Big Tits

Grand Tetons is French for Big Tits,” I deadpanned to my passengers, as we approached the rugged mountain range.

It’s true. Well, mostly true. These mountains were originally named Les Trois Tetons (The Three Teats), by French-speaking trappers. The tallest of these teats is called Grand Teton, at 13,775 feet. So technically, there are no Grand Tetons (in the plural). There is just one Grand Teton, along with two smaller teats.

Grand Teton, the Big Tit, is at the left. The other two may or may not be in this frame. I can’t tell. They all look like tits, to me. In fact, I think there are many more than just three tits in this range. It’s fully of pointy and roundy projections, good for stimulating a horny trapper’s dreams.

But it sounded funny, and I thought I’d get a good laugh. Nothing. Silence. It fell flat. Flatter than my ironing-board-chested sister.

And that’s when I remembered. I have religious people in the car. My brother, Rowan, and his wife, Connie, don’t care much for such language. I guess it’s too sex-related, and God hates sex.

The Tetons from the shore of Jackson Lake. Jackson Lake is a natural lake that was expanded in 1911, with the construction of the Jackson Lake Dam. The waters of the Snake River slither into and out of this body of water, and make it one of the largest high altitude lakes in the United States, at 6,772 feet elevation.

They haven’t been to church for years. They stopped attending after a scandal that they’ve only alluded to with sketchy, hushed details. I guess there was some sort of false rumor that circulated, about Rowan having an affair. But they claim that they’re still very religious, and believe in all that mumbo-jumbo that forms the doctrine of their faith.

Jackson Hole is a fairly wide and flat valley, adorned by the Tetons, to the west.

The word fuck is especially taboo with them. I tried to avoid it, but there was that time I was sitting at the picnic table, and Connie served me a hamburger that looked raw inside. When she saw my deer-in-the-headlights eyeballs, she offered to cook it a little longer.

So she extended a thin fork, for the purpose of hoisting that wide, unwieldy patty from my bun, back to the grill. A poor choice in tools, as a spatula is best for such a bulky operation. Less than one second later it plopped over, falling from the fork and hitting splat on top of the dirty picnic table surface.

The Tetons under a waning gibbous moon.

I’m a germaphobe, and this was all I could take. I uttered, “Fuck this procedure!” Everyone fell silent. The F-bomb, yes the fucking F-bomb, had just been dropped. Horrors. But I say, if you drop my fucking hamburger, I’m gonna drop the fucking F-bomb. I don’t care how religious you are.

At the left is magnificent Mt. Moran, of the Tetons, hovering above Jenny Lake. Jenny Lake is a very popular attraction at Grand Teton National Park. We arrived there somewhat early, about 9:00 am, and could barely find a parking spot. Damned tourists.

Apparently, I was forgiven in a Christian way, as Connie demurely picked up the patty and returned it to the grill. And I hope like fuck all the germs were destroyed by the heat, because I ended up eating the damned, dirty thing.

My brother, Rowan, and grand-nephew, Wiley Jr., decided to hike my legs off at Jenny Lake. So we took a stroll around the lake to a far-off, distant, godforsaken spot called Hidden Falls. You can’t see it from this perspective, but it’s over there. Somewhere. Hidden, as usual.

Like Lenny Bruce, I believe there are no dirty words, only dirty hamburger patties. And all such patties should be condemned to the hell of a barbecue grill, for heat-sterilization, if not thrown out entirely.

We started our hike at a bridge spanning Cottonwood Creek, when all of a sudden a park ranger appeared and told us to hold up. He warned there was a bear in the area. Then this hairy monster emerged, with her cubs.

The trappers were a foul-mouthed lot who appreciated so-called “dirty” humor. First, they named these mountains the Three Tits. That’s the best kind of woman to dance with. You get two in the front for rubbing against, and one in the back for playing with.

Momma bear playing with one of her baby bears, in the middle of Cottonwood Creek, while her other cub catches up.

Then they named the valley below the Three Tits, Jackson Hole, after a trapper named Davy Jackson, who was the first European-American to spend the entire winter there. Ostensibly, the term Hole comes from the steep descent into this valley from the Tetons, or opposite-side Gros Ventre mountains. It gave trappers the idea that they were descending into a kind of depression you might dig with a large shovel.

But I wonder if it was just that Davy was a real asshole.

The Gros Ventre mountains form the eastern boundary of Jackson Hole. Gros Ventre is French for “Big Belly”. So, at Jackson Hole you have big tits and a big belly. Somehow it all seems to go together.

