Glenwood Gazette

                A Monthly Publication for Frontier Communities in Southwestern New Mexico and Southeastern Arizona





June 2011

Unique perspectives by Glenwood Gazette contributors:

Larry Lightner: A Rare Experience
Dexter Oliver: Character Building

Out There
Larry Lightner


A Rare Experience
by Larry Lightner

Every once in a while, something truly unique and special happens to me as I roam the great outdoors. I just gotta share this one.

On the first weekend of this past spring turkey season, I was sitting up in a shallow bowl at the beginning of a canyon, in the evening about an hour before sundown.

There was a bunch of gobbler sign under the ponderosa pines and I was doing my best to sound like a lovesick hen-bird.

Suddenly a dog started barking down canyon from me about a hundred yards out; it sounded distressed and I immediately began reasoning, what the heck is a dog doing way back here?

Could it have broken its rope and was snagged and couldn't get away? Or was there a hidden camp back there? Or, could it even be a young yearling wolf that I was hearing?

At any rate I new my hunt for turkeys was over; no self-respecting gobbler would be coming in tonight!

The barks stopped and I was in the process of hiking back to my ATV when they began again and even more urgent in nature. I decided to go investigate, even though I imagined I might be walking into a remote camp set up for planned marijuana growing!

What the heck; I was armed with a 12 gauge shotgun and 3-inch magnums!

After sneaking quietly to the bottom of the shallow canyon, I realized that the barking was coming from a bench, 50 yards up the far side, and so I started up there.

I didn't get none too far when I spied a dog-sized critter running up towards the sound along about 60 yards down from me. But this was no doggie, but a large tom-cougar!

It suddenly changed from a full out charge, to a stealthy sneak and it wasn't paying attention to me. I decided to sneak the "sneaker" and so, I crept uphill closer to it.

The cat was stopped now and looking intently at the "barker'.

I peered over the edge of the step and to my surprise, there paced a full-growed cow elk and she was the one doing the barking. But she wasn't watching the lion; she was just pacing back and forth and being quite nervous about it all.

By now I was but 30 yards from the cat, and now he turned his attention to me; he seemed to bore holes through me with those eyes!

I looked back at the elk, and then back to the cat, but by now, he had had enough, and in a spin and a cloud of dust, he was gone back down the way he had come.

The cow now saw me and she was but 25 yards from me, but she didn't run, but continued to pace and bark. Since I had already saved her bacon, I decided to not stress her any more, so I slowly turned and went back the way I had come.

She continued to bark the entire time I made my way to my ATV and started it up.

Since then, I've pondered about what she was barking at; it was too early in the year to have dropped her calf, so was she distressed over a companion that was injured? Or was it last year's calf? Or was there a second lion that I hadn't seen and she was barking at it?

Of course I'll never know, but in hindsight, I wished that I had checked out the situation more fully.

But I had a special experience; one that dang few others have ever had or will have. I stalked a full-grown mountain lion and I did it successfully, as he put on his own stalk. Now don't that beat all!

As always, there is something to do and see "out there"; ya' just have to get out and do it! Keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you too!



Character Building
by Dexter Oliver

Wildlife Consultant & Writer

I was always attracted to the lifestyles of the more colorful characters I observed who followed the less trodden paths throughout their lives. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by people who routinely made expeditions to various parts of the world in search of wildlife specimens for zoos or museums. I was mesmerized by their stories, magazine articles, and books. Their interests in wild lands and natural history influenced my own attitudes immensely.

It became a habit of mine early on to follow paved back roads to graded dirt roads then onto jeep trails until they too ended. There I would set up camp and continue any further exploration by shank's mare. In this fashion I could access some of my own less travelled paths into the back country. I was not looking to be a tourist in these areas; I wanted to become a real participant in the natural world. Living on the land means having to live off of it too; this quickly makes a person appreciate just how hard such an endeavor is for any living being to accomplish. I just became one more predator on the scene.

