Buffalo Bones and Racing Minnows, Bears, Wyoming, Alaska, Vegetarians and Artists   Leave a comment

A few years ago, I accompanied Ed Lowe on a journey to find a bone. Ed needed a bone for a piece of art he was doing. He wanted an elk bone and called a few places in search of one.  A place in South Dakota mailed him some fresh buffalo bones that he boiled on the grill in the backyard to get off whatever scanty meat still clung to them. It kept the dogs underfoot in the process hoping for a morsel. Then after speaking to a man in Wyoming who raised large game for his hunting reserve, and owned a meat processing business in a small Wyoming town, Ed thought he’d found a place that could provide him with the perfect bone he needed for his piece. The Wyoming man said that we could come look through his bone piles at his ranch. He gave Ed directions and we started out on a chilly Saturday morning. We found his meat processing building in town, and we stopped to check if he might be there, but it was closed, so we followed the directions to the ranch. We wound around and through muddy dirt roads in my Honda sliding and speeding up to make it through the deeper mud holes in the road. The directions were not the best but we came to a nice split level home that seemed it must be the place. There were animal bones lining the driveway, skulls placed here and there around the house and yard in distinct aesthetic design.  Ed knocked on the door and a Hulk Hogan clone answered the door complete with handkerchief tied on his head and thin blonde hair sticking out at neckline. I waited in the car. Ed returned, “It’s not the right place, but he gave me directions. We’re close.” We were sure we’d found the right place based on the scattering of bones we saw as we entered a long driveway to an old farmhouse. A pickup was outside and we knocked on the front door, the backdoor, front door again. The guy had said that we could come at this time and he would be here. We hated to drive all the way home without “the bone.” No reception on my cell phone, so we couldn’t call the guy. We knocked once more. Ed said,”Let’s just walk over to some of these bone piles and see if we can find a bone.” It seemed reasonable since we had already gotten the owner’s okay to take a bone, but it was creepy at the same time, because we were on someone’s land and there were a lot of bone piles around (surely they were all animal bones) and the guy’s pickup was at the house, and he most likely had a gun – we were in rural Wyoming. So we walked a trail and saw a pile of bones which led down the way to another pile of bones and another and another. It’s like looking for gold and seeing the next vein. I picked up a half a rib cage and carried it with me, because somehow it seemed like a treasure and why go home empty-handed from the bone store. Ed found a few he thought might work and some that he appreciated for their sleek line or the delicateness of one small one that might be used in another piece, but still not the elk bone he wanted. We went back to the car and put our bone stash in the trunk, tried knocking one more time, and then decided to return to the house of the Hulk clone and see if he could call the neighbor on his land line phone.

This time I went to the door with Ed. We knocked and I heard three locks and bolts being undone before the door opened. Hmmm, most country people I know just open the door. He locked the door behind us.  Double Hmmmmmmm.

Not prepared for what I saw, I gasped, but the owner seemed not to notice or was used to this response. The house was filled with taxidermy animals, big animals, a lot of big animals, but all in an extremely clean, nice new home. It was beyond tidy. This guy is a Hulk clone with obsessive compulsive disorder. The fridge magnets were in perfect alignment. Maybe it’s just not what I expected from a guy who looks like he might throw a chair through a window when you least expect it. The shiny dust-free wood floors glowed, the kitchen faucet sparkled and all under the watchful eyes of hundreds of dead animals. There was a wild boar with tusks that stretched seven feet from tail to tusk, a couple of standing bears, a few wolves, coyotes,  the head of an elk to name a few. Mixed in with these eyes was some great Alaskan art made my Native Americans. Our amazement at this collection of animals in this lovely home was appreciated by our new host, and his interest in Ed’s art and need for an animal bone caused him to warm to us quickly, and he graciously showed us his entire home. In every room, eyes bore into my own eyes or my back. The spare bedroom had its own bear skin on the bed and standing bear.  Our host, I’ll call him Mr. Hogan, took us into his bedroom and we saw his four-poster bed lined with skins of ermine, mink, weasel, all draped like scarves around the entire bed. I’m wondering how much does one have to kill before getting tired of the game and decide to try a new hobby. That’s when Mr. Hogan said that he planned to build onto his living room because he wasn’t done yet.  He showed us the bear that he brought down with a spear, and was given an Indian name by his native friends in Alaska after this feat. In the bedroom, we saw a very old gun hanging on the wall and he proceeded to tell us that his parents were from England and his father was a secret agent working with the U.S government during WWII. He and his mother were sent to the United States for their own protection when he was a boy. Mr. Hogan himself was a proud veteran of the Vietnam War. And had been a hunting guide in Alaska until just a year or two before buying some land in Wyoming to settle and build a home.