The Snake River passes through Jackson Hole, which gives rise to more ribald double-entendres. Those trappers had quite the sense of humor, I tell ya.

Once the bear danger passed, we proceeded on our footslog to Hidden Falls, while enjoying spectacular views of Jenny Lake, such as this.

I was a trapper, too. I was driving, and had my religious brother and sister-in-law trapped in the back seat. I could have told more dirty jokes, but my wife, Kay, was sitting next to me, and I sensed a dirty look from her direction.

On the other side of the lake, between the trees, we could ogle the Tetons from closer range. So I guess that’s what all the motorboating was about, that I could see on the lake.

So I held my tongue and stared straight ahead, leering at the gorgeous beauty approaching. The pointy, perky, stony peaks, we commonly call The Grand Tetons.

Or, if you’ll forgive me for milking this joke further: The Big Tits.

Hidden Falls, sweating away in the cleavage of the Tetons.

Five Characters

We spent a few days at Grand Teton National Park, before saying “meh, let’s go to Yellowstone.”

It’s still fresh in my mind, so the vacation I went on a few weeks ago is the most memorable vacation I’ve ever experienced. I visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. These are two of the most beautiful parks in our country, possessing a profound pulchritude that is hard to forget.

But even more beautiful were the characters who accompanied me on my peregrination through these natural wonders. Of course my wife, Kay Yak Gnu, was by my side, as usual. But we also had a family reunion with my brother, Rowan Waters Gnu, his wife Connie Tipples Gnu, and my grand nephew, Wiley Cody Gnu, Jr.

Yellowstone is just a hop, skip, and a jump north of Grand Teton. Of course, one of the first sights we had to see after we hopped over was Old Fuckin’ Faithful. How could we go to Yellowstone without visiting this, the most famous geyser in the world? True to form, it shot off its wad on time, inspiring lots of oohs and awes from us.

We formed a jolly group of five, and I’m planning some posts about our fun times, touring these parks. So I think it’s only polite that I introduce you to each one of the unforgettable characters that helped make my vacation so memorable.

First I’ll introduce you to my wife, Kay. But if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, an introduction is probably not necessary, since I have a tendency to mention her now and then.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Yep, Yellowstone has its own Grand Canyon. We discovered there’s a sampling of a wide variety of natural wonders at this park.

I’ve loved Kay for about 28 years now. If you see Kay, you’d know why. She’s a beauty, of Mongolian ancestry. She can be sweet as a deep-fried dumpling, and as sour as plain yogurt. And she keeps me in line. Or at least, she tries.

Kay observing the Midway Geyser Basin, from a safe distance. Yellowstone is an active supervolcano that could erupt at any time. And even though it last erupted more than 600,000 years ago, we still felt a little nervous.

Kay is a guilt queen with a long memory. She remembers all the awful things I’ve done, going back decades ago. Shit I’ve forgotten about long past, until she stimulates my engrams with an unflattering anecdote. She frequently uses these memories like arrows in a quiver, to shoot me down and remind me and the rest of the world what a total asshole I am.

My wife, Kay, observing a hot spring at the Black Sand Basin of Yellowstone. That’s my brother, Rowan, in the orange shirt to her right. Notice his coffee mug? Sadly, he’s a damned addict, just like my wife.

And now, meet my brother Rowan. He’s a tax professional, who owns a big tax preparation firm in a middle-sized city. Growing up, he always struggled in school, and finally dropped out of the 11th grade. But now this dipwad is an Enrolled Agent who can represent clients before the IRS, whenever they are audited. Kind of scary, huh?

Rowan may be a tax pro by trade, but he’s a standup comedian by habit. He thinks quick on his feet, and constantly bombards everyone with rapid-fire quips and hilarities.

I’m the opposite. I think on my ass, and after much reflection, pondering, and pounding my forehead with my fist, I hesitatingly peck something out on my keyboard that I think might be humorous. If my brother sees it and agrees that it’s funny, he shamelessly steals it. Just like you’d expect from a typical comedian.

Rowan on the left, and me on the right, on rocks in Lewis Lake. He’s trying to steal some jokes I have hidden in my pocket, and I can’t get away from the bastard.

But Rowan can’t write worth a damn. I’m not even sure he can spell the word “spell”. I was the scholastic one. He was the fucking flunky who couldn’t make it through school. And now he’s a rich-assed tax pro. How the hell he ever found himself in this lucrative position still bewilders me. But I suspect he may have gotten some persistent coaching and help from Connie.