The Southwest is blessed with a lot of public wild lands, be they Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), or state controlled parcels. These are designated lands of many uses including sightseeing, bird watching, mineral extraction, cattle raising, timber harvesting, hunting, fishing, trapping, and other forms of recreation. Getting away from the rat race that we call civilization and immersing one's self in what is, after all, the original habitat for our species for most of its earthly history is often necessary just for peace of mind.

Limiting car camping on public lands any more than it already is will have an adverse effect on human individuality in a world that routinely tends to crush or dissuade character building in its purest sense. When the U.S. Forest Service contemplates such reductions in the Gila National Forest I hope they keep in mind that America's strength has always been based on such singular qualities.

The idea that "woods bums", an affectionate term for anyone eking out a portion of their spiritual or corporal livelihood from what is left of our frontier heritage, must be corralled in limited public campgrounds goes against the American grain. Prospectors, hunters, trappers, ranchers with cattle leases, and the like are still seen as possessing rugged self-direction; something looked up to by the general populace. Limiting or doing away with dispersed (vehicle) camping, as well as the closure of more forest roads can be seen as an attempt by federal suppression of some of our core values.

The Southwest has always been a haven for "characters" that never would have had a chance to become such mythological subject matter without the chance to roam, and camp, freely in what are now the forest boundaries. Who can imagine a Ben Lilly or Nat Straw confined to developed public campgrounds packed with adults, children, pets, boom boxes, generators, and myriad other character-killing influences that can easily be brought to mind?

They would be ostracized, if not stoned, for their peculiarities and yet they are the ones books are written about, not those who submit readily to the continued whittling away of our individual freedoms. I have read that both the Center for Biological Diversity and the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance are strongly advocating maximum road closures and eliminating dispersed camping, in theory to protect portions of the San Francisco River. Yet that is only a small part of the entire forest they would have their agendas effect. Such arguments hold about as much water as a colander.

This is not really a debate by environmentalists versus the rest of the human population. We are all environmentalists, even if it chokes some people to say it. We all know we need clean air and water for ourselves, future generations, wildlife, domestic livestock, trees, and the very survival of all living entities on the planet. Cattleman, sheep herder, timber cruiser, and Buddhist monk all have this in common. The Forest Service is charged with maintaining or improving the health of the land under its direction but it can certainly do so without further bans involving current road travel and camping.

The nonsensical closure of the entire Gila National Forest to legitimate and legal furbearer trapping by the previous lame duck governor of New Mexico in order to "protect" the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction fiasco should not be something forest supervisors want to imitate. Loss of esteem and credibility are the only lasting results of such subjective decisions. Public input by those actually on the ground and in small rural communities directly affected need to hold more weight in such deliberations, not just be background noise at mandatory briefings.

At a time when the Forest Service is undergoing budget crunches it makes sense to have legitimate citizens out there on the ground in lots of areas. Having extra eyes that can report activities such as scofflaw ATV traffic or the start of a wildfire should be of huge value to forest supervisors.

I once saw two uniformed Border Patrol agents fishing in a tank where Bear Canyon and FS 150 road intersect near the north boundary of the Gila National Forest. Because they were obviously on duty and way too far north of the border I wasn't too pleased with the sight. But apparently Homeland Security was worried about illegal aliens passing through the forest and it's true that illegal aliens have started a lot of wildfires, like the Horseshoe 2, the latest one in the Chiricahua Mountains.

Dispersed citizen campers can help monitor such trans- gressions which would in turn keep our Border Patrol closer to the actual border where they belong.

I didn't exactly set out to be some odd desert rat/backwoods character but these things have a way of creeping up on you if enough of your life is spent out there living a decidedly different existence. It could never have been done without the freedom offered by dispersed camping on public lands. It would be a shame to see others lose the opportunities I was lucky enough to have had, just because a federal agency and some self-righteous people prefer a world of conformity and rigid structure. That's not what the Southwest is all about.

Dexter Oliver in a dispersed camp on public wild lands, circa 1979.The Samurai sword was just a photo-op prop.

Dexter Oliver as a participant in the natural world, not just a tourist, circa 1980.




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