WhiteCrow Walking

My solo walk across America began in Maine. I walked for nearly 3 years carrying a backpack and facing countless dangers, as well as met wonderful people I could have never made it without. From bullets to bears I moved through mountains of snow and across burning desert country. The end result will be a book, and the fruition of a childhood dream. This is a blog from the field with rough stories about my steps along the way.

22 January 2007

Walking On Down (Re-write)

Nira Visa, New Mexico The Western Stars Motel

Sometimes I write for speed and totally miss what it was that I wanted to convey, the light or burden I have been digesting over these cold empty miles can easily fall away where even tractor trailers and motorhomes have become rare in passing, and strangers no longer stop to share a smile or their likeness of a dream. Alone in thought I drift until I remember everything, and forget the feeling of warm fingers, and the taste of conversation as if I had never spoken before.
I walked 45 miles to get to this town without promise of a hot meal or a place to re-supply, that will take another 25 m of talking to God. Instead of looking at the whole southwest map when I set out from Delhart I looked at Texas and foolishly believed that once I hit New Mexico I would be at a market, replace socks I burned by the fire in a hurry to get dry feet, and feel real food melt into my mouth that has begun again to dream in flavor and smell far away from powered meal stired over a palm size fire.
One red dog barks at me angerly from the middle of the road as I enter Nira Visa, then I am heading back into an ocean of less plant, more earth and snow and silence broken only by a train that blows softly each day because we are cast in the same lot of emptiness, and close to drowning in it save this one touch. Silence is everywhere. Everything except the husk of what once was a town has blown away from here. Old trucks wait beside an antique shop begging to be painted on canvas. The camera clicks a likeness, broken windows tasting the din of new snow, cloth seats opening to a rib of springs. At the Western Stars Motel I see a sign that advertises in vintage flare, "Sleep Under The Stars.' I laugh and take a picture. A smaller sign by the door reads 'sandwiches for sale'. Wearing fingerless gloves I ring the buzzer and hope that one sign in this town is still holding true. Georgia Collins walks from apt. seven, taking in my story before she is in the office. My need for food is serious so my intro goes right to Q and A, knowing that the chance of a back street market is slim leaning toward none, and yet I ask hard with my eyes. With a pocket worn five soft as a tissue I buy two mini microwave pizzas and thank my blessings through each swirling bite. In the corner of the motel office on television the weatherman is getting loader as if he knows that we are not giving him all of our attention. He is talking about last night's 2 degree temp that climbed into my tent, and the ten inches of snow that hit my world two days ago and made DeeOhGee and I stay in tent city for two days and nights till the roads held some promise like they might let us live if we walked on.

I have been given a room for the night by Patrick and Georgia Collins, owner of the motel and their church due to the deadly cold. Grateful I wash all the clothes I can spare in the 10x20 sink in my room and feel indoor heat return life to my bones, but with warmth comes all the thought that are just waiting to acke in me. Feeling have a wait of reading trail better than any dog I have known. Ten minutes in and a sorry spreads over my heart that has slid under the door while the hot water ran soot off my fingers.

