Walk with a Big Stick

Sunday morning, Easter, six coyotes bounded over the sagebrush near our home. A hunting party, I am certain, in pursuit of anything that might be loose at nine. Rabbits, cats, small dogs.

Later that day, when Hank and I followed old dirt ways to the Río Pueblo, we took water and big sticks. We used these sticks when we hiked back East.

Two days before, I interviewed Doug Scott because he wrote a guide book about Taos Mountains. He’s done the same for Taos and New Mexico waterfalls.

Doug carries a stick whenever he goes on long treks off trail. He doesn’t have a special one, just something handy, preferably a young aspen because it feels good in his hand. Doug says he doesn’t intend the stick to be a weapon but it has a definite purpose should he encounter a wild animal. His theory is an animal can’t carry a stick so when it encounters a being who can, it commands respect. The animal knows the human is a level above. It’s an intellectual thing. A magical thing.

Of course, I thought about his theory as we walked from our home.  We ended at the bluff overlooking the Río Pueblo, which flows from Taos Pueblo to the Río Grande. Dried grass filled its banks.

Once I saw a golden eagle return to its nest in the bluff across the river but nothing flew today because of the high winds. The river flowed at a good clip, but it will be fuller soon when the snow gives way in the mountains.

Hank and I made our way back uphill, using our sticks for a little leverage. We didn’t meet a single animal to impress.


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