This is the third installment of a new series. The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.
I met an older woman, lean and tan and fit, hiking above Lawn Lake. She’s a mountain woman who’s been hiking forever, unfazed by steep trails, wildlife or the presence of an unkempt grumpy Mountain Dude.
“I believe in evolution,” she said. “And I don’t mean growing a longer snout to eat burrowing bugs.”
“What do you mean, then?”
“I mean, evolution is happening, like it or not. You can either help or hinder. That’s our choice.”
“Do you mean stop acting like children, grabbing all we can, as fast as we can and fuck everyone else?”
“Hmm. I don’t like the F-word.”
“Sorry. I’ve been thinking about something similar.”
“Cursing is a choice. We choose our words. Otherwise we’re unconscious.”
I was beginning to regret our conversation.
She sat on a rock and opened her pack. I expected a baggie of gorp but she had some jerky instead. She held out a strip to me. “Elk,” she said.
Elk jerky as a peace offering? That’s a start.
We chewed our jerky in silence.
“Don’t be so afraid,” I said. “The world isn’t that bad.”
“Who said I’m scared? Aren’t you scared?”
The residue of the world was all over me, still, from the towns and cities I came through to get here. Civilization. The people, the tourists, the park ranger, all indifferent or demanding, they just get in the way.
“I’m not scared. But I’m concerned.”
“’It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.’” She sang this in a mock cracked voice.
“I have trouble getting past his whole Christian period.”
She chewed and looked into the trees. “Yeah, but he was…is… on the side of evolution.”
“Is it really either/or?”
“Pretty much. We will evolve or die off. Some fight it. Many fight it, these days. Most people it seems. It’s fashionable to fight it and be proudly sinking.”
“Fuck ‘em,” I said with a little too much emphasis on the F-word.
She stood up. “I told you I don’t like that word. What’s wrong with you?”
“I’ve been cast aside,” I said. “And I can’t shake it off today.”
“And you’re rigid. Life can only disappoint the rigid and righteous.”
She gathered her stuff and moved off down the trail.
“And cursing doesn’t mean shit,” I said. “It’s just expression.”
Suffice it to say, we agreed to disagree. Or at least I did.
Later, I pitched my tent and sat watching darkness fall. One thing about the mountains. Once the summer sun sets behind a ridge or peak, the temperature drops immediately. That’s unlike the humid eastern mountains where the heat lingers in the thick air. That heavy heat has no where to go, the valleys trapping it, forming puddles of swampy June air. Up here, in a high Rocky Mountain valley, it’s easier to shake it off because the air is thin and much of the heat just lifts away.
At least that’s what I tell myself. But I’m no scientist.