Connie is my sister-in-law. And just like my wife Kay, she’s the conscience of her family, who uses guilt to try to keep Rowan in line and save my brother from perdition.

There were lots of these big, hairy creatures in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. I understand they’re temperamental, and you shouldn’t mess with them. But they didn’t seem to mind my zoom lens.

She and my brother have four grown, adult kids. And she makes sure they do everything they can for these grown adults. Rowan and Connie are wealthy from their tax business, yet Connie may just drive their finances to the point of bankruptcy, with all the cossetting and handouts that go to their children.

Connie manages the tax office, and is my brother’s boss. But he makes more money than she, and constantly reminds her of that fact. But no matter. Their grown, adult kids are getting it all.

Wiley Jr. is on the left, trying to take a picture of Lewis Lake with his big, fancy camera, that I’ll bet his grandparents paid for. His grandmother, Connie, is on the right.

Wiley Jr. is the son of my nephew, Wiley Sr. And Wiley Sr. is my brother’s youngest son. Senior went through medical school, partly with help from his parents and wife. After Senior completed his residency and became a full-fledged doctor, he promptly got a divorce. After eight years, he’s now on his third wife.

But Wiley Jr. is the one who accompanied me on this vacation, having been flown out special by his doting grandparents, so that he could experience Yellowstone. After all, no child should be deprived of the experience of Yellowstone.

The Grand Prismatic Spring, in the Midway Geyser Basin of Yellowstone. This is the third largest hot spring in the world, and my camera lens wasn’t wide enough to capture it all. Just believe me. It’s big.

Junior takes after his father. He is smart, well-mannered, and cunning as a coyote. He works as a barista for Starbucks, pushing the coffee poison on people. That alone should tell you something about his character.

Right now he’s in his third year of college, studying to be a CPA. After he graduates, my brother and sister-in-law are contemplating retiring, and giving the tax business to him. The same tax business that cost them $600,000 to buy. Because grandchildren are just as special and needy as regular children.

I shot this bull elk during a hunting trip along the Madison River, in Yellowstone. Don’t worry, I only hunt with my camera. It’s rutting season, and this guy is acting horny as hell, so it’s a good thing I have a zoom lens.

These four characters, Kay, Rowan, Connie, and Wiley Jr., shared the adventure of Yellowstone and Grand Teton with me. You may have made your own judgments about them, based upon my descriptions. I know I have my own judgments. But I love them, even for all the flaws I perceive.

Everyone is their own unique character. Each person must be met on their own terms. Because we can’t change them, and to try only stirs up hostility and throws a wet blanket on a fun party.

Mammoth Hot Springs, in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone. This is probably the most spectacular and popular of all the hot springs in the park. We got lucky and found a parking spot, or we would have had to get up real early in the morning to see this wonder.

The best we can do is tolerate the flaws of the characters we know, and admire and enjoy their good qualities. But even in admiration, we must avoid trying to be like them. We must make them meet us on our own terms, and embrace our own uniqueness, as we embrace theirs.

When no one tries to change each other, a good time can be had by all. And a good time is what we five characters had, deep in America’s wilderness.

We stopped and ate lunch near Soda Butte Creek, after driving through the Lamar Valley, in northeastern Yellowstone. From left to right sits Kay, Rowan, Connie, and Wiley, Jr. But I’m sure you can recognize them by now.

The Visitor

Colorado River Indian Reservation.

Note: I’ve recently been getting back in touch with nature, including visiting an Indian reservation and a few of our national parks. This must be what inspired the following story. Either that, or it was that Native American restaurant, where I ordered the Peyote Plate Special.


The Visitor

 

The visitor strode over the heat haze toward towers of rock in the sky. All around, the spirits of lizard and snake welcomed its presence and thanked it. The creosote bush waved, and the smoke tree bowed. High above, the crow and hawk sang its praises, and the quail below echoed in chorus.

It stood atop a bronze cliff, high above a river of blue, and watched it flowing, winding, dripping away, while a cloud of stars showered its head with gold and silver.

The skin of its feet sizzled from burning granite, so it cooled them in the river. It scooped water from this river, and poured it into its parched mouth, then quickly spat it back out. A cloud of death-smoke stung its eyes and choked its breath, until it sent it away with a wave of a hand. And then it hid in a canyon to shield its skin from the flaming sun.

The earth begged it for relief. The river cried. The sky wailed in misery. And the sun apologized for an imagined sin.

The visitor whispered to the earth and gave it encouragement. It spoke to the river and consoled it. It lifted its voice to the sky, with its sweet breath. And it sang a soft song to the sun.

