Going into the wilderness, one-on-one with my 8 year old son is paternal happiness at its best. Getting there with pack mules is a test of will power and teaches some important life lessons. Every time we saddle up, we have what we call the beginners rodeo, in which everybody is excited and full of energy until they settle in to the rhythm of the trail. On this trip, it was the pup who wouldn't follow, and four spirited mules that wanted to move. We finally had to tie the pup on top of Preston's pack mule, Minnie Pearl. Minutes later, Minnie Pearl got loose and ran full steam back toward the truck, pup and pack in tow--then full speed back to where she left us. But we got it worked out. Just like life, if you can stay in the saddle through the tricky phase of doing something new, things smooth out and find their place. Then the frustrations are forgotten and the trip is mighty enjoyable.
As twilight settled over the meadow where we camped that evening, the mules alerted us to some deer that were grazing upon the fresh spring grass. Ears forward, all four mules were fixated on the intruding deer, and our hearts pounded as we strained to see through the graying light to see what was coming our way. When we finally crawled into our tent for the night, Preston asked me to wake him up early to go look for more deer.
As soon as the horizon began to soften the next morning, we saddled the riding mules and headed towards Quaking Aspen Spring and the Comanche cabin. The morning air smelled still and cool, laced with pine and sage. Deer moved all around us while we rocked in our saddles. As we came to the Kolob overlook, the stately red towers that form the Hand of God beckoned, come hither, from across the valley below.
Here, where fatherhood tangles with boy and man, there are only two seasons: Formative Season and Independent Season. Like summer in the high country, the Formative Season is short--sometimes stormy, but always beautiful. I wouldn't trade one minute of the time I get with my kids during their formative years for lands or gold. This boy is learning to be fiercely independent, and the long season of life where he will walk his own path is ahead of us... somewhere not too far off, at the end of summer.
|The pup, Little Joe, riding on Minnie Pearl|