D.O.G. and I had been together for four days including the snowstorm. We shared the tent nightly, played with found cattle bones, skinned and quarter rabbits that mis-timed the traffic, talked endlessly, and became easier in our interactions as time erased novelity. Once camp was set in the evening the leash was stowed and we wandered the open lands around our new and temp. wayfayer world. Even if Dee ran over the rise to check out a sound, or follow the low red flight of a male pheasant his return was sure. The walking was hard on DeeOhGee though. We began with only two miles out of Delhart being our first camp by Dee's insistance. We were set up in the park, and the local law paid us a curt visit wearing a dandy of a handlebar moustache over a mouth that wasn't about to break a smile any day soon. I was told how my gear would fail, my dog was elderly at best,and I had better move on at first light and then find a place to hunker down because a Texas storm like the one heading in would flatten that tent of mine. DeeOhGee didn't like him, and hid under a picnic table. After twenty yes sir's, and few no sir's that left me winded for want of light, the officer drove away taking his cloud with him. I had asked him to ask D.A.W.G.S. to please check on our course in the next few days. Diane Trull had been far more than generous, personable and loving when DeeOhGee prepared to leave. We even had a care package with chew toys, snickers, dog sweaters and a gigantic heart thrilled to see us prepare to take on the rest of my journey. Everyone at Delhart Animal was truely behind the belief in a loving kennel for dogs that matter. The Sheriff said he would be in touch with D.A.W.G.S. and I worried that he would be as curt and foolish with them. With that thought though he was already another car moving into the night.
DeeOhGee was already taking the idea of walking in a less than favorable light himself. I tried to keep things positive although I felt I was selling turnip to someone that had actually tasted turnip.
Two miles became seven the next day , and ten the next before the snow found us and made us tell camp stories in our tent until all we could do was sleep and listen to each other breathe heavy with eyes closed, as wet snow popped all over our world. It was a moment of comfort and feeling safe even though inch after inch of white piled on our house..we had food, water was falling down we could later scoop up and cook with, and we had each other in a relatively free land. For a night into a day back into a night falling on morning we made simple games and cooked pancakes I would throw out into the snow for Dee to find, bury with cooling snow , and then eat in delight before returning to begin again. When I went to the road to check the conditions I could see black patches, and traffic moved along thin and slowly. Food would not last forever. Cooking snow to make water was draining out supply of wood and the blower fan battery for my stove. It was time to walk. DeeOhGee was as anxious as I was to set out...until the plows came, and his tender paws began to collect burrs from the exposed roadside. I pulled the most recent sticker from his foot and decided that I could trust him to walk in the deeper snow to my left. His leash was chewed short..and then shorter, so I had no choice but to let his walk free. At first he was a delight of bounds and checking my words as I talked out a story without point or reason. In less than a mile Dee was stopped behind me looking off onto the road, and then at me. In a stern voice I forbid him to go in to the road. He studied my face, tone, intent. After less than a minute having returned to walking I looked back again. Nothing. No trucks, cars, trees...Dog. It was standing in the snow waiting, looking with one hundred fifty pounds of gear either buckled to my back or pulled on ice choked twin tires behind me keeping it safe from roving plows. Still nothing. Tracks were everywhere. Coyote tracks became dog, dog went in and out of deer. In Delhart 20 miles to the rear DeeOhGee had a known world, ahead of us there was only uncertainty. I chose to walk on and still pummel myself with that decision. My trac phone was cold plastic with no signal to stand on. I walked on not knowing the night would fall to 2 degrees. I walked on not knowing anything except that things had broken without tape, without glue, without instructions on a fix. I walked on because it was what I knew, did, found sainity in.

Just because we bail a friend out of jail doesn't mean that said friend wants to spend the rest of their days making hot air balloons beside us...or begin walking across America. My clothes are washed in a small sink to remove a constant that no longer is; to take off a ring of scent that no longer links one life to mine. In three days DeeOhGee and I made less than 20 miles and his feet pads were worn from heavy leather black, through pink, and near to flesh. Already I was moving as slowly as I could with Dee asking for a break every twenty minutes by walking in front of me then sitting down. There is no questioning DeeOhGee's intellegence, for even in the end it was a decided thought to leave the walk. I watched the thought being made although I thought it was just a curious look. As the semi's threw slush and snow, and the plows pushed dry steel against complaining drag of tar DeeOh could stand for none of it. There was no turning back even if it appealed to me. I released the harness clip to let DeeOhGee walk in the deep snow to my left, while I stayed the roadside with cart and pack. We moved well for a few miles and then there was nothing beside me. Looking back I saw Dee looking at me from the snow bank over the shoulder. "Don't go in that road,"I called out. Dee stared as if working out a composition on the word 'road'. No partner came to my side. Looking back over road that was clear for miles and semi desert plains open to the gentle roll of hills, there was no dog. Again I walked on a few minutes thinking he was head in a rodent hole and would catch me in a few minutes. No DeeOhGee.
Now twenty five miles later and I try to re-fashion thoughts I used to carry, things I could have done differently. At a rest stop I leave the dog food down low just in case. I leave the leash and Dee's blue toy. The other side of just in case.

