This is the point in the story where the parent (now me) needs to be completely honest with himself and admit that 1) he was crazy, 2) he is thankful that his kids didn’t do it, and 3) he would never trade it in for a million dollars (maybe I’d take $2M…).
I mentioned in a previous post that Katherine–my then-girlfriend/now-wife (of 29 years)–and I decided to quit school, buy some land in the forest outside of Santa Fe, sell most of our stuff, and move to the woods with no water, electricity, phone, neighbors or knowledge. The picture of the tent with the covered leather sewing machine was the way it looked the second day in our new home. What, you ask, did it look like the first day? Well, we have no photos, so you need to trust me here. The tent was really nice! A family friend donated it to us (sort of like loaning a suicidal person some rope), and it was an army surplus, deluxe tent that was big enough for a family of 4 on vacation. We also had a dog, Fydor, and a cat, Bogart. Like pretty much everything we did during this time in our lives, we made no plans whatsoever for dealing with the animals when we moved to the woods. Immediately after we bought the land, we packed up the International Harvester Scout (donated by my Dad) with the tent, the Coleman stove, a Coleman ice cooler, the dutch oven, the sleeping bags, the sewing machine, leather stuff, a few cloths, probably a hammer and shovel somewhere, a bit of rope, a five gallon water container, some food, the dog, and the cat, and we drove to our new paradise.
As soon as we opened the door, the dog chased the cat into the woods, never to be seen again (more on this in a later post). The proud dog quickly returned to be rewarded, and it was only then that we realized that we had no place to put him. I will tell you in another post about our neighbors who raised cattle in the forest, and we discovered the quaint old cowboy law in the west that it is the responsibility of the land owner to fence out the cows if you didn’t want them running all over your land and eating your horses hay. We would also discover later that it was also our job to keep our “damn dogs” away from the same cows.
After searching for the cat for an hour or so and consoling my girlfriend (it was her cat), we set up camp. The tent was beautiful! Tall, proud, ready for action. We set up a little kitchen in front of the tent with a cinderblock shelf for our stove and to store a bit of food, plates, utensils, and pots and pans. After a satisfying day, we realized that we needed something from town, so we decided to tie the dog to a tree next to the tent and kitchen; then we drove away to town and decided to grab dinner along the way.
When we came home that night, it looked like a massacre had taken place. The tent was shredded and on the ground. The kitchen was distributed all over the radius of the rope, Fydor was wagging his tail and so excited to see us again! We never got to sleep in the tent for a single night before it had been destroyed.
The next morning, I dug out some leather scraps and cement and patched the tent. It was never the same, but we did sleep there for the rest of the summer. To be continued…