Today was the best of all the best days I’ve ever had because I got to see and do all of my favorite things.
We woke up in the dark so that Mom and I could be on the trail to see the sunrise. Where we went hiking (hiking is one of my favorite things) was a forest. Well… it was more like the desert’s idea of a forest. It had tons of trunks for us to hike through, but in the desert the trees have spines instead of leaves and the sun still shines through. There were cacti everywhere that looked like human beefcakes making muscles for the mirror, and there were also cactipi everywhere. Cactupi is what you call a bunch of cactupuses, and a cactopus is a cactus with too many arms.
It wasn’t just the big cactupi that had spines. The bushes did too. There were round Oscar-high poofs that looked like something you could sit on… if you wanted to get poked in the butt. And there were bushes that looked like they were made of spiny ping pong paddles. And other bushes had tiny little delicate spikes that looked almost like floofs of cotton unless you tried to touch them.
I don’t know why, but this morning the sun rise didn’t make Mom stop and take a gajillion pictures. Humans have a very keen sense of sight, and sometimes she can see colors in the sunrise that I can’t even imagine, but today it was just kind of dark, and then it was bright like someone had switched on a light. Luckily, today Mom had dressed me in foil wrap, and the sun gleamed off my jacket in a very flattering way.
I should explain what I was wearing, because Mom had to explain it to me. You see, my name is Oscar, but I also answer to Dummy, Puppy Drums, and Potato Beast. Mom calls me a potato best because I’m the exact shape and density of a raw potato. “…So you’ll be a baked potato… get it?!?!” Mom said, smiling like she thought she was very clever.
“No. What’s a baked potato? Is it ferocious?”
“A baked potato is probably the least ferocious food. Never mind. It will keep you warm. Let’s go,” Mom said. She seemed mad at me because her joke was dumb, and that didn’t seem fair.
We kept hiking until out of nowhere I heard a squeaky toy. I whipped around and Mom was holding a brown blob. I know a toy when I see it, so I jumped around higher and higher, and screeched higher and higher while she waved it around. “GIVE IT!!!” I squealed. When she finally threw it, I put it on the ground and pawed at it before I ripped its guts out. “What is it?” I sniffed.
“It’s a stuffed potato… get it?!?!” Mom said.
“It looks like a turkey leg.”
“It’s a potato.”
“No, look. The rope is supposed to be the bone, and here’s where it separated from the bird. It’s a drumstick. What are you doing carrying a squeaky toy into the desert anyway?”
“You’re no fun,” Mom said, and stormed off down the trail, putting the drumstick in her pocket.
We hiked through all the spikes in the forest, watching how the light changed on the mountains as the sun got higher. There are all kinds of history people who walk across deserts through danger, and risk death to get to a special place, or understand a special thing. But nowadays because there are freeways and Chevron stations in the desert, the stories about walking across it don’t have the same sense of danger. But Mom explained that in this part of the world there are still people who walk into the desert hoping to find a promised land. These people are called furry-ners. Because they don’t have dogs, they follow coyotes, but coyotes aren’t loyal like dogs. Sometimes the dirty coyotes lead them into the desert and leave them there, and they have to walk and walk and hope someone will find them.
“I don’t like furry-ners,” I said. I had just met a Canadian this week, and he spoke to me in a scary way where the words swished and sloshed in his mouth. So I barked at him.
“Don’t be such a fuddyduddy, Oscar. You were only scared because you’d never heard French before. Some of your favorite people are from other countries.” Mom said. Then she reminded me of all of my collies that were also born in other countries.
“Well they can’t be furry-ners if they’re mine. You just listed a bunch of my Second Favorite People.”
“Or maybe strangers are just Friends you haven’t made your own yet. We have a lot in common with those people in the desert, you know…”
“Yuh huh! You know how we drive a long way from our home every day to go to work, because The City is where the best job was?”
“Well these people are doing the same thing. They just want to work and then go home to their families.”
“That’s even worse than our commute!” I said, looking at the spiky cactupi and the mountains.
“Exactly…” Mom explained. “If it were easier to go back and forth, they’d come up and work, and then go home to be with their families. But because it’s so hard, once they get here they stay longer. It’s just like how we sleep in the Covered Wagon rather than coming all the way to the stuck house if we have a late day at work. It’s just not worth the effort to go home.”
I thought back to the time that Mom had walked me into the desert and I thought I was going to die. I had barely lasted 4 miles, and there had been a cool waterfall at the midway point. I don’t think that I would commute home if I were a furry-ner either.
When we finished hiking we had another long drive to our next stop: NEW MEXICO! New Mexico is my new favorite state because of what happened when I got there. You see, Mom loved yesterday’s sunset so much that she drove looking behind her more than she looked in front of her for a whole hour. So when we got to New Mexico and she saw the waves of rocks lined up like the bows of ships in neat rows, she insisted that we stop to watch the sunset. She pulled off the freeway and kept taking streets until we were on the edge of town and there was nothing but open nature all the way to the cliffs. (Because towns aren’t very big around here, that meant that all we had to do was make one turn off the freeway.) Then, she found a place with no buildings, and we got out of the Covered Wagon and walked onto the wilderness. And you know what was there?!?!
And horse poo!
I rolled around and around in the white dirt (one of my favorite things) and horse poo (one of my favorite things) until I was so tangled up in my leash that Mom had to free my paws. Then I found a new patch and rolled around some more. Then some movement caught my eye.
THERE WERE HORSES!!!! (Horses are one of my favorite things.) And best of all, the horses weren’t even in a horse-yard, they were standing on the same grass as I was! I barked at them, but they must have been deaf horses because they only made a farting noise with their lips and went back to eating grass. Then we got closer, and I showed them my snow angels. I guess they were blind too, because they kept on eating. Well, two could play at this game. I got even closer, and right when they were about to ignore me again, I barked, “Hey! You guys!” They all turned and slowly walked away except one. He was smaller than the other horses, so I think he was a horse puppy. I could see in his eyes that he thought that I was one good looking dog, so I showed off all of my moves:
I made a snow angel, and dug a hole, and play bowed and barked all in one move. “Bet you can’t do that, can you,” I barked.
Then he took a step closer and I ran and hid behind Mom.
Oscar the Potato Beast