Friday, April 14, 2017

the latest trip was to ruidoso; this one goes through the mountains, the mescalero reservation, and it's still a bit cold up here with a little snow, wild horses and elk all over the place. most of the elk were in the ruidoso high school parking lot when we got there. they looked a little scruffy from a long winter but they ambled out of our way and were gone when we got back out of the high school.

the thing i like best about ruidoso is this river that runs right down through the center of town, rushing and gurgling; it's very small, but makes a lot of noise and is wonderful to play in. we passed over it somewhat quickly and followed the canyon up to the high school because we had to go to the doctor's; he was at the high school, and it was friday morning, but good friday, so the students were gone. a number of cars were in the parking lot, and when we came out from the doctor, we noticed that someone had marked on all the cars. not ours, just the rest of them; perhaps they had been marked the night before. in fact, perhaps the band had left town, or maybe the baseball team, and everyone marked up their cars as a gesture of school spirit. it was very nice, actually. i wouldn't mind driving around town with a marked up car like that.

the woman at the doctor's said that the elk pretty much had the run of the place, and had, for a couple of years; before that it might have been deer. the elk started out in the elementary school, she said, then went over to the soccer fields, then came down to the high school, and pretty much did it whenever they could. they were safer in town, she said, than they were out in the country, and they knew it.

on the reservation they have wild horses, too, but the people on the reservation own them, you could say, even though as far as anyone can tell they just run wild all over the place. they're gorgeous. a lot of times you see them out at the edge of the field, where the trees and the mountains start, and it seems like maybe you could just go over there and befriend them, but then again, probably not. the people themselves, on the reservation, are pretty nice, they wave at you like most country folk. they seem to take care of their land. some guy at the doctor claimed that the mescalero had actually introduced the elk as a money-making venture, hoping to get hunters up there on the reservation, many years ago. i know the state introduced ibex and oryx for the same reason, hoping to bring in some revenue from hunters, and they have all taken their place in the food pyramid with human hunters at the top, what there are of them. people here hunt a lot of elk, and when they seem to be overrunning the place, they loosen up the hunting restrictions, and they hunt even more of them. they actually prefer elk meat to deer meat; i wouldn't know, myself. maybe they just prefer hunting animals that are slightly bigger, more powerful, more contemptuous.

this one road, elk canyon road, runs right down through the reservation and had hundreds of elk on it, especially at certain times, like sundown, in the summer, when they want to be out on the road for some reason, perhaps to like up the salts that the roads collect. one night my son-in-law was driving back from ruidoso and i forgot to warn him. he tends to want to go sixty or seventy even on a mountain road, but i'd never do that, at sundown, in the summer. i think the elk kind of got to him that night, though he didn't hit any of them. they gave him a scare. they're kind of surly, and don't get off the road too quickly. they're kind of like moose that way. perhaps they find the apples, late in the summer, and get a little drunk before they go out to the road. in any case, i wouldn't mess with them. they're too big, and i don't have a gun.

i often joke about maybe getting the elk to jump in my van, and come home with me. and then, maybe i'll talk them into just laying down in the fire and being my dinner. but i don't have a fire that big, and i don't think they'll do it. i think i have to go the gun route like everyone else. hunting permit, truck, meat bag, major knife, camos, i guess you need the whole outfit. not sure i'm ready yet.

but we do occasionally see them in town, on the roads, all over the place, even coming up behind our house. elk and deer both. i think people are right, the elk are somewhat dominant; the deer jump more lively but stay out of the elk's way. both of them like the apples, and the local fruit. i think only the elk get drunk, being a little more like the moose.

you talk about wide shoulders, colorful bi-color jacket - they're really impressive. and they drop their antlers, this time of year. some people go out to where they are, and just pick up the antlers. others, like this one guy i met, do taxidermy and just mount the heads. like at the propane store; they have three of them. largest racks i've ever seen; they dominate the propane store. the guy hunts the biggest ones, and stuffs them, and mounts them, and if you walk in there an pay your propane bill, there they are.

the taxidermist said he did a cougar, too, which is at the barbecue joint - it had been hit by a car in the winter, and he went back around and got it and stuffed it and mounted it. impressive, i say, that you can do that kind of stuff. guess somebody has to. he says he learned the trade from some guy who was about to leave the area, and now he, after thirty years or more, is getting restless. maybe he needs somebody to learn how to do taxidermy. interesting.


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