(by Ruth, Honey Lake, CA)

Remember when I told you that border collies get up at daybreak? Well, this particular morning, Gyp decided that we needed to get up before daybreak.

As we walked down the sloping road toward the highway in the predawn twilight, I noticed two cars parked near the entrance to the driveway, just off 395. One pulled away as I neared, but the other, a late-model black sedan with tinted windows, stayed put. Thinking, “Well, it’s just some early-morning carpoolers,” I didn’t slow my pace. It wasn’t until I was about 30 feet away from the black sedan that I thought, “Hello. People here don’t carpool, and certainly not in cars with tinted windows. And why would there still be two guys sitting in this car?”

Simultaneous with the thought was, “No, couldn’t be!” even though several of our neighbors in the campground were surely interested in buying what these guys might be selling. Just the day before, the woman in the camper next to us asked if we had any aluminum cans, she needed cigarette money and her “check hadn’t come yet this month.” It didn’t help that we’d watched the movie Fargo the night before, and the picture I had in my mind of two guys in a car didn’t end well for anyone. Gyp, though, was off leash and already right next to the car. The passenger side window was open, and I had to walk within 10 feet of that open window. I kept my eyes on the dog as I walked quickly past—but not too quickly, I didn’t want them to think I thought anything of it—and tried not to make eye contact. Problem is, I didn’t want to not make eye contact, then they’d know I knew. Fuck.

The two guys in the car wore that rumpled look, greasy hair sticking out from under worn baseball caps, several layers of oil (or worse!)-stained shirts.

“How ya doin’?” the driver greeted me. Well, now what? If I ignore them, I’m rude—and suspicious. If I engage them, isn’t that a little strange at 5am?

I chose the middle path, and nodded with a slight smile as I turned to continue my walk. That seemed to satisfy them, and I moved on. At this point, Gyp seemed to sense my discomfort, and, thankfully, picked up her pace. Fine by me, any excuse to get moving faster, and for the first time, I didn’t mind that it was uphill. As I trotted along, though, I kept my ears perked up for any sound of car tires on the dirt road. Nothing…nothing…and…nothing. Whew.

On a gentler note, on this same rural dirt road, I’ve made friends with a pair of cows in a nearby farmyard. Every morning, they follow me along the fenceline as I walk, companionably munching on the wisps of hay hanging from tgreat pyreneesheir mouths, seemingly just happy to be with me. And a huge, all-white Great Pyrenees farm dog, who rushes up to the fence, barking as if to say, “See? I’m doing my job! You’re a stranger—but you can pet me if you want”—because his tail is always wagging.


A little farther along the road, where the few houses get even fewer, I occasionally catch a glimpse of a beautiful six-point stag, bounding away from me into the hills. His lair must be close, because I’ve seen him three days running.