my nose, sucking in the heady aroma that just about knocks you over.
My eyes dart from the red sand that is everywhere, to hues of sage, yellow flowers, deep greens of the pines and up at the saturation of the bluest sky I’ve ever seen as the 4-wheeler moves past these common points.
We start heading more north now, enjoying the scenery and the air passing over our skin as we ride a little faster. This is another fascinating ride.
We’re so caught up with the sheer joy of it we don’t notice, or care, that the clouds are gathering in tighter, piling up one-on-top-of-another and the marshmallow clouds are drawing deeper shades of grays into them. The little breeze is strengthening.
No matter how caught up we are in other things, this coming storm is beginning to show too many signs by now to be ignored. The one thing we have to pay attention to is the streaks of lightning flashing in all directions in the far out horizons.
We have ventured further from home than what we intended. Literally, “throwing caution to the wind.” We are a small part of this big scenario taking place, in fact, only a minor part through nature’s eyes. Just two fools out on a 4-wheeler too far from home. Realizing our mistake, we now fear there is no way we’re going to beat the storm home.
Big, fat drops of rain start hitting us…almost one at a time at first. Plunk, one here; plunk another one there…we can almost count them as they fall.
Harv has sped up the pace now, taking the rough little path we ride on quite fast and furiously hitting every little bump in the road and driving as one with a purpose; forgetting now about comfort and, I fear, even safety. We are literally flying home and the rain drops are growing more steady, too fast to count now. Between the rain, wind and the speed of the bike it feels almost like a sleet of rain hitting us hard. The sensation is like little pin-pricks hitting us in different places all at once. I pull my head into Harv’s back to try to cover my face. He’s put on goggles, that blur quickly from the steady stream of water running down them.
We’re really going fast now and I yell in Harv’s ear, trying to be heard above the full-fledged storm that has added some thunder and lightning to its arsenal as well, that it feels like we’re galloping a horse home at break-neck speed. We are racing over this rugged, primitive terrain still laughing like fools with a mixture of worry, fear and excitement, we feel like cowboys in days gone by flying over the ground on a pony. It’s an exhilarating experience that has seized and heightened each sensory perception. The sage, now that it is wet, grows so pungent, it is the only smell out there. You could drown in the smell of wet sage!
“…Saddle up the horses cause we’re headed for the hall of fame.”
A line from the song,”I’ll be your Belle Star, You Can be My Jesse James.” From the album, “All the Road Running” by Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris
As we near our property and the familiar landmarks appear, we know it’s only a short time before we pull through our heavy, back-gate with the white Buffalo Skull Harv nailed above it.
I jump off, like the coward I am at times, and run for the house; leaving Harv to pull the 4-wheeler into the shed, turn it off and head inside himself. I start heating water for hot tea. I argue, to myself, that this is a good excuse for me to get inside first; to prepare things to comfort and warm us after being soaked to the bone.
Sitting on the upper, covered, deck we sip our hot tea and gaze out at the downpour and the spectacular lightening show preceded by deafening claps of thunder.
We made it home just in time.
To think, just a few minutes ago, we were high-tailing it home like outlaw-cowboys on the run, trying to race the wind.