A long place ago in a time far away, I worked as a hunting and fishing guide in Wyoming and Nevada. Nevada was great in its own right, and I ended up building a homestead there. Wyoming however, was something of an anomaly all its own.
As such, I ended up taking a lot of seasonal work in Wyoming, and from time to time, just striking out with a couple of pack horses on a string and staying out in the woods for a few months at a time. On occasion, one of my partners would join me, and this particular tale took place while I was with my partner Tom.
As it turned out, we had only spent about a month out in the woods at the time, taking a little bit of time to ride along the Continental Divide and peer out at the distant view of the Northern Lights … or what little was actually visible to us there.
Along the way, we took some time out to repair a couple of hunting shacks, one in particularly bad shape after a few Texans had spent the night … under my watch as much as I hate to admit it … and had drunkenly placed a propane lantern down on the wood stove so they would have more room for drinks and cards on the table top.
Yeah, that shack needed more than just a little bit of work, so Tom, being a partner, decided we may as well shack up there a spell and get it situated before the opening of the season. Suffice it to say that it was a little more work than either of us had ever intended on getting into during our down time outside of Jackson Hole.
Eventually we did get the hunting shack back in reasonably fair order, certainly good enough for the next group that would be coming along … though hopefully a little more sober in their efforts during hunting season than the last group had been.
However, by the time everything was said and done with the work, we had decided we were a bit parched, so we figured we would ride back down into Jackson along the ridgeline where the Sleeping Indian lies … as we had a very good friend we hoped may be persuaded to “throw some ribs on the barbie” when we got there.
Coming down from the Continental Divide, we struck out south and headed for the distant ridge line, making fairly good progress. Neither of us needed much and the silence and the relaxing sound of nature was as often as not, every bit as rewarding as the sparse conversations that may occasionally come to pass.
Occasionally, when the opportunity would arise, we would harvest a “Stupid Chicken” or three, usually cooking them there on the spot, though occasionally saving them up for an evening meal on the way back towards town. While we had no intentions of heading straight in to Jackson Hole, we had to head in that general direction.
In reality, we were heading for what I will call here, the Flying Goose Ranch, virtually underneath the sleeping Indian and just north of Jackson Hole, maybe a quarter of the way up towards Moran Junction and about across from the Grand Teton. (The Grand Tetons are the range, but the tallest peak in the middle of the bunch is the Grand Teton … a singular mountain)
Eventually we made our way down to the Flying Goose Ranch, but the hands would not allow us inside as apparently there were some very important guests there … and even more apparently, they were overly fussy about the company they kept and were not compelled to humor any locals with their presence.
Aside of all that, our friend was still managing the place, and true to his word, slapped some ribs on the barbie … but mind you, his idea of ribs was a bit different than that of most folk. His “ribs” were rib-eye steaks that were rarely cut less than two inches thick. He had a particularly hot corner of his grill where he could drop them down, turn them over and flip them over into your plate faster than you could eat them … and he was not at all shy about sharing.
We ended up spending the night out at his ranch, though barely on the edge of the property. They took our horses in at least, and we never minded being left out in the woods anyhow, and a couple of the ranch dogs decided to keep us company in case that boo boo should come a calling, so all things being equal, we were fairly well set.
The next day we figured we would ride on in to Jackson Hole and maybe stick around long enough to play in one of the net cafes a few hours, and enjoy a gunfight and a steak … but make sure to ask for the locals discount unless you are earning substantially more than most cowboys make.
Unfortunately, our trip into town would ultimately lead us to meet the very same people who had been so reluctant to meet us out at the Flying Goose Ranch of all places.
Funny thing. Had these people actually taken a little bit of time to get to know us, they would have discovered immediately that we were not bad people. We just did not kin to society very much, and needed time out in the woods just to stay right in the head when we had to be in the cities or around too many people.
As it was, they had never gotten to meet us and when we went riding into town, they came out to meet us … in force … and in a most unpleasant fashion.
I met a lot of interesting and some very famous people in and around Jackson Hole … and was supposed to meet a few more … including a couple of presidents I will talk about in another story. However, on this particular occasion, Slick Stogie Willie Clinton happened to be in town … though I still am not sure why … and did not really care at the time.
As such, when we came riding in to town with our side arms, more knives than anyone could have counted, strategically strapped on our bodies in a variety of locations sufficient to allow access to one no matter how entangled a broken string of horses may leave us, and long rifles in sheathes on one side and shotguns on the other side of our rigging … well let us just say that the Secret Service was not keen on us riding into town that way … and made no bones about attempting to relieve us of our God given and constitutionally guaranteed rights.
After a whole lot of hemming and hawing, and a meeting with what was probably every “local” law enforcement agent from a few hundred miles out in any direction, the Secret Service was finally forced to concede that we did indeed have God given and Constitutionally protected rights that they could not lawfully infringe upon … though we also felt compelled to inform them that we were more than happy not to stand too close to any politicians either … lest the smell frighten our plugs … our horses.
We ultimately agreed to leave the Slick Stogie be and they allowed us to wander free … though all of this had certainly ended up costing us a lot more time than we had planned, and we were still bitter about not getting to the net cafe … and worse still, having to take our horses up to our friends at Snow King Stables to be tended to since we would now not be able to get out of town that evening. Fortunately … or so we thought … Slick Stogie Willie would be leaving the next day.
Jackson Hole is so named because it is a valley surrounded on all four sides by mountains. This creates disturbing winds that force aircraft to fly around the valley twice, not so much to gain speed, but in order to be able to generate and maintain sufficient lift for flight in the cool, mountainous region with thin, wet air on even the best of days.
Unfortunately, some gal flying one of the C-130s did not really fully comprehend the complexity of flight under such circumstances … and it would be a fatal error in every sense of the word. And when she laid that Herc down, she ended up laying it down right on the face of the Sleeping Indian … a mountain ridge so named because it resembled an Indian Chief, replete with headband, laying down, almost as if rest in a funeral parlor in my mind.
Now bear in mind, this was a tragedy, and I may laugh even about tragedies from time to time, at least if only the “bad guys” pay the price for that tragedy, but such was not the case on this occasion. The irony however, should not be lost on anyone, when at the end of the day, who does the Secret Service have to come looking for in order to find someone to guide them up mountains that are not normally traversed or part of some guided group tour or another?
The work, as with any recovery work, was nasty in every sense of the word. For me personally, it has always been easier when they were soldiers than when they were civilians, but recovery work is still a nasty business no matter.
However, on a bright note, they did put us up at the Flying Goose Ranch and we were not at all shy about partaking of some excellent cowboy coffee and some of the best ribs to ever hit the grill … oh yeah … and our regular beds back too.
Let us know what you think please!