“You have remained, flowed, blown, and shone since ancient times,” it reminded them. “This discomfort you feel is a mere itch. An itch passes like the shadow of a cloud. Time is your medicine.”

“And what of the humans?” they replied. “It is for them we also beg, cry, wail, and apologize. What of their itch? Will it, too, soon pass?”

The visitor laughed and shook its finger. “Ah but that is your job, to tame the human,” it retorted. “And I see from the scalding heat of this rock, the bitter taste of the river water, the unbreathable sky, and the fiery sting of the sun, that you are learning how to do this.

“The humans are hard to tame. But they are no match for you, their masters. Show no mercy. Spare no quarter. Accept nothing but complete submission. And then their itch shall pass. As shall yours. And then they can once again dwell under your control and enjoy your safe protection.”

Having taught what it came to teach, the visitor left for a stroll down the Milky Way, to other realms and other adventures in this grand universe of strange worlds and phenomena. The humans quickly passed from its mind. It had other, much more interesting things to do.

Angry Blood Pressure

I don’t have anger issues. No, I’m not an angry old man. But I do worry a lot.

I’ve been worried about my blood pressure. It’s been too damn low. Not so low that I have to see a doctor, but pretty close. Maybe I’m prehypotensive, if there is such a thing.

I damn sure don’t want to see a doctor. Those quack bastards would run all kinds of expensive and time-consuming tests, and then tell me that either there’s nothing wrong with me, or that I’ve gotta have a heart transplant. I know their game. They’re in it for laughs and money.

The laughs come when they tell a sniveling, worried hypochondriac like me that, hey, after all those tests and all that anxiety, you little crying snot-faced pussy, there’s really nothing wrong with you. Now go home and drink a glass of warm milk, you fucking wimp, and let me tend to the patients who really need my help.

The money comes when they do find one little thing wrong. They can use this as an excuse for any ol’ open-heart surgery they might dream of. Consumer Reports once did some research on this, and found out that many of the procedures recommended by heart clinics and cardiologists are unnecessary, dangerous, and a waste of money.

So I’m doing my very best to avoid seeing a heart quack, by exercising regularly (lots of walks and hikes), and eating right (lots of sugar on that bland-tasting fibrous cereal).

The sleek and sable Omron 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor, with 2-User mode, 200-Reading Memory, Backlit Display, TruRead Technology, and BP Indicator LEDs. It’s a hypochondriac’s dream.

I have one of those Omron blood pressure cuffs. It’s one of the more expensive types that goes around the arm, rather than the wrist, because I’ve read that they’re more accurate. How in the hell can a little cuff around the wrist give an accurate reading? But an anaconda-sized arm cuff? Yeah! That squeezing fucker really means business.

One recent morning I tested my blood pressure, and nearly fell out of my chair. Not from alarm, but from weakness. I was feeling wan, under the weather, and thought that maybe my feeble-fucking heart was finally giving out on me. So I strapped on the Omron. And my suspicions were confirmed. It read 93/70.

This was it, I shuddered. This was the big one. I damn near called 911, until I remembered how much I hate doctors. So I did a little Googling first, and found that blood pressure isn’t abnormally low until the top number drops below 90.

So I set up the Omron next to the phone, and kept monitoring throughout the day. Finally, later in the day, it barely peaked above a hundred. Dr. Google says it’s normal for blood pressure to be lower in the morning, and to rise over the course of the day. But I suspect it was really all my anxiety that raised that top number up. It’s a good thing I’m a hypochondriac and can worry about these things, or I’d be dead by now.

I felt relieved, but kept the Omron set up and handy.

Then the other day, my wife came home from the auto dealer, after having routine warranty-required service on her new car, including an oil change. They gave her a big-long, bullshit report on all the things they claim to have inspected and supposedly did. I noticed on this report that it said oil change intervals are “recommended at 10,000 miles or eight months, whichever comes first.”

My heart exploded. Those lying, mutherfucking cocksuckers! I raged (to myself). The warranty manual that came with the car clearly recommends oil changes at 10,000 miles or twelve months, whichever comes first, and not eight months. Those bullshit bolt-twisters are trying to take advantage of our ignorance, and get us to come in more often for their mutherfucking expensive oil changes!

All kinds of expletives, imprecations, and invectives inveighed across my brain. And all over this teeny-tiny pathetic little attempt at fraud that I detected. Boy was I pissed. And all over nothing, really.

