This weekend was a three generation pack trip into Hop Valley. My brother and I took a couple of our boys and my aging father, who just returned from a 2 year absence as a missionary in Alaska, back into our favorite part of Zion National Park. It was many things: Dad hasn't been atop a horse for several decades. Besides a little practice over the past two weeks to get ready for this, two days on my big dunn Molly about wore him out. My five-year-old Preston enjoyed his first real solo trip. He didn't want to come home and would have preferred to stay until we starved him out. Brother Mike and I were breaking Sulpher herd mustangs, him on Allie, and me finishing a 30 day job for some friends on their 2 year old gelding, Rusty.
Before bed, I noticed Senator, the 6 month old mule we brought to tag along was gone. I recently weened him, and had left his momma home. All day he had been with his coral mates and I didn't sense much need to worry. SHOOT! Not again! When these babies want a drink of Milk, they don't care what stands in their way! Sure he was headed home, I saddled my Molly, and headed off into the dark, alone, to find him. Molly's cowbell still fastened to her neck, we climbed out of the canyon's sandy bottoms and up the rocky trail to the top of the Mesa. The moon was about half lit, boldy marking the trail. Cold, clear air filled my lungs and the clank of cowbell sounded in perfect rythm to Molly's stride. The brilliant red cliffs had lost their color, standing gray against the night sky. Senator was up top just where I thought he would be, on his way home to momma. All alone, he was glad to see me, but wasn't in the mood to follow me back. I haltered him and began the long descent back to camp, glad of heart that I didn't lose my little mule in this Lion infested wilderness, glad of ear for the sound of Cowbell, and glad of eye for the light of half a moon to get me down the trail.