I was sitting in the BLAZING Texas heat, in Palo Duro Canyon State Park when I started writing this post. Utterly glorious, but OMG it’s probably the hottest place I’ve ever visited. Considering it’s July, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I only stayed one night as I was traveling my way home again, but it felt even hotter than Arizona; I’m sure it was at least 95 thousand degrees outside. And, it just so happened that there was no cell service down in the canyon, and therefore no internet, so I took that unusual media blackout and closeted-in-the-air-conditioning opportunity to continue my Denver stories.
My second week in Colorado got even more interesting than the first. When I began my fortnight at Chatfield State Park, I was delighted to find my site was somewhat private, and faced nothing but trees, grass and shrubs. Since I intended to be there for two solid weeks, I didn’t want a train station’s worth of folks parading in and out of my vision the enter time. The sites on either side of me sat reasonable distances apart so that no one could hear the others’ conversations, unless of course you were listening. But what I liked most about it was the fact that it appeared safe enough for me to let my cat out, without fear of her getting in the way of other people, or in fact, anyone knowing she was skulking about. She tends to hide under bushes and trees while she’s stealthing around, so most folks don’t even know she’s there. And she loves being out so much, it is very difficult to turn her down. That, and we fight a duel every time I open the door, which she, more often than not, wins.
So for the first week my darling cat enjoyed abundant freedom and fun roaming around our little spot in Colorado. She never prowls far, which is why I don’t worry about her. And, she always comes home. Don’t worry animal rights activists, I don’t let her out when there is a fear of evil predators. But when the location is reasonably calm, she goes out during the day to explore the area like the rest of us do. We had also savored, for that entire first week, the unusual pleasure of not having anyone situated in the site next to us – a rare treat in the summertime.
Well, naturally that didn’t last. But what none of us expected was the top notch quality of the neighbor who arrived to bless us with his joyous presence.
There is nothing like violent, single-minded patriotism, not to mention a vehicle built out of two completely separate vehicles smashed together and filled with everything a normal person might have in their garage, to set your heart to excited anticipation about the days to come.
Tragically, I did not take a photo of the RV this masterpiece of idiot engineering was pulling. But you can no doubt imagine it: 70s era, rust stains streaming under the windows, 60s rock music blaring out of the tinny speakers. Idyllic.
And thus had arrived the ZZ Top Guy.
Tall, old, pot-bellied, with a wizened, leathery face and a grizzly grey beard down to his tits.
Oh, and let’s not forget the dog, because the dog plays a starring role in this story. I’ll give you one guess what kind of dog he had with him. One guess.
Okay, you either got it right or got it wrong, but of course he had a giant snarling German Shepherd with him. Guys like that and dogs like those always come hand in paw. They’re like peanut butter and frickin’ jelly.
And in this case, they certainly reinforce the adage that dogs become like their owners: aggressive, insecure, and generally pretty stupid until properly trained.
Just once I’d like to see a guy like that with a Chihuahua. But then again, he’d probably name it AK-47.
At any rate, you can probably see where this story is going, considering I started out by mentioning my cat.
Well, naturally my cat is curious. Most of the time she spent her days hiding under the low-branched evergreens that grew right in front of our site, but on the odd occasion she would wander out to inspect the goings on around our little spot in the Colorado country.
I’m not even entirely sure what I was doing at the moment of the altercation, but I wasn’t in the immediate vicinity. I think I might have been returning from walking George, but I was alarmed suddenly to hear violent growling and teeth gnashing, and when I rounded the corner of my RV, I saw next door’s Rin Tin Tin doubled over at the neck, thrashing around in the dust, raging at being limited by the makeshift twisted rope lead by which it was tethered. A few yards away, I saw my feline daintily trotting away, tail straight up and curled at the top, looking at me as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
Hm. This looked… suspicious.
My cat clearly didn’t look frightened, so I wasn’t particularly worried about her. She actually had the decency to look a little… guilty. But she was all right, and went about her business. I still have no idea what went on, but I had a feeling that this would not be the end of it.
And sure enough it wasn’t. It didn’t take long for Dusty Hill to come stalking over to lecture me about the constitutional rules and regulations of the world and the right and wrong ways for a person to live in America the Beautiful and Militant.
“You know, you’re not supposed to have animals running around the campground. You should have your cat on a leash!”
Which, for the record, the first time out with the RV over a year ago, I attempted. I put my cat in a harness and on a leash, and immediately after I released her, she freaked out, ran under the RV and entangled herself in the trailer brakes. That was the last time I strangled her with a tether. Since then, she’s either wandered around safely, or if necessary, she hangs out in her little cat habitat. But most of the time, I let her roam free.