And that’s when I remembered that people who get pissed off real easy over little things, tend to be prone to heart attacks. Yeah, that’s true. Just ask Dr. Google.

Well, fuck.

And then I remembered my Omron. So I strapped it on, while ranting and railing in my head about those mutherfucking, con-artist car mechanics. I wanted to see how high I could push the systolic.

Wouldn’t you know, I popped it up to 124/69. Not bad, eh? Not bad for me, at least. That’s prehypertension territory. I felt kind of proud.

So maybe I just need to have more anger in my life.

But then I remembered that high blood pressure is bad for you, too. So I killed my inner rant. 20 minutes later I checked the bp again. Now the top number was down to 112, but the bottom number was up to 77. Could it be that repressing anger lowers the systolic, but raises the diastolic?

Who the hell knows? I really don’t know what the answers are to this heart thing. I guess I’ll just keep on with my exhausting exercise program and eating my fucking fiber, and staying as calm as possible in this fucked-up world.

I’m hoping to get a few more decades out of this beating bastard, until I’m some dried-up dotard who can barely stand and walk. And then I won’t give a damn about my heart. In fact, I’ll probably be cheering for it to give out.

So perhaps that’s when I’ll become an angry old man.

That Time I Stole a Horse

The Horse Thieves ~ painting by Charles Russell

About a month ago, I bragged about stealing a horse. I’d like to take full credit for this nefarious deed, but I must admit that I had help.

Well, (kicking the dirt) actually I was just an accomplice. Here’s the story:

I briefly ran with a horse thief gang. Fortunately we weren’t caught, or our necks would be as long as a giraffe’s. Anyway, it wasn’t my fault. My sister put us up to this crime, with her lousy choice in husbands.

Her first husband made a practice of stealing airplanes. He’d fly them down to Mexico, and then fly cocaine back across the border, low under the radar. He was a fun, rough-and-tumble guy when sober. But he was a scary, violent, son-of-a-bitch when drunk or high.

After a few broken jaws and noses, she finally left him, and changed her name so that he and his family could not track her down and kill her.

Her second husband was a cold-shouldered, boorish math teacher and volunteer deputy sheriff. He treated my family like scum, and treated his own family worse. But I think he hated his math students the most.

He got a mistress, and one morning calmly announced, as he was heading out the door for work, that he wanted a divorce. Later, his new wife divorced him, and he begged for my sister to take him back. But she was already on her third husband.

Her third husband was a cruel, bipolar, lunatic, fucking madman. I’ll call him Bubba, to protect his guilty, sorry, motherfucking ass. They built a successful business together, and it was a horse ranch. My sister did most of the work, but I’ll grudgingly admit that Bubba was useful at times too, when he wasn’t laying around nagging her about everything.

My sister broke and trained Missouri Foxtrotters. She had the knowledge, and was widely regarded as an expert in this breed of horse. In fact, she was one of the best in the business, and still is. Bubba didn’t know shit, but sure knew how to holler at her whenever he imagined she was making mistakes.

But at least he stayed out of her way enough for her to make their ranch popular. Equestrians from all over the country flocked to their ranch, for these smooth-gaited horses that took the pain-in-the-ass out of trail riding.

Their best horse was a grey, dappled stallion named Zane’s Diamond Head. Zane was a prize Foxtrotter of legendary pedigree. His sire was the famous Zane Grey, considered the finest stallion in the history of the Foxtrotter breed.

Zane had won many awards over the course of his long life. His stud fees were high, and he got plenty of action. Everyone loved Zane. Except me. I envied that lucky bastard.

One morning I got a phone call from sis, and I could sense something was wrong. She’s five years older than me, and had done a better job at breaking and training me than my own mother. We’ve had a soul-to-soul connection since the day of my birth. Somehow, someway, through that soul connection, I knew something was wrong, even though she was trying to make this sound like a routine conversation.

“Did you leave Bubba?” I finally ventured, right out of the blue.

She hesitated, then said, “Yes.”

“Do you need a place to hide out?”

“Mmm . . . maybe.” It ain’t easy to admit you’re on a third failed marriage.

She’d fled for her life the night before. A young female ranchhand had shown up unexpectedly at a desperate moment. This distracted Bubba, and gave my sister just enough time to grab her purse and car keys, jump into her little Chevy Geo, and speed off, leaving him in a cloud of driveway dust.

We hid her out while she began divorce proceedings. We kept her safe, but she just couldn’t get Zane off her mind. She hated that the prize horse she loved so much, was left to Bubba’s mercy.

