As the Covered Wagon rolled over the trail through the Oregon Outback and cooking us alive, Mom and I listened to stories about the real-life bandits and stagecoaches of the Old West. “Mom, we’ve been to a lot of these places!” I said, astonished. “Some of them were so small that their gas stations didn’t even have Perrier or string cheese! How could a place be famous and forgotten?”
“It’s true. Most of the places in the Old West are as wild and more remote now than they were in the old mining days.”
The stories happened on the web of trails that the ponies, and stagecoaches, and choo-choo trains followed through the mountains, deserts and out-of-the-way places of the Old West and they told the story of the danger and adventure they found there. Just like me! And just like the safes full of of gold dust and the desperados that chased them came back again and again to the same one-horse towns, Mom and I found ourselves yet again in a remote place where we’d been many times before: a place I call My Special Place because that’s where I struck silver and won Second Dog in my first Running with the Bears half marathong.
We slept in the Covered Wagon by the side of the dusty trail, and woke up early so that we wouldn’t need to share the trail with the kind of loud and annoying people who get a late start and hog the wilder-ness. We had visited this trail on the Fourth of July before, and it had been so infested with loud people and big trucks that I couldn’t see the nature, and I thought that Mom would climb under the Covered Wagon and hide there until fall. But this time there were still places to park the Wagon, and even a few camping spots left. When we saw the sign on the door to the bathroom that asked people to please be gentle, since the potties weren’t maintained because boogeyvirus, Mom took a deep gulp of fresh air and held it before she opened the door and we stepped inside.
“It doesn’t smell that bad…” I told her, sniffing the brown water stain in the corner and discovering with disappointment that it was pee, just some dirty water.
“Wow,” Mom said. “You’re right. I mean, there’s no toilet paper, but there also isn’t trash piled up in the corners either. This gives me faith in humanity again.”
Once Mom had finished in the people potty, we snuck around the giant truck parked right in the middle of the trail and set off into the mountains. We have been here so many times now that Mom didn’t even need to ask The Witch how to get around, and we walked through the brush and onto the rocky side of the mountain from memory.
“How can it be the same up here on the mountain when everything down by the road is so different?” I asked.
“Do you know all the things that this mountain has seen?” Mom said. “It feels like the end of the world for us, but to the rocks and the trees, what’s going on in our world is no more important than that moss on the trees is to you or me. In fact, the last time we were here, the chipmunks were having an outbreak of the bubonic plague, remember? And aside from a sign at the trailhead, it meant nothing to us.”
“Oh yeah, we didn’t get sick because we didn’t have boobies,” I remembered.
The morning was already a warm one, so I was glad that we had a few miles of trees to walk through before the end of the trail. Usually a trail starts in the trees and saves its rocks for the end, but this trail is inside-out because you start by walking in the sun and on the rock before you reach the top of the hill where the shade is. The trees were covered with high visibility safety moss, and the ground was covered in wildflowers, which glowed bright grey when the sun shown through their petals.
When we reached the top and saw the layers of Medium Sierra lumping around us in every direction, I looked around from the mountain’s point of view and could hardly see any human things at all. If I looked straight down I could see the town that looked no bigger than a woodpecker hole on a giant tree trunk. When I looked at the mountains, I could see some roads scribbling around like tiny veins. But the human things hardly meant anything at all from all the way up here. In The City the human things feel like everything because you can’t see so far. But we had driven through The West for many hours this weekend and had discovered that the world is really mostly emptiness. You would have to keep a pretty tiny view of things and forget about quite a lot of the world to think that the boogeyvirus was the only thing happening in the world.
When we reached the rocks again, the flowers stuck out from between the boulders, just to show that even on the face of something hard and craggy, there was still room for things that are pretty and delicate. “I can’t wait to come back and run here in a few weeks!” I said. Then I remembered that nobody in the whole, wide world had done a race since Mom and I raced slowly through the dooms of Oregon. “We still get to race, right?” Then, just in case she’d forgotten, I reminded her, “Because dogs don’t get the coronavirus…”
“Actually, yes. We do still get to race,” Mom said. “But I have a very important job for you this year.”
“I’m an expert at very important jobs!” I said. “I’ve never let so much as a spider run through the dog bathroom without barking at him!”
“Right. Well, we’re lucky that we still have jobs right now because a lot of people haven’t worked in a very long time and they need money very badly. Especially in little places like this where they don’t have offices to work at, so all the people make money by doing things for each other.”
“That’s terrible!” I said. “Nobody has been allowed to do things for each other in forever! If the people don’t have jobs, they must not have lunch tables to sit under, and without a lunch table to sit under, where do they get their snacks?!”
“Yeah, that’s exactly it. Sort of. Anyway, the race that we run is meant to help the stray people puppies around here whose moms and dads can’t take care of them. Since they can’t have lots of people come to the race, the few of us that are running need to make sure that the kids still get the money they need to pay for their clothes, and school supplies, and toys until next year.”
“I love toys!” I said. “What can I do?”
“You have a lot of Friends,” Mom said.
“Obviously. I’m irresistible,” I reminded her.
“Right… Can you ask your fans to sponsor your race this year?”
“You mean I’d be a professional runner?!” I asked. I liked that idea a lot. Then I thought of something… “But Mom, what if they don’t have enough money either, just like the people puppies?”
“Definitely only ask the people who haven’t lost their jobs. But there are some people who are actually saving money right now because they have nothing to do. If a few of them could share a small amount, it would make a big difference out here.”
“I don’t know, Mom. A lot of people have been giving a lot of money to the Bureau of Land Management so they’ll save America.”
“That’s not what BLM stands for, dude,” Mom said, shaking her head. “But I agree, there is a lot of need right now, and it’s difficult to pick just one cause, or one tiny community when there’s so much need in the world. But for each of those kids, a small amount makes a world of difference. Ten dollars won’t change the world, but if just 1 in 10 of your followers can spare $10, that could really change things for a small group of people. And the kindness of the people in this community has made a big difference to you and me over the years.”
“I don’t know, Mom. It’s better to give than to receive. I like to give love, not ask it from other people.”
“You’re so full of bologna,” Mom said, which was NOT true because I hadn’t had any bologna on this trip. “You have never hesitated to ask strangers to give you lovins in your entire life!”
She had a point.
So… If you have had enough extra this year to drop some snacks under the lunch table, and if you’re worried about all of the people who haven’t been as lucky as you… and if you haven’t already shared that extra with any of the zillions of other people and ideas that need your help… then I know a group of people puppies that live in a one-horse town along the wagon trail that could really use your help. They needed it before, but they really need it now. If you can spare it, I know $10 from youwould make a mountain of difference for them.
You can share the love, and find out more about what it does for my people puppy friends here on my donation page. Whether you can share right now or not, I love you just the same.
Oscar the Professional Runner