There was one more piece of New Mexico that we wanted to visit before Mom and I made a mad dash across Colorado (which we’d heard was already infested with the boogeyvirus). We slept nearby and woke up before dawn so that we could get an early start, but then while Mom was making her poop juice the sky caught on fire, and Mom was struck dumb staring at it. “Come on! We’ve got to finish our hike early so that Colorado doesn’t close!” I said.
“Hang on a minute, Oscar. Let’s not get so wrapped up in all this panic that we forget to enjoy the things we still have.” So I sat in the cold dirt while Mom watched the sunrise smolder across the clouds and then catch fire on the horizon. Only when the sun was glaring in through the front window of the Covered Wagon did Mom finally get in the driving chair and take us to the trail.
This trail came with pictures of quaint little sandstone pools and tiny canyons, but Utah and Arizona would be a tough act to follow.For the first 2 miles the trail didn’t seem to make any effort to impress me. We trudged up the mile-long fire road too tired to run, and then turned into the dirt desert where the sand tried to unionize into rocks, but then broke apart before the trend really caught on. After another mile of wandering through the cacti and bonsais, I smelled the first exciting thing of the morning. “COWS!” I barked. They were far away, a distance that might have been half a block if we were in The City, so I shouted, “HEY! HEY COWS! LOOK OVER HERE! I’M THE MOST EXCITING THING TO BARK AT YOU ALL DAY!” Then I wound up for a big sprint to really rock their socks off.
“Oscar! DON’T!” Mom hissed in her dragon voice, and I froze. Then, she put a hat on my head.
“Mom! I can’t scatter the cows if I’m wearing a Cookie Monster hat! That’s embarrassing!” I said.
“That’s the point,” Mom said. “Anyway, I’ve got to take a picture of you doing SOMETHING, since this trail is turning out to be a dud.”
Finally, we climbed over a rise behind the cows the sandstone began to dance. It started with gradual waves and pools, and then it cracked open into a small canyon. It wasn’t the tsunami curls of Moab, or the humongous canyons of Kanab, but more like a first draft of canyon country, where nature was trying different things in private to see what material worked before revealing her opus for all to see in Utah.
I ran ahead sniffing all the places that cows had been, and Mom rambled behind me looking at all the different shaped rocks for the stories they told of rain storms and rivers zillions of years ago. Suddenly, Mom made a loud noise. When I turned around she was hopping on one foot and scowling at an itty bitty cactus puppy. “Southern ducker!” she said. “Where did that thing come from?!”
“The cactus? They’re all over the place here. Be careful, they’re sharp,” I advised her.
Mom leaned over and took off her shoe. I looked around nervously for a river but relaxed when I didn’t see one. Then, Mom pinched her sock and pulled, and pulled, and pulled until she had slowly pulled an inch, and I could see the spike between her fingers that had come out of her foot. After that, she didn’t look for any more pictures and kept her eyes glued on where we were going.
“Mom, do you know what the luckiest animals are in the world?” I asked as we hoofed back to the Covered Wagon.
“Dogs!” said the monster that had forgotten to bring brunch this morning.
“No, of course not. Who do we see before we get to any trail worth visiting, and whose poop do we see ON half those trails? COWS! Cows get to hang out in the most beautiful places as their job!”
“Yeah, I guess they do. Too bad cows don’t appreciate scenery…”
“Don’t you know anything? Cows are the biggest tourists in the animal kingdom. They even have tour groups that organize field trips just to visit scenery!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Haven’t you ever seen those cow school buses on the freeway? They’re the ones with the holes in the side. I think it’s great that cows are such great travelers.”
“Oh… uh… I don’t think those trucks mean what you think they mean,” Mom said. “Do you… uh… want a hot dog for lunch?”
“Do I ever!”
Oscar the Cattle Dog
The story really stops there, but I should tell you about what happened to my hot dog. By the time we got to the gourmet gas station, the wind was blowing so hard that The Wagon wanted to climb into a ditch at the side of the road and die. Mom had to spend the whole drive convincing it to keep driving forward. When she came out of the gas station her arms were full of bottles, and coffee, and snacks, and my hot dog in its special paper hot dog serving tub. She put the hot dog on top of the Covered Wagon to open the door, and when she reached back up for it, the hot dog was gone. “Southern ducker!” Mom growled again, and then she ran around the Wagon, holding her hat on her head with one hand. A moment later she came back with my hot dog, smelling of hose water and New Mexico dirt. “5 second rule,” she whispered, as she tried to cut it up with a plastic knife. But my tough little hotdog, which had already tried to escape once wasn’t going to let himself be dismembered. So Mom stabbed it a few times so my teeth would have something to grab onto, and I swallowed it all in one gulp.