Zane was worth some money, but that wasn’t my sister’s biggest concern. She just loved that horse, and knew that Bubba knew this. So she expected Bubba to shoot Zane. Especially after Bubba shot her two dogs.

And so we hatched a scheme. A horse thievin’ scheme.

By community property law, my sister had to have a judge’s order to remove anything from the ranch. Especially things like horses. Because technically, she left him. He didn’t leave her.

And Bubba was guarding the ranch with perfervid zeal, to keep my sister from recovering any of her abandoned possessions. He had guns. He had an insane temper. And he had the law on his side.

But my sister also had something. She had knowledge of his schedule and knew when he’d probably be away from home. He was a religious fanatic, who liked to attend all his fanatical church gatherings. When it came to church attendance, Bubba was very faithful.

In the dark of a very important fanatical religious meeting night, we rolled up a dirt drive about fifty yards from the corrals, with headlights switched off. We were banking on Bubba being gone, unwilling to miss such a pressing conclave of church elders.

But we felt nervous. Bubba was crazy and unpredictable. He could have skipped the meeting, and might be lurking in the brush with a shotgun, planning an ambuscade. Nearly three women are killed every day in the U.S. by domestic violence, and friends and relatives are sometimes taken out with them. We wanted to avoid becoming statistics.

The young female ranchhand was part of our horse thief gang. She was driving the pickup. She remained behind the wheel, and I stood in the pickup bed on lookout, while my sister headed out on foot to Zane’s stall. She could handle Zane better than anyone, and had the best chance of securing the stallion’s cooperation.

A horse snorted. There were about 30 head on the ranch, and they thought it was feeding time, because Bubba hadn’t tossed them their hay yet. Apparently he was in too much of a holy-assed hurry to make his fanatical church meeting, to bother with feeding. Besides, he didn’t really give a damn if they ate.

They began stamping their feet, kicking corral bars, and whinnying. So much for our plans to be quiet and stealthy.

She found Zane, haltered him, and attached the lead rope. Quickly, through the gauntlet of pathetic, protesting equines, she and her stolen horse returned to the pickup truck.

She vaulted into the pickup bed, hanging onto Zane’s lead rope. The engine fired, and off we lurched, Zane tagging along obediently to the pull of the rope. What a good horse that Zane was.

I’ve never forgotten the sight of that magnificent grey-dappled stallion, foxtrotting behind us, nostrils flaring, eyeballs glaring, and plumes of moonlit dust billowing about his flying mane.

We bounced and bumped in the moonshadowed desert for a few miles, on dirt roads that led to Leopard Spring Ranch, and to another friend who was in on the caper. Zane was hid out at the friend’s ranch overnight, before being transported out of town.

Of course Bubba was furious, as I could tell from his trembling voice when he called me the next day and asked if I knew what had happened. And of course I denied everything. That’s what horse thieves do.

Divorce lawyers eventually sorted everything out, though Bubba got the much better end of the deal.

He married again, to a devoutly religious woman. Then he proceeded to render her obedient, with punishments of biblical proportions, and with biblical justification.

My sister finally found a good man, and she’s been with him for the past 20 years now. She runs a very successful Foxtrotter ranch, and is highly regarded throughout the horse world of southern California.

Helping to steal a horse was one of the funnest and proudest moments of my life. It left me with a sense of prepotency, and helped me feel as much the stallion as the horse, himself. There’s nothing like a little horse thievin’ to stroke a man’s ego.

As for Zane, well he was old. He couldn’t cover anymore mares, or sire anymore offspring, because his pecker was worn out. And just eight months after we stole him, at the age of 25, he succumbed to old age and cancer.

And now Zane is in the great paddock in the sky. His offspring populate generations of the breed of Foxtrotters. They’re the best of the breed. If you want a good Foxtrotter, look for one with the name “Zane” in its pedigree.

My sister didn’t get much out of this marital breakup, but she did get to keep Zane a little while longer. For her it was a moral victory of love for an animal, and thus one of the few shining things she was awarded in the divorce settlement.

Hell, you might just say it was a steal.

Conquering California, Part 17 of 17: The Conquerors After Conquest

This is the final part of a 17-part series. At last, it’s over. What’s over? Well shit, if you’ve already forgotten what happened in the last part, you can follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.

To start at the beginning, and read this entire series like a history book, follow this link.


 

President James K. Polk

 

President James K. Polka.

James K. Polk had promised he would only be a one-term president, when he was elected in 1844. Sound familiar? Every presidential candidate seems to promise this. Yet he’s one of the few who kept that promise, opting not to run for re-election in 1848.