I had forgotten how dominant a television is in a room. The weatherman is talking about another storm coming in for the end of the week. I look outside wondering if Dee made it to the place he remembered loving, or a Delhart he knew before the kennel. Or was it freedom he returned to? I am in New Mexico now and I remember this whole walk started with a dream to hot air balloon across America as a six year old dreaming while looking at a map. Not always did I want to walk either, but it is cold tonight and nothing has changed by washing my clothes.

16 January 2007

Watching You Leave

DeeOhGee(Rocket)slept beside me in the 4 degree air of the tent last night as content as if we have shared a wayfayer home for all of his year or two of life. During the night I would set my hand out from my down bag to comfort him as he adjusted his circle tighter for warmth in the deepened night. To comfort me.
It is no easy thing for me to watch dog hair stipple carry without stressing over it, while worry doubles over the secret life of water turning to useless stone while we sleep, and now two stomachs talking in the center of the night reguardless how heavily I bank them with fuel just before the grey coated sun leaves for the land of the dead.
It is not for me to guide my own steps I have been counseled by scripture over and over again until I began to hear, so I take off my hat that is not keeping my head warm anyhow and ask for guidance from a force I can not see. The concrete steps draw the warmth out from behind my legs as I reach for words with the toe of my boot kicking off snow that forgot how to melt helping me to think. DeeOhGee wraps me with his lead that tails from his harness. He thinks I am talking to him, or maybe he is answering me in words only he can hear. When I am content with my north bound letter I look at the surgical wound DeeOhGee volunteers to show me as he rides his back for a belly rub. My young friend took it upon himself to remove all his post-neutering stitches in the last two days, throwing in an infection for good measure. The wound is a empty eyesocket pulled half shut, weeping clear fliud onto red shaved skin rising like a gorge. DeeOhGee shows me the answer. He is not ready. We are at an abandoned farm house stowing bails of forgotten hay, a short walk from the Dalhart kennel. I see Kat drive up in her white short-bed pick-up loaded with a tall pallet of dry food. Shouldering my pack I move my hand over DeeOh and we walk across the dirt road that takes us to her.
When Kat is a finger in the lip of DeeOhGee's wound I know that I will practice for the walk alone today. I do not yet know that DeeOh will be in the truck in minutes, driving across Dalhart to the vet who will decide in her nod or frown whether I will be able to cup my hands to my face tomorrow and smell the scented oil of a dog that has already begun to be a comfort as I lash tack once again to my pack and cart to be moving on in all the uncertainty that a wind has heading over a blind ridge.
At the Dalhart Christian coffee shop and book store a woman with a strong European accent tells me that Jesus is with me though she has yet to know my voice. She eyes my pack while her young boy tests her out for a new book. She comes closer as I explain my pack. "If you need a place to get out of this weather while you wait I would like to give you my number."
I tell her I will be okay in a smile. When I think the better of it, and the unknown abilities of keeping my friend in tow I reconsider and look up and she is gone. Writing on in my journal as becomes coffee cold and flat I look up at nothing wondering if I have just pushed away an answer. I have been at the Labunski family home for two weeks. I am no longer asked for stories as is normal, an itch nobody speaks of settles on any room I am in though nobody speaks of it. It is time to go. I pack and re-pack my gear in a rare fear I try to verbalize but fail. Already I have feel the thin red thread move from DeeOhGee through me. Our roads are connected. Being selfish though will not ease a dogs pain after two days of walking, topped with 45 miles to the next town of uncertainies, and then onward again. I chew a snickers that I can not taste finger punching the computer at the library knowing I could not walk one mile with that draining gash between my legs. Every tax that comes with walking with a dog vaporizes as I see myself walking on alone as stay hairs attached to gear take their leave. Before me is a scale strung near balance. a hand unseen moves from one scale pan to the other altering favor. I wait for the scales to stop moving. I wait for a knowing.

