Tuesday: Big elk herd on the Big Elk

I went off today to finally attend my writing group, the Tuesdays. It was a great session, and I got a strategy for fixing a poem that’s been giving me fits, half poem, half prose, but worth struggling with.

But what really made it really worthwhile was the trip home. I saw a magnificent herd of elk in one of the fields near milepost 3. There must have been at least 25 of them, not the biggest herd I’ve seen, but large, very close, regal, disdainful. When I stopped to watch them, they moved away, but not in a panic. I think they knew I wouldn’t hurt them. They just resented my nosiness.

I’ve never figured out how animals know when it’s hunting season, but they do. The deer that are making you nuts one afternoon suddenly disappear for several weeks. Then they’re back, the day after hunting season ends.

We don’t hunt or fish, unless you count my extremely occasional deep-sea fishing expeditions. I suppose we would if we were hungry. But we’re not. I prefer to be a gardener-gatherer and buy my meat at a good meat market, something, by the way, that’s becoming harder and harder to find. But that’s a post for another day.

It’s not a moral issue with me. I grew up as a country girl, have seen chickens killed and know how to strip the feathers and pin feathers and gut them, have seen steers slaughtered, helped brand cattle, watched my father butchering venison, and so on. I know where meat comes from. But we don’t need the meat, and I love watching the animals.

Elk are magnificent. Their dark ruffs make them look like they’re always on the way to a formal dinner somewhere, and their posture reinforces that impression. I would like to have half the self-confidence of the average elk.

I have a sixth sense for them, a sense that’s kept me out of some potentially disastrous situations. I was flying along Harlan Road one night when my hackles went up and I stepped on the brakes, hard. About a dozen cow elk ran across the road in front of me. When my heart rate returned to normal, I put my foot on the accelerator with a faint mental “Whew!” Then a bull bigger than my truck stepped out. I missed him, but I must admit I slowed down for the rest of the trip.

Somehow this post went far afield, but that’s the nature of stream of consciousness. I don’t have any pictures to share. My camera was at home, and it was twilight, probably too dark to capture them anyway. But my brain has captured them forever, I hope.

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