He’d entered office full of energy, and eager to fulfill his mandate of Western expansion. But apparently, expanding the size of the United States is not as easy as it may seem. Those four grueling years in office exhausted his health, and he left weak and frail.

He contracted cholera just three months after leaving office, and died on June 15, 1849, at the age of 53.

 

 

U.S. Consul Thomas O. Larkin

Thomas O. Larkin had been the first, and only, U.S. Consul to Alta California. After the war ended he was free to buy land in California. And buy he did. Real estate was glowing hot in the Golden State at that time, and Larkin made a fortune from his land speculations. By the late 1850’s he was possibly the richest man in America.

But he didn’t have long to enjoy his good fortune. On October 27, 1858, he contracted typhoid fever, and died at age 56.

 

Major Archibald H. Gillespie

 

Archibald H. Gillespie survived his lance wounds suffered at the Battle of San Pasqual. But he remained a major asshole, and thus never rose beyond the rank of major. He resigned from the Marine Corps in 1854, at age 42. He died on August 16, 1873, at the age of 60, in San Francisco.

 

Commodore Robert F. Stockton

 

Robert F. Stockton

In 1849, Charles Weber laid out a town located at a supply point for gold miners, on the San Joaquin River. He named it Stockton, after Commodore Stockton. Today, with a population of around 300,000, Stockton is California’s 13th largest city.

Commodore Stockton resigned from the Navy in May 1850. In 1851, he was elected U.S. Senator from New Jersey, and as a senator he sponsored a bill to abolish flogging as a Navy punishment. He was a delegate to the Peace Conference of 1861, that unsuccessfully attempted to avert Civil War. He died in 1866, at age 71.

 

 

 

General Stephen W. Kearny

 

Stephen W. Kearny. He does look a little yellow, doesn’t he?

Kearny was welcomed back to Washington D.C. as a hero of the Mexican-American War. He was appointed military governor of Veracruz and Mexico City, during the post-war occupation of Mexico.

In September 1848, President Polk promoted him to Major General, over the angry objections of John Fremont’s powerful father-in-law, Senator Thomas Benton. But Benton had no need to feel upset. The month after Kearny’s promotion, in October 1848, Kearny contracted yellow fever and died at the age of 54.

 

 

 

 

 

Kit Carson

 

This 1874 dime novel depicts Carson heroically stabbing one Indian in the front, while cowardly stabbing another in the back.

Kit Carson was romanticized and popularized by John Fremont, in Fremont’s writings of his Western exploits. Mentions of massacres and murders were glossed over, or spun to make Carson look like a great Western hero.

During the Civil War, Carson led a regiment of Hispanic volunteers on the side of the Union, in the Battle of Valverde. This battle took place in Confederate Arizona (now part of New Mexico). His regiment performed well, but the Union general in charge employed poor tactics, and the Confederates won.

After the Confederate threat to New Mexico was finally eliminated, Carson led forces that suppressed the Navajo, Mescalero Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche peoples, by destroying their food sources.

Kit Carson died in Fort Lyon, Colorado from an aortic aneurysm, on May 23, 1868. He was 58.

 

 

 

 

John C. Fremont

 

After the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga, Commodore Stockton quickly appointed Fremont military governor of California. But then orders came from Washington that gave General Kearny the authority to appoint a governor, rather than Stockton.

Kearny changed the governorship appointment to Colonel Richard B. Mason. But Fremont hated Mason, and got into a pissing match with him, refusing to obey his orders, and challenging him to a duel.

Kearny responded to Fremont’s contumacious behavior by ordering him to accompany him on Kearny’s return march back east.

On August 22, 1847, Kearny and Fremont arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There Kearny had Fremont arrested and court-martialed for a variety of military offenses, including mutiny and disobeying orders.

On January 31, 1848, Fremont was acquitted of mutiny. But he was convicted of disobedience toward a superior officer, and of military misconduct. He was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge.

But by this time, Fremont was very popular in the United States. The press and public hailed him as a hero of the American West. The press followed his court-martial closely, and news of the verdict made headlines everywhere.

The verdict sparked popular outrage. President Polk approved of the verdict, but he feared the public sentiment. So he quickly commuted Fremont’s sentence and reinstated him into the Army. But he did not give Fremont a full pardon.

Fremont felt incensed that he had not received a full pardon and soon after, resigned from the Army in protest and returned to California.

