I was spending a few weeks with “Bestie” at her home in Northern California. She has a beautiful house which overlooks her downward sloping meadow, about five acres, at the bottom of which is a “pond” as they refer to it. It’s actually a fairly large lake and as her husband and I were taking in the delightful view, I said to him “What’s that down by the reeds?” He said to Bestie “Honey, come here, it’s a lynx” and it was. They had never seen a lynx on their property before but Bestie did mention that something had been spooking the horses so that they were all milling around up by the barn when they would normally just have been grazing down below. For me it was a huge thrill to see a lynx at all and within twenty minutes of my arrival at the house. Their neck of the woods has coyotes, cougars, black bears, lynx plus all of the other animals like deer, raccoons, possums etc that the top predators prey on. The eagles there kept on taking out their chickens until proper covered chicken coops were built. Nature red in tooth and claw.
Two days into my sojourn, Bestie drove me to the supermarket via the “scenic route” via several burnt out houses. I had never heard of Crystal Meth so she had to explain what happens when people cook up this drug. Things obviously can and do go terribly wrong and explosions occur and houses get burnt down.
As she is a landlady with several properties the last thing she wants is to rent to tenants who might do this to her.
It was an eye opener as there were so many burnt out houses on that journey.
Three days later she decided it would be a great day to load up two of her horses, her Arab and for me, her Morgan mare, and off to a nearby national park for a good old ride but, before we could drive there we needed to get gas for her truck. We pulled into the gas station and she filled up while I went into the shop to buy us treats like the disgusting heated-up Apple Pie things she liked and I grew to like and iced coffees and other junk food. I love America. I also paid for the fuel and it was all in for under thirty bucks.
Just as we were pulling out of the gas station to turn right onto the highway a woman dashed across the road and banged on her window screaming “Help me, help me, he’s trying to kill me”. Bestie said “Don’t worry dear, I can handle this”. She locked the truck doors from inside, rolled her window down a little and asked the woman “What’s going down here? You’re on Crystal Meth right?” I remember staring at the woman from the passenger seat and clocking that she was a very beautiful white lady, late twenties but in a terrible state. Sweating and shaky.
She and her boyfriend had been taking Crystal Meth and he’d turned on her. That was when she ran out of his place and into us.
Bestie’s attack dog was on the seat behind us when she let the woman into her truck. Bestie asked her where she needed to go and it was nine miles in the opposite direction to where we’d been headed but, on that journey, Bestie well and truly laid into that gal about how she was shitting up her life, her beautiful looks, everything. It was a masterclass but I doubt that it had any effect on that poor, addicted, sweaty, frightened girl. Such a terrible waste.
Late afternoon by now and we were finally on our way to our ride. We pulled into the parking area and tacked up the horses. I said to Bestie, “I’m going to ride her out and put her through her paces” which I duly did and then “Dang” not a couple of hundred yards along the path was a big old rattlesnake lying across it, glistening in the afternoon sun and lumpy. It was digesting its latest meal. I managed to wheel my mount sharply to her left and yelled back to Bestie “Rattler across the path” at which point her dog raced by me, jumped over the rattler and sped on.
After all of that, I am thankful to say that we did have a lovely ride and no more dramas.
© Barbican 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file