Alongside the Road X


The family Friday evening drive shattered as I bent over to pick up the dog toy alongside the road. I froze, trapped in a purgatory between fight or flight. Eyes bulging, the hair on the back of my neck lifted so high it pushed my ball cap forward over my eyes. Hard to believe that ten minutes earlier the evening had been perfect.
We pulled off Highway 43 onto the dusty dirt road named Trail Creek. Apparently, some famous people had followed the creek and thus the name. I slowed the Ford pickup on the narrow road looky louing out over the meadow along the creek for whitetail deer and those long legged birds that remind you birds are related to dinosaurs.
The kids shuffled around eager to be released from the confines of the backseat after the three hour drive from our house. The batteries on their kindles had almost expired and they shut them down to save some juice for the ride home. My wife assured them that she had remembered all the ingredients for making s’mores. We’d already ate some healthy gas station food for dinner and I was hoping that a few Coors Lights would put the fire out in my stomach after eating not one but two jalapeno and cheese corndogs.
We had decided where we wanted to camp but if that spot had already been taken, we discussed other possible places to pitch the tent and build the campfire. The August day was warm but the campfire was essential to provide smoke to keep the mosquitoes at bay and to cook marshmallows.
The dog whined, sticking her head over the seat and into my ear. Our pound puppy wasn’t quite a year old but she already knew she enjoyed camping. There were lots of smells, podunks and squirrels to chase, and a comfy tent filled with sleeping bags to sprawl across at night. The dog’s ancestry was a little sketchy, red healer, yellow lab, and boston bull terrier all combined to create a fifty pound dog with a small head, webbed feet, and an interest in chasing animals. You’d guess the dog would spend all her time in the creek or looking for range cows to herd. But not this dog. She didn’t like swimming, got her feet wet only when necessary and didn’t want to chase anything bigger than her. She didn’t even play fetch, which was something I was hoping to work on while camping for the weekend.
As if on cue, I spotted a large orange round cylindrical bumper in the weeds at the edge of the road. The fluorescent orange color caught my eye and I got a glance of it as the truck went past it alongside the road. It looked like I had found one of those dog toys that are about two inches in diameter and about fourteen inches long and have the rough knobs over it that are used to train dogs to fetch. I’m not sure what they are technically called, but I call them a bumper. What a stroke of luck, I thought, as I eased onto the brake and brought the Ford to a stop in the middle of the road. Rather than back up, I got out of the car and walked the twenty yards back along the road to the bumper.
We were stopped along a section of straight road and the creek playfully ran through a high mountain meadow surrounded by willows creating a curving hedge. I studied the willows hoping to see a moose feeding in the evening sun. I reached the bumper unexpectedly as I had been so intent on searching the pristine meadow. I bent over at the waist my right hand reaching downward, then my eyes focused on the bumper and I froze.
The object lying alongside the road wasn’t a dog’s toy, but a woman’s toy. There in the dirt just inches from my hand lay a giant fluorescent orange dildo, hereafter referred to as the GFOD, since I don’t want to have to type the word dildo anymore.
It’s funny how at times like this how fast the mind can operate. I was only frozen in place for maybe a second but so many thoughts flashed through my head.
Who brings a GFOD with them out into the woods? Does the conversation go something like this? “Lou Ann did you remember to pack the Dutch oven so we can make apple cobbler?” “Yes Hank” “What about the GD? Did you get that packed? You know it ain’t camping unless we’ve got the GD.” “Yes Hank I brought the fluorescent orange one this time so you don’t lose it in the grass by the campfire.”
And how do you lose a GFOD alongside the road? I pictured two hippy chicks hurriedly packing up their camping gear to get back to Missoula before the farmer’s market closed so they can buy a week’s supply of kale. Hands full of yoga mats and bottles of patchouli oil one of them sets the GFOD on the top of their Subaru in order to have a free hand to open the door. I pictured the GFOD wobbling back and forth on the top of the car as the couple drove down Trail Creek waving at the vehicles they passed until a water bar tumbles the GFOD into the ditch.
My paralysis ended and I shifted gears into fight or flight. I snapped upright, my hand jerking back as my right foot shot out. Before I could stop it, my sneaker made contact with the GFOD lifting it out of the dirt and propelling it through the air. It gracefully somersaulted in the evening sun before crashing into a clump of willows and disappearing from sight.
I shuffled back to the truck dragging the toe of my right shoe in the dust to scrape off any remnant of anything it had picked up from making contact with the GFOD. My wife wanted to know where the bumper was and with a glance at the kids and that tone parents use to indicate they don’t want to talk about it in front of children, I told her I tell her about it later.
As I put the truck in gear, I did tell her, “After we cook the marshmallows and the kids are in the tent, and the campfire is good and hot, remind me to burn these sneakers.”