Charlie and Those Big Bighorn Rams

He’s my avatar. As you’ll read below, Charlie thought he must have been one of those bighorns in a past lifetime. If there are past lifetimes. And he wasn’t sure if there are. But if there are, he, too, had a rack like that.

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Charlie, one of the two main characters in my novel, spends a lot of time in Waterton Lakes National Park, AB.  The drive out to the park from Lethbridge takes about an hour and a half, or at least it should. But he always stops to photograph anything that catches his eye. And a lot of things catch his eye.

He usually drives out through Fort Macleod, down to Glenwood, across to Hwy. 6, then down to Waterton.

Some days, when the light cooperates, it’s an absolutely magical drive that starts in the flatness of the prairies and ends in the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Even on a day with flat light, though, it is still a very enjoyable drive.

An overcast day simply means he has to photograph things that are close at hand and avoid including the sky. No sweeping panoramas. All he needs is a composition with one strong white and one strong black. And, of course, with the sliders in Lightroom 5, he can easily make those whites and blacks whiter and blacker.

He especially enjoys driving out to the park in the spring and fall because of the seeding and harvesting. Lots of action in the fields. And flocks of seagulls in the spring. And clouds of dust in the fall.

The prairies meet the mountains
Working right up to the edge of the mountains

St. Henry’s church, just past the Waterton Reservoir, always catches his eye. That’s a given. And he always has to stop for yet another photograph or two. And once he stops, he can’t help but notice other things, can he?

He also passes all kinds of hawks and eagles on the way out. For years, he’s been on the verge of getting out his bird books and really learning about the hawks, especially. But he hasn’t yet. So at this point, he’s just guessing that the hawk below is a light morph ferruginous (sed ‘non certus), at least that’s what the bird book seems to suggest.

If it is a ferruginous, a pair of them share somewhere around five hundred gophers a year with their young, as well as sharing all kinds of other rodents and even jackrabbits.

That’s probably why the gopher below is so alert and so close to its hole.

But all else pales the second he sees a bighorn ram. A large one, at over three hundred pounds and over three feet at the shoulders, with horns that can weigh thirty pounds, is beyond impressive. And most, like this one, have chipped horns and a battle-scarred muzzle.

Those horns can weigh more than the combined weight of all the other bones in its body. And it lunges at over forty miles an hour. No wonder you can hear them clash over a mile away.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn ram
A mountain bighorn. It takes about eight years for those horns to curl around its face like that.

Charlie closely identifies with those bighorns. He’s positive he must have been one in a past lifetime. But if so, he no longer accepts some of the things he must have accepted back then.

First, in this lifetime, he no longer likes the idea of mating being a seasonal thing. Rams only hang out with the ewes during the mating season. The rest of the year it’s stag and stagette, totally, with the ewes taking care of the young ones, of course. That’s a way too much downtime.

And second, he no longer likes the idea of doing nothing for that rest-of-the-year except head-butting with the boys. He has no desire to chip his horns or battle-scar his muzzle.

In fact, in this lifetime, he’s already moved into Part B of his two-part plan. He’s become a hermit, which means he does his best not to leave the house, except on Tuesdays when he usually goes out photographing, alone.

He and his partner, BJ, talked about this on the weekend when they were out on the patio having their usual morning coffee.

Remember Part A? Remember what I used to say? I carpe diem. I fully immerse myself in life. I gobble up as much of it as I can. I try one of everything. I walk the edge. I don’t worry about making mistakes. I don’t worry about failing again, and again, and again. I’m not afraid. Can’t be. I just absolutely go for gold. I giver ’er nuts.

And I said if I did die before I got to Part B, it would be because I’d flamed out. I wouldn’t rust out. I’d die exhausted, and battered, and bleeding. And I certainly wouldn’t die with my pockets filled with ideas and energies that I was afraid to spend because I was afraid to live.

BJ had nodded, and then she’d said. “Remind me about your Part B, sweetie. Obviously I know it, but remind me anyway. You may have changed some things you haven’t told me about.

Simple. I’ve already shut down. I’ve become a hermit. Right? I intend to contemplate. I intend to learn from all the things I’ve experienced and all the people I’ve known. Part B is where I put it all together and use what I’ve learned to evolve spiritually. It’s where I get ready for my next incarnation.

He recalls that conversation they’d had out on the patio and smiles as he turns up the road to the Prince of Wales Hotel.  He likes those morning coffees with BJ. Year round. Not seasonal. No downtime. And he much prefers talking to her rather than head-butting. Well, the odd head-butt, but not often.

He turns off the car in the parking lot at 1:30 p.m. About the same time as usual.

And a dozen Bighorns are basking in the sun on the grass to the left, waiting for him. Including that one up above.

He reaches for his camera and thinks, “You know, I’m really enjoying being a character in Glenn’s novel. I get to do a lot of interesting things. And I get to do those things whether or not he ever publishes it.

The publishing part is not important in my life at all. It may be in his. I don’t know about that. But it’s certainly not important in mine.

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Note

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(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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