10 January 2007

Bailing Out A Friend

Cell to cell I move knowing there is only one inmate that I can free, rescue from mud laced with excrement common to the freeze/thaw of winter and an outdoor kennel, 540 barking cell-mates that bail out their voices in a clod stew of fear-anger-boredom and the unknown pains of living; the tart flavor of isolation of heart that only comes from being removed from the world of man, knowledge that you were abandoned by the one voice trusted? I tread time like water in Dalhart TX., evaluating dogs at the local D.A.W.G.S. canine shelter for a companion to be-friend me over the lonely roads ahead, flare in yimes of danger, a token of protection, a friend that will make all of my conversations spoken to fence and sticker plant now perfectly sain and purposeful. My heart has settled on a gentle giant that has bowed to a life of locks with the fly over of birds being his only tonic still flavored with freedom. I keep looking from cage to cage as paw after paw strikes the chainlink fence in desperate hope of being noticed, touched, forgiven for some assumed sin. Spattered with flicks of mud, and what is not mud I keep my mouth closed and eyes squinted through a maze of canine hope, knowing I have already chosen. Chips have been placed.
It is hard not to think of rainy days that will come and saturate with the smell of wet dog thrust against everything I own, the increased drain on my finances for food and tack, hair snowing on cloth and cover with static annoyance. The cost in future doors not opened to me because I have a dog tethered to my days that looks like he could eat bears is also considered then set aside. In the end I will not have taken in all angles in this decision, but this is a tower I am sketching into life, my life. I have felt something leaving me that knows no tide for returning. It is a time to cease being alone and hold something besides myself in check. Nearly a year and a half has seen me move over this land. It is time. Weight lost has been replaced without the mass I once held. Many lonely miles have brought me to the downing of another sun. That song has been mastered. There will be the unexpected complications...and joys. I write this all the while weighing gear and cutting extra buttons off shirts as if they matter, mentally trying to figure how much graveled dog mix I can carry to feed my new companion...and can I eat it too if times get hard... rather, when they do.
He is quiet, an unloaded weapon returned from the war with parkerized finished worn to hard shine, as I come to his regulated world. My eyes are on the girth of his neck measuring with eye the tight shank of it,the power of his jaw, cabled legs moving up into a forge of lung fueling heart, the clarity of his eyes moving through fence as well as the heavy intent held in a gaze. I notice the impression of a drawn sword in his stance, tang bent into into earth commanding sheathless respect. He too comes from life of road and dust, being tossed from defunk barns and the slow strike of a snake that allows a meal. In the end it was the law that brought him in because He did't blend in. He caught an eye without having proper papers or a master to bend to. We are the same tribe though I see his beauty more pronounced, the edge filed from his blade.
Kat, an attractive woman in molded jeans, carhart brown vest over grey sweat shirt, white thermal top and Kalvin Klien shades perched high above the ooze moving up over her shoes as she talks to me through a warm smile under eyes I can't see but wish I could. Hearing my thoughts she lifts her glasses and we shake hands again. She is covering Rocket's (temp name given by Kat) story as we walk to his enclosure. With just a brief description Kat says that she knows the dog that I mean. She is right. I find that I am more than glad that this madness in canine numbers have her for every over burdened ship needs a hero on deck Laughing into high waves. As soon as Kat opens the gate and steps in "Rocket" becomes loaded--with love. With a mouth that could easily crush a skull, he is a flurry of filthy paws on Kat's clean morning clothes, his mouth is anxious only in kissing, his every contact is a need for touch met. Kat is giddy and boyant as she sways and counters in a tangle of affectionate unrehersed flow. 'Rocket' is weightless in his courting. I feel privledged to be in their space, their moment. As soon as Rocket steps out of the pen to join me for a walk the entire prison explodes a in canine fury of a united barking protest so loud I pull my head into my shoulders wincing. Rocket is a child fallen to the earth in hope of safety. It is the order of the masses to protest a dog being free while they are host only to retainment. Rocket has to be carried to the front gate in Kat's arms, all 60 pounds. "Great," I think silently, "I am falling for a flower."
In my head I want a dog built with enough spit and fang to turn a mountain lion east, or ink out the glazed thoughts of a drug head set on harm, or theft. In my heart I feel soft relation reaching out in a tender plea only my ears are deaf to. There is a beauty in Rocket set down behind the wet of his eyes, two small coins tanished bronze with worry. His coat on the other hand is all the colors of woodland paint handled hard before drying, strokes of Austrailian blue moving behind weak dirty clouds, browns of questionable smears arching into grey half-tones if sunlight through branches, and shadow blacks. Along with the removal of his tail, his ears are jagged stubbs, testiment to one of his trials delivered by sizzors and a heartless hand. His paws are large fists that dig into the road in force. Rocket was designed to survive.

