Sunday, August 28, 2016

Crackshot Kovey And His Craggy Trail Gang

Youngest in our posse, Kovey (pronounced K0-V) was just shy of 12 years old. Both grandfathers, Glen and Rudy, along with his dad, Adam, had a surprise in store for Kovey.

First, let me tell you about Kovey. Only the horse he rode upon enjoyed him as much as the rest of us. Weighing less than 80 pounds, Kovey was the lightest mount any horse in the remuda carried. Unintimidated, he was more than up for the journey. Before riding into the Sierras, he
had been astride a horse a total of 4 hours. After a 7 hour trip that first day, his new boots, bandana, cowboy hat, and clothes puffed clouds of dust with every move. But he was as fresh as a daisy, whether running to fetch firewood or down to the mountain stream for water, he was all in. No job was beneath him or above him. From his backpack he constantly pulled bags of goodies to share with everyone on the ride. He was one of the gang--we became his gang.

Unknown to Kovey, this trip was more than a ride into the wild--it would also be a time of initiation into his strength and responsibility as a young man. Some of the celebration his father and grandfathers planned was private--for the men of his immediate family only. Each of the adults exchanged a specially engraved knife to commemorate the event. But when that was done, Kovey emerged with a specially engraved sword--about the size of Frodo's in Lord of the Rings--he could hardly wait to show all of us! From that moment on it swung from his hip whenever he strode though camp.

Several times, as I observed the interactions between Kovey, his grandfathers, and father, I couldn't help but cry. His innocence and exuberance carried me back to my days as a boy and a longing for one more moment with my father. Thoughts of my own sons at that tender age, Justin and Josh, overwhelmed me.

Kovey received a gift few young men ever do in such an intentional manner. The masculine bond taking shape before our very eyes was beautiful and moving. Our littlest rider was adored--we proudly declared ourselves as Crackshot Kovey And His Craggy Trail Gang. To a man we were proud to ride for that brand.

Kovey had a trail name for me--Barehands Bill, a name I earned by telling him farfetched tales each morning of how, with my bare hands, I turned a bear inside-out during the middle of the night saving Kovey's and everyone's lives, and caught fish from rushing streams, so we would have food to eat. On-and-on the stories went.

At trail's end, we stood by a road curb waiting for our Uber rides to take us to different destinations. Kovey hugged me, "Good-bye, Barehands Bill," and to each of his trail mates, with tears filling his eyes, he squeaked out a "Good-bye."

Lord willing, it's not the last time we will see our young cowboy. Next summer his grandfathers and father and many of the Crackshot Kovey And His Craggy Trail Gang are planning an August reunion. Not in the wild western mountains of California, but instead, in the northeast, at a wood frame cabin that sits on the edge of the beautiful Penobscot River, in the state known for "The Way Life Should Be." There will be no horses, but there will be tents, flowing water, kayaks, fish, and stories around a campfire...

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