I asked, “Have you seen the movie, “Grizzly Man” about the guy who lived with grizzlies every year in Alaska for months. The bears finally had enough and killed the man and his girlfriend?”

“Look at this” he said. Mr. Hogan pulled a small plastic container from a shelf and unscrewed the lid. Hold our your hand.”

He dropped an unrecognizable piece of something in my hand.

‘That’s a lip from that bear that ate the guy in the movie. My friend who is a park ranger in Alaska was called in when a helicopter spotted a torn up camp area. She found what was left of the guy and his girlfriend. The bear was found and killed and she saved this piece of skin from the bear as a souvenir for me. That guy in the movie was crazy. Didn’t know a thing about bears.”

I thought, wait until I tell my son, Josh, that not only did I watch the movie he suggested, but I held in my hand a piece of that man-eating bear. This bone trip continues to get weirder by the moment.

Our host was a most gracious man. We drank coffee while he told us about the eccentric people living in this area. “People think there are free spirit oddballs living in Alaska, they should come here.”

After seeing the house and drinking our coffee, he offered to try to call his neighbor again for us. The neighbor had not answered the first time he tried. We hear him dial in the next room and then the one-sided conversation that takes place.

“No, they are good people. Really. It’s an artist and his friend. They said you’d be around if they drove here today. Well, they must not have gotten that message. Settle down. You’re not going to shoot anyone. All right, all right. They won’t come back. Yes, I’ll tell them you are in Denver. Really, they are very nice people. Yeah, go lie down.”

Mr Hogan came out of the room looking a bit embarrassed. He said, “My neighbor said that he left a message on your phone, Ed, telling you he would not be able to see you today and not to come for the bone. He’s said that he’s in Denver. I saw him last night in the bar and he was getting pretty lit up. I don’t think you should return to his place today.”

Ed said, “Damn, I was hoping for a nice elk bone. I want the elegance of the longer bone as opposed to a buffalo bone, but I didn’t find one.”

“I will be hunting for elk next week and can send you one, or you could come back and pick it up. I’ll make you some bear stew and we can talk some more. The stew is great.”

Probably not the time to mention that I’m a vegetarian. I’d already read a joke about vegetarians on his wall somewhere.

“That would be great,” Ed said, “You’ve been so gracious and helpful today. Sorry we’ve taken up so much of your day.”

“No, my pleasure. It’s great to speak to intelligent people and I love artists.”

He’s maybe eaten a few, I think. He unbolts and unlocks his door and lets us out. We shake hands and return to our car with the contraband bones in our trunk from the neighbor who was probably watching us walk his land with a gun in his hand at  the upstairs window. And we still don’t have the right bone.

We get into my car, and I start laughing. “That was interesting. He’s a very sweet, can’t-kill-enough-animals-in-my-lifetime guy.

On our way home we stop in a bar in Wyoming for a beer and there is much excitement in the place due to minnow races taking place.

“Well, of course, there are minnow races taking place here. Our wacky trip must continue. At least they are live minnows.”

We ordered another beer, and some fried mushrooms and placed our bet on number 1.


Posted December 24, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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