Big Horn Mountains (near Cloud Peak Wilderness)
July 4th, 2022
Originally you were supposed to get up just past sunrise and take the girl to climb those big rock faces just north of camp, then head to town to see what Buffalo, Wyoming does for Independence Day. Yet neither of those things had occurred.
Instead it’s the last day in one of your favorite camps, on one of your best trips, where nothing bad had occurred except for both the kid and the dog scraping their chins open. The later coming through an open mountain meadow on a dead run not seeing the rock, and going over it chin then feet. When she stumbled to her feet she tested her jaw in such a human way that you expected her to say something about the pain. That was early in the trip and it had all been fine after that.
So with nothing else to do you start to pack up what parts of camp you can, drink coffee and fish one of the last donuts out of the box. You wander over to the creek that is pure snow melt running off the peaks above camp to watch the last vestiges of youth in your little girl, play in the cold water as you sit in the camp chair almost feeling the chill of the water on her bare feet against the smooth stones of the creek bed.
The full shade of the pines feels perfect, unlike the tent just up the slight rise that sits in full sun not twenty feet away. And now on the last day at 3 0’clock you run a hand over your head feeling the six days of stubble that you had planned to have shaved when you all made the trek to Sheridan for lunch. Then the old school hipster barber closed early that day, having missed out on the opportunity of a stranger take a straight razor to your skull.
Finally you succumb to it. Pulling yourself up, and throwing the latches on the camp box you dig around to find a stainless camp mug. The one you bought in Colorado twenty years ago when you spent a week in the Rockies investigating a scheme for a Client who is probably long since dead, and pair it with the camp mirror you bought at the Sports Lure in Buffalo. Finding your shaving kit, along with towel you set it all to rest on the pine needle floor.
A few minutes later, you feel the tingle of the shaving cream on your head. The first few razor strokes leave clean, smooth lines of bare skin, the razor clanking around the steel mug of water that came out of the creek. The cup rests again on the upended bundle of firewood used as a makeshift table and you look into the mirror, making another pass with the razor.
In the old days they wore what was termed moccasins around camp, not a true buckskin moccasin but something more akin to a soft leather slip on shoe, like the Sperry Topsiders you loved as a kid because you didn’t have to wear socks with them. You replaced that idea with the ever popular river sandals that mark the passage of summer with their strange tan line on your feet that are now outstretched against the forest floor. Remembering the summer, as teenagers, when you and Bill went hard after black tipped sharks and the day you sun burned the top of your feet so bad you couldn’t wear shoes for a week. Back then you loved the ocean and the beach more than anything, but it was the only place you were cut loose as a kid to roam. The mountains of course would sing their siren song and you hadn’t seen the beach in a long while, and the mountains never as much as you wanted. You had made the choice years back to keep an urban life so you could make a living that involved people and not mountains. “Fool”.
The razor scrapes the last of the hair from your head, while the towel removes the wayward bits of shaving cream. The scalp now feeling soft, clean and slightly rubbery as a slight breeze makes itself known. The wide brimmed hat hangs on a bent pine nearby with your gun belt and shirt. Stepping back out into the sun, especially now having been freshly scalped requires the hat, but you’re not ready. Not ready to see the big tent drop tomorrow, to hear the tail gate on the Ford close, not ready to lose the stars that don’t appear in the summer night mountain sky until damn near eleven. Your toes feel the conflict of pine needles against bare feet, their sharp and soft contrast mingled together. Pleasure and pain always seemingly equidistant apart.
The old teak wood chair squeaks as you look down the creek to see the girl, still in the cold mountain runoff that makes the creek, and reach for your coffee. Looking past the clarity of the creek and as deep into the stand of pines as possible, knowing you won’t get a lot of shaves like that.