After a walk with Rocket over a thawing dirt road that winds back to town and away from the smells of Dogville, I am many opinions inside my head as I return him to his straw lined plastic doghouse. 'Rocket' never voices a word in all our interactions, not while we are running down the dirt road, Rocket loping exactly like a young bear beside me, not when he throws his hulk onto me feet in the center of the quiet dirt road demanding love as soon as I think of walking him back to confinement. His silence becomes all too consuming as we return to the world of chain link fence and the waste sour wind that has combs over the coats of hundreds of dogs heavy with weather rank earth, a silence so deep that it has woken me from my sleep for two nights in a row, Rocket always tuning back to watch me leave. I look at a small pile of strapping I have gathered from the roadside leading to Dalhart, my mind is already weaving a harness without knots, while my hands remember the soulful healing warmth of fur moving life against life under a patch of Texas sun.

For over a week now I have been with the Labunski family, Tony and Sarah and their four children/young adults, Susannah 17, Andrew 16, Angela 12, and a fireball named Valerie 10 that shows me just what having a little is all about. Having just moved to Dalhart from far up north, the Labunski's and I have gone from strangers to a united moving crew, in and out of days I take the lead in the kitchen for several meals that give thanks deeper than words, and I gave the oldest daughter Susannah a lesson on processing a deer into a well stocked freezer--and many more great meals. With a kind family by my side we have all visited the dogs of Dalhart, smuggled the inmates bits of venison and bird, and waited out the course of yet another storm.
I alter my cart with a saw, stare my pack into getting smaller though it will not shrink, and as mentioned above, I weigh the addition of a dog to the journey. Something inside of me that is louder than all reason becomes fingers moving through two inches of fur and a new life moving toward mine. I call Kat and we talk for the fourth time.

02 January 2007

Dalhart, TX White Shoes Walking

In 20 degree air and a gentle breeze I set camp in a field before the town line last night. The cold has a tax that the body has to pay. Hard heavy sleep. In less than hour I am sleeping beside 2 and 1/2 gallons of water, pepper spray that would rupture if frozen, and food I can reach for throughout the night. Outside my box-trap (made as a gift by Jim Oblander back in OK) waits for a rabbit to seek comfort from the cold. I don't need the meat yet,but I do need to know the tool before my survival waits on its catch.
My eyes have only taken me to deep REM for maybe an hour when I am thrown awake. On the frozen snow field outside my nylon walls headlights smash into my shelter. The sound of a large truck a foot away makes me scurry for defence, for balance, for clarity. The horn blows twice. The law?
I open the door feeling the blast of winter slap my bare skin. I gasp. My mouth is already spilling dialog it knows by heart in defence of my position, my need, mercy. A man with a warm face is climbing down onto the hard pack with his face letting my words trail off. From inside the cab I hear a woman emburse his gentle spirit as he hands me a large cup of hot coffee and two hamburgers. Many times we shake hands as I pull from sleep to see where I've landed. He has an easy face like my cousin Scott, moving from behind glasses that are just beginning to steam up. I listen to him tell me that they've been following my progess and wished I'd come to their door when I passed their home back north. Only in Texas would somebody take heart to trace my steps into a field at night to bring me coffee, burgers, and a highlighter underlining that what I am fumbling through matters. As my friends that gave their names while I was sleeping drove away I burnt my tongue on the black coffee and still smiled into it as I drank on. I felt the paper bag from Sonic. It felt hot and sank into my cold hands promising good sleep. Pulling out a burger, I close my eyes to take a bite, my ears fill with the sound of paper and tires on hard-pack snow. Walking across America is not about people I meet when I am standing at the post writing cards to people I miss, or making tea by the Deep Creek as a few Mexican smile across the field just like the sun rising. It is not about concerns that leave my feet the only warmth I know moving southernly in frigid air filling my eyes with the feeling of sand. Sometimes The Walk is a cowboy leaning on a fence as I drink his last bottle of water, or warming my hands on a bag of burgers as I listen to geese again land around me while the Union P. train crys on frozen tracks barely a whisper away. Texas is warm hands over snow melting everything frozen.