Katie’s perspective: The hunt, week one

by Katie on October 16, 2009

My two-week chronicle of events surrounding the Great Elk Hunt of 2009. A long read.
Day one: Brandon finally heads out for the big hunt. Only about six hours later than planned. I begin my water-changing duties on our sorghum in the evening. It was surprisingly easier than I expected (this field had been a pain all summer), and I managed to not let a single drop of water flow over the ditch while moving checks. A minor miracle.
Day two: My first full day as Head Irrigator for Rocker 7 Farms. Also the day of my first mistake as Head Irrigator. I determine the water needs to be turned off at the sunflowers and sorghum the next morning. So I call the water people, place a new order and make my shut-off request.
Not two minutes later, the nice lady calls back and kindly lets me know I don’t currently have water running at the location I requested it be turned off. I check my little cheat sheet of field and canal lateral numbers, and sure enough, I had given her the wrong location. She told me it happens all the time. I think she was trying to ease my embarrassment some.
I receive a frantic call from Brandon as I pull up to the sorghum field to make my third solo water change that evening. It’s the night before the hunt begins, and he found a bull. Definitely a shooter. But he can’t decide if he wants to shoot.
He was quite obviously worked up, and rambling so fast I had to really concentrate to catch every third word he said.
“He’s a good bull. No doubt about it. A trophy by anyone’s standards. Everyone’s telling me to shoot him in the morning. I just don’t know if I want to. I mean, I’ve had six months of anticipation for this hunt, and all these guys are coming, and I have all this food. I’m just not sure I want it to all be over at first light in the morning. I don’t even feel like I’ve hunted yet. ….”
Day three: Brandon calls to tell me he decided to pass on the first bull. I knew he would. And I settle in for a long week without him because I knew he would use every last day he had.
I load my first three hay trucks, collect our money, and send them on their way, since I also assumed the role of Head Hay Salesman while Brandon was away.
I finish irrigating the sorghum and sunflowers for this round, and start irrigating the alfalfa at our house that evening. Every two hours. All night. Brandon tells me he plans to get up at 3am the next day, and to call anytime that night if I get scared.
So I’m laying there wide awake at 2:45, scared out of my mind. I wait until precisely 3am, since he was getting up then anyway. And he answers. The fourth time I call. But all he says is, “I’m going to take a little nap. Sorry you’re scared, but I can’t do anything. Go to sleep.” Thanks, Dear.
Day four: I finish the alfalfa at our house, and get water ordered for the alfalfa at our Palo Verde field. And I don’t mess up on the water orders this time. Improvement. Brandon again sees bulls. Just not any he wants to shoot.
Day five: I continue the irrigating, and work on some writing projects during the day. At 5am, I notice my water level in the ditch looks low. So I secure a measuring stick from a neighbor, and find I’m missing 100 inches of water. 100 inches we’ve been paying for. I get that fixed, but Brandon has to call the next day to get them to credit our account because I was too timid to pursue it well enough. Again, he sees elk. Nothing to suit his fancy. It’s like we have the same conversation every night.
Day six: Brandon makes his usual calls in the early afternoon and when they come in for the night. Both times, I ask, “So, did you see anything?”
“Yes, I see elk every day. But no, I still haven’t found one I want to shoot.”
“Okay, well you’re just making me a little nervous. You only have three days left.” The last thing I wanted was for him to come home from his “monster bull elk hunt” empty handed.
And the irrigating continues…very slowly.
Brandon’s mom accompanied me on every middle-of-the-night irrigating trip to Palo Verde because she knows how much it terrifies me to go out there by myself at night. And his dad let me drive his truck at night, since it has a side light that lights up the whole ditch bank. Both of these things were welcome gestures.
So, about 11pm, Rayanne and I are making our way back home from Palo Verde. I pass a cop parked with his lights out on the side of the road about one mile from my house. And half a mile later, another. Only the second one pulls onto the road behind me, and doesn’t turn his lights on until he has closed the distance between us. The speed limit on this road is 50. I was driving 45. But he throws his lights on to pull me over after following a short distance, and his buddy pulls in behind him. He makes his way up to the truck, and I ask why I have been pulled over, since I can’t for the life of me figure out what the reason might be.
The response? “Oh, we’ll get to that. License and insurance, please?” (They don’t ask for your registration out here.) So Rayanne and I start rummaging through the truck for all the paperwork.
“Where are you headed?”
“Well, we’ve been out irrigating my alfalfa field, and my house is less than a quarter-mile from here.”
I don’t think he really believed two women were out irrigating in the middle of the night.
Finally, after holding us up for 15 minutes, he decides it’s time to divulge why we’ve been pulled over. The reason? We were driving a Dodge truck. Apparently, there had been several thefts in Phoenix (40 miles away) lately involving only Dodge trucks.
Are you kidding me? That’s really reason to stop two women at midnight? With two cop cars? And follow them for a quarter-mile without your lights on?
I was not a happy camper. I explained to the officer I would be traveling the same route, in the same truck, at roughly the same hour for the next few days, and asked if I needed to plan on being stopped every night. He told me it was certainly a possibility. This was by far the most outspoken I have ever been with a law enforcement officer in my life.
Needless to say, I was very glad I was not alone. I think I would have driven seven more miles until I got to the 24-hour Circle K before I stopped for two cops in the middle of the night. Just because I was driving a Dodge.
Day seven: At this point, I’ll admit, I was starting to back down from my “supportive wife” role. The water in Palo Verde had been taking twice as long as it should, and I had been thinking all along I would finish it in time to meet Brandon up north and join him for the weekend. If not, I wouldn’t see him until Day 12.
He calls to tell me he had two different bulls in his scope, and decided to hold off at the last minute. Oh, and also? Our crop guy called today, and I need to start watering the sunflowers in two days.
So, I was frustrated with the water, disappointed about my weekend, and probably not the nicest person this day.

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