"Forest fires"


    “Some idiot started it,” Windy said, parking himself at the philosophy counter here at the Mule Barn truck stop. “Couldn’t hardly respirate myself this here mornin.’”

   Steve and the others nodded and sipped. We all knew the topic of today’s coffee discussion: forest fires. We have one. Look out the front window where the words “open” and “café” appear to be written backwards. Look past the parking lot with its waiting pickup trucks. Look above the trees across the street above the bar ditch. The sky is a dirty red this morning, with the sun having to filter through miles of smoke that just hours ago was forest up in the mountains.

   “Went off and left a fire going, I heard,” Dud said. We all shook our heads. Anyone over the age of five knew enough not to do that.

   “You remember back … oh, maybe 30 years now, Doc,” Windy said, “when that fire wiped out Billy’s old cabin at the gold claim?”

   “Yes I do. Killed a bunch of deer, too. Campbell Canyon. Looks like this fire’s about in the same place.”

   “If I was philosophatin’ I’d reckon that fire didn’t get enough trees the first time around and jest waited ‘til some more of ‘em growed up and then come back and burned them up, too.”

   “That old fire,” Doc said, “was caused by a lightning strike, Windy.”

   “Oh, I know. Thass why I said it were a philosophatin’ thingie. You know, like we know it ain’t true, but mebbe worth thinkin’ ‘bout.”

   We all nodded in silent agreement because what else could we do? And we really didn’t understand what he was getting at, but here came Loretta with the coffee pot, so who really cares?


Brought to you by the novel Sun Dog Days, by Slim Randles. From www.unmpress.com.


Newspaper columnist Slim Randles, who writes the weekly Home Country column, took home two New Mexico Book Awards in 2011. His advice book for young people, “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right,” took first place in the self-help category, and “Sweetgrass Mornings” won in the biography/memoirs category. Randles lives and works in Albuquerque. Home Country reaches 3 million hometown newspaper readers each week

Slim Randles learned mule packing from Gene Burkhart and Slim Nivens. He learned mustanging and wild burro catching from Hap Pierce. He learned horse shoeing from Rocky Earick. He learned horse training from Dick Johnson and Joe Cabral. He learned humility from the mules of the eastern High Sierra. Randles lives in Albuquerque.

Randles has written newspaper stories, magazine articles and book, both fiction and nonfiction. His column appeared in New Mexico Magazine for many years and was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and the Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country,” which appears in several hundred newspapers across the country.


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