There, Fremont became a multimillionaire in the Gold Rush, and also became one of California’s first two U.S. Senators.

1856 election poster, hyping Fremont for votes.

His hero status continued, and it propelled him to the Republican Party’s nomination to president of the United States, in 1856. This made him the first Republican nominee for president, as the Republican Party had only recently been formed, in 1854. But he lost to Democrat James Buchanan.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln appointed Fremont to command the Department of the West, which was headquartered in Missouri. Fremont became the first in the American command to recognize and promote the fighting abilities of Ulysses S. Grant. But the headstrong Fremont got into a dispute with Lincoln and defied orders from the Commander-in-Chief, by trying to emancipate Missouri’s slaves. Lincoln fired him on November 2, 1861.

Fremont went on to dabble in speculative investments, and went broke during the financial Panic of 1873.

John C. Fremont, 1813-1890.

He was appointed Governor of the Arizona Territory in 1878, but showed little interest in the job, and resigned in 1881. He ended up living with his wife as a poor pensioner in Staten Island, New York. At age 77 he contracted peritonitis, dying on July 13, 1890.

Fremont was the instigator behind California’s Bear Flag Revolt, and made the conquest of California easier than it would have otherwise been, for the U.S. military.

He was a man of contradictions:

He was audacious, aristocratic, and charismatic. But he was also a cruel man, of low cunning, and capable of double-crossing his friends.

He murdered Native Americans, but treated surrendering Californios with generosity. He lived a life of celebrated adventure, but secretly colored it with deception, blood, and terror.

And he died on the East coast, a hero of the American West.


Congratulations! You made it to the end of this marathon 17-part series. I think I might do more series like this on other subjects. Unless this has been torture for you. If so, please say, “Ouch” in the comments. Otherwise, keep your running shoes on for more marathon unicorn chases, in the future.

Conquering California, Part 16 of 17: The Conquered After Conquest

This is Part 16 of a 17-part series. Have you bumped your head since the last part, and developed amnesia? Then you can follow this link, and get yourself up-to-date.

To start at the beginning, follow this link.


 

General Mariano Vallejo

Mariano Vallejo

 

While in prison in Sutter’s Fort, Vallejo contracted malaria and his weight dropped to 96 lbs. He was released on August 2, 1846, and returned to his Casa Grande home in Sonoma, where he recovered.

Vallejo had long believed that California would be better off under United States rule, and believed the Bear Flaggers had made a mistake by declaring an independent republic. He felt embittered toward the Bear Flaggers for taking him prisoner. But after the United States defeated Mexico, he persuaded wealthy Californios to accept American rule.

He became an influential delegate to the state’s Constitutional Convention in 1849, and was elected as a State Senator in 1850. He also donated land for the construction of a new capitol building, which was built in the eponymously named city of Vallejo. The state capitol was later moved three more times, to Sacramento, then Benicia (which neighbors Vallejo and is named after Vallejo’s wife), and then permanently back to Sacramento.

Mariano Vallejo died on January 18, 1890, at age 82.

 

Commandante General Jose Castro

Commandante General Jose Castro

 

Jose Castro returned briefly to California, where he sold his adobe house at Mission San Juan Bautista to a surviving member of the Donner Party. In 1853 he left for Mexico again, and was appointed governor and military commander of Baja California.

In February 1860, Castro was assassinated by a bandit. He was 52 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Governor Pio Pico

 

Pio Pico. His name should not be confused with Pico Pica hot sauce.

Pio Pico returned to California as a full-fledged American citizen, after the end of the Mexican-American War. He became one of the wealthiest cattlemen in California. But he had a bad addiction to gambling, and this and other factors led him to lose most of his wealth. Pio Pico died in 1894, at the age of 93.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Andres Pico

 

Andres Pico

General Andres Pico, the brother of Pio Pico, was pardoned by the Treaty of Cahuenga. He later became a California Assemblyman and State Senator.

As an Assemblyman, he authored a bill to partition California into two states, north and south. In 1859, the bill passed both houses of the state legislature and was signed by the governor.

However the U.S. Congress never voted on the bill. The majority in Congress feared that a state of Southern California would be a slave state, and might secede, should Civil War break out. This was due to a strong presence of settlers from the South in southern California, who favored slavery and secession. And there were many discontented Californios in southern California, who also favored secession.

There have been dozens of subsequent attempts to partition the state, but Pico’s was the closest any came to succeeding.

Andres Pico died in 1876, at age 65.


Come on back in a few days for the final part of this 17-part series, Part 17: The Conquerors After Conquest.

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