With the cowboy crew currently camped out on the fall wagon, the kids and I have been commissioned to feed our neighbor’s dogs for two months. The chore takes 10 minutes, but the drive makes it a five-hour trip. We travel on a primitive mountain road filled with steep ascents, plunging descents, rocky creek crossings, and drop-off cliffs.
It’s not too bad, as long as I don’t get a flat tire or forget my Chapstick. Cherry flavor is my favorite, but I am quickly becoming obsessed with Victoria’s Secret lip gloss as well. This makes me super useful in the event of an emergency, because I can lean on the car and look good while someone else changes the tire.
How does one drive five hours round trip every other day with two small kids? First, I head east down the driveway toward headquarters. After cresting the hill, I take an immediate left turn onto Insanity Flat, pause for effect at Don’t Make Me Pull This Car Over Canyon, linger (if possible) at Take A Deep Breath Creek, detour over The Wheels On The Bus Go ‘Round And ‘Round Peak, try not to cry as I cross Yet Another Freaking Creek, then stop for lunch fifteen miles away at Distant Neighbor’s House.
I haven’t actually cried yet, but we’re only one week into this project. Once, I calmly stepped out of my Jeep and yelled loudly at the mountains for the sake of not beating my children. I am usually grateful for the kids’ company, though. Most days, four-year-old Grace is good help. She hands me water, picks up her little brother’s crayons, and says “Wow, that is a LONG way down!” when looking over the side of a steep canyon.
And there are a LOT of steep canyons on the way to Jason’s. I always text my husband when we leave our house, so he can come looking for us if he doesn’t receive a text that we returned safely. That way, no matter where we are, I know we’ll only have to wait about three, maybe four hours until help arrives.
I don’t even want to imagine what dangers could befall us during those long hours alone and helpless in the boonies, baking in the hot sun with only one tube of lip gloss. A bear might find us, or an overprotective mama elk. Or, worse yet, we could run out of Cheetos. My kids get hangry before I can say “Who ate the last graham cracker?” so I don’t even want to imagine their behavior miles from home and hours from a snack. If an elk did charge, I could just tell the kids that its antlers tasted like licorice and he’d be running for the top of the mountain quicker than I could say “Save some for Mama!”
The ranch is filled with an abundance of wildlife besides elk, so I encourage the kids to look for antelope, deer, road runners, and aborigines. I’m 99.99% certain that all the native peoples were located by explorers of European origin by the late 1800s, but if any were left, I’m 100% certain that they’re living in the deep, brush-filled canyons of northern Arizona. We may think we’re the only humans out here, but I just know there is a tribe of wild people waving at the big white birds that never land and spear hunting the smooth-haired bison that all have oddly uniform scars on their left hips.
Regardless of the difficulties and challenges, we have been doing what rural residents have been doing for hundreds of years: helping out our neighbors, taking care of animals, spending quality time with our children, and – ultimately – traveling all day to cover thirty miles.
This smooth-haired bison is wondering what in the world a woman and two kids are doing bumping over this rough ol’ road three times a week.