Clearly, the habitat was going to be needed for this week’s sojourn.
“I can’t,” I responded, not looking at him. What else could I say? He wasn’t interested in hearing another person’s point of view, as folks like this never do, so it was more effective to stay silent and go about my business. He went on an on, which, after the first minute, I tuned out. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what he said, because I wasn’t listening. Increasingly his rhetoric became more and more histrionic, and which point I calmly said,
“Get out of my site. You’re trespassing. I will deal with it. Get OUT. OUT!”
“Well, if you don’t do something about that cat, and my dog gets a hold of it, it’s on YOU.”
With that, he stomped off, muttering under his breath. The next thing I know I heard a great clattering from within his ancient RV, no doubt a result of a myriad of rifles and hand grenades being shuffled about in an expression of his outrage. Laughing quietly, I ruminated on the interaction. All I knew was, if his dog got a hold of my cat, it would not, in fact, be on me. Even if she shouldn’t have been out. If his dog was so vicious that it would kill another animal, regardless of what it was or where it was, it would be on HIM. One of the first rules of camping in State campgrounds is that you can’t bring dangerous pets there. Ever. Under no circumstances.
And of course that was when I realized this moron was scared of his own dog. He was laying the groundwork for his defense, if, in fact, his dog did attack another animal in the area. Awesome. I could just see him in the witness box:
“I told her, your Highness, I told her that she should have kept her cat away! I can’t be held responsible for the savagery of my pet! That’s un-American! Plus, I’m just too stupid! You can’t blame me for that!”
Indeed I had hoped our one-sided conversation that day would be the end of it, but alas… no.
The next morning I was dutifully setting up my cat habitat, when he ambushed me again. I hadn’t even had a chance to push the ground stakes in before he was violating my site boundaries, waving his arms at me, and opening with this line,
“I know you’re a liberal but…”
Well. You can imagine how that was received. Personally, I’m not liberal or conservative; I couldn’t care less about politics. They’re all a big fat joke anyway. But when someone comes at you, lobbing political accusations because of their own ignorance and insecurities, thinking this will actually have power in an argument, you have little choice but to play the game. The game of Crazy.
So, I chose the one tactic that I knew, without fail, would have him running in the opposite direction as fast as his spindly legs would carry him: I started wailing like a lunatic.
We all know men are terrified of the dramatics of the ladies. And as a weapon, it works remarkably well. All a woman has to do is start maniacally screaming, and they retreat like a wounded hyena. Especially guys like this, who are the biggest, and the most ferociously concealed, cowards of them all. In this case, I just had to howl and fuss and yell a few “Oh my Gods” and “get away from mes” and he was gone in a puff of smoke and indignation. But, not to be beaten – at least in his mind – he had to throw one last anemic threat over his withdrawing shoulder:
“I’m gonna get the ranger!”
Yeah okay dude, go tell daddy. I’m shaking in my flip-flops.
I finished assembling the cat habitat, and ensconced my little furry instigator into it. I felt sorry that she was going to have to spend her days during the week in there, but it was a fairly decent sized space, and it was better than being locked in the RV. It also has a long tube sort of thing on it that I situated under her favorite tree, so she could still hide in the shade and watch everything around her, fantasizing about all the birds and rabbits she wouldn’t be able to chase.
Eventually I settled myself into my camp chair, fired up the computer, sipped my cup of coffee, and began to work. George lounged happily under the RV, lawfully connected to a 30-foot line (again, for the record, he’s always connected). We were angels.
It was a couple of hours later when the ranger rolled up. They quietly drive their pickups into your site parking area, and calmly call out so as not to startle you and cause frying pans to fly. In this case, I already happened to be outside, so when I heard the tires scrunch on the gravel, I smiled. He came around the corner…. Helloooooooo Cutie!
The guy was young and retiring, as many park rangers are. Most of them are incredibly sweet. I mean, they’re nature guys, how can they not be? They’re certainly not bullies, or wannabe cops. And, I was prepared.
“So miss, there have been a couple of complaints…” he started. I laughed.
“Look, I know why you’re here,” I interrupted. “There has been one complaint, and it was from THAT guy.” I pointed over to my ZZ Top neighbor.
The ranger dropped his eyes and laughed. “Yes, you’re right,” he said. “What happened?”
And I proceeded to tell him. He could see that my cat was now well-contained, my dog was tethered (as he always is) and that we were not, in fact, covert insurgents planning to assault the campground with diabolical purring and tail-wagging, or doggie and kitty poop grenades. We were just trying to enjoy life peacefully.
After about fifteen minutes, he left. And I never heard from the ZZ Top guy again.
Sane people: 1, Rednecks: 0.