I was inspired last night by the President’s annual address (yawn) to bring all of you, my fellow Americans, up to speed on the condition of our rancho in the pines. I am happy to report that State of the Figure 8 is healthy, happy, and good, and I am delivering this address with an empty chair here in my office, meant to symbolize the continued absence of any inspirational candidate for 2016.
It has been a busy year. Looking back, it’s hard to see where much of it went. Since our arrival here three winters ago we have been engaged in an endless series of improvement projects. Tree clearing, fencing, more fencing, fake river building, more tree clearing, garden construction, greenhouse projects, barn building, and more fencing. Thankfully, the barn was completed just before the snows hit–it was a touch and go project beset by various delays–because it has been a tremendous winter so far. We have not seen bare ground in three months, and more snow is on the way. That’s good for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the Cascade snowpack, upon which we all depend.
And the population of our homestead continues to grow. We lost two chickens, but have added another border collie, and on Sunday I will be hauling in two horses from California. So we are +1 in total ranch population, which I’m told is good for the economy. I am most excited about the horses, and starting a young colt named Remi. He is a find and a prospect, and most importantly will fill a large hole that has existed in my solar plexus since I last rolled my bed and moved to town.
I did not get an elk this year, though not for lack of trying. In fact, I can now reveal, after further research, that I was indeed a member of the “Most Difficult Elk Hunt of All Time.” Four of us drove to Durango, Colorado, with every intention of overloading our freezers with gigantic bulls, but much like the relief parties sent up the Nile to rescue Chinese Gordon from Khartoum, we were beset with any number of problems: indecision, grown men who could not ride horses, loads of gear that fell off the mules, a shortage of firewood and propane at the drop camp, a heart pounding, life-before-your-eyes, 100 foot uncontrolled slide for life to the edge of a cliff, and strictly vertical climbs to ten thousand feet in eighteen inches of snow. Bottom line: no bull for Craig this year. I never even saw one. I saw tracks, I could smell them, and I jumped them twice, only to hear them crashing away into the dark timber. Hugh Glass I was decidedly not. But we are nothing if not adaptable on the Figure 8, and we will be raising a feeder steer this year to cover the gap.
And so that’s the state of it, folks. And I would add one more thing. What we are doing here is an experiment in roping a dream out of the ether, of holding it in our hands and shaping it into something tangible, while we still have the life to do it. We made a bold decision to blow out of California, leaving ludicrously well paid jobs, friends, and family, to chase down our dreams and to embrace the bumps and scrapes, the heartaches and smiles a long the way. And we are not alone. I had the opportunity to interview a fascinating man yesterday, a former Blue Angels pilot who flew 120 combat missions in an A6 Intruder over Vietnam. He is now an accomplished oil painter, a humanitarian, and man of abiding faith. His name is Jim Horsely. He said, “If your memories are bigger than your dreams you are headed for the grave.” I like that quite a bit, and that’s the spirit that underpins the state of the Mighty Figure 8.
***Lastly, Nugget News editor Jim Cornelius has gallantly risked his reputation and career by taking me on as a freelancer. My first column appeared there today–you can find it here. And I would encourage you to check out his terrific blog at FrontierPartisans.com.