RAMS, TOUCHING RAMS, REACHING OUT, TOUCHING EWES
by Todd Hartley
Dudes, I seriously just almost got into a fight with a herd of bighorn sheep. Seriously. It was freaking awesome. I mean, I’m glad it didn’t come to blows and all. They would have butted the crap out of me and my car, I’m sure, but it was pretty sweet messing with them anyway. I just wish my boy could have been there with me.
Let me start at the beginning. I live in the scenic mountain hamlet of Basalt, Colo., which lies at the junction of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers. A few miles up the Fryingpan Valley, there lives a resident herd of bighorn sheep, and if you drive up Frying Pan Road often enough, you’re bound to see them from time to time.
Now, when I’m not raking in cash hand over fist as a humor columnist, I moonlight as a standup comedian. As such, I occasionally need to practice my routines, lest my natural charms alone prove insufficient to slay the audience. I feel like a moron when I practice in front of a mirror, and walking around talking out loud makes people look either crazy or so important that their phone calls just can’t wait. Neither image really suits me. My solution: I practice my routines in the car as I go for a scenic drive, usually up Frying Pan Road.
The other day, while on a drive, I saw the bighorns in Neil Diamond’s lawn. (At least, I’ve always thought of it as Neil Diamond’s lawn. It may not actually be, but he supposedly has a house somewhere in the area. It may as well be that one in my mind.) The herd was bigger than I’d ever seen it before, with several large rams, more than a dozen ewes and a few lambs. There was a guy out in the lawn with a stick, too. (It was not Neil Diamond.) He was trying to shoo the sheep away before they could cover the grass with poo, but the sheep didn’t seem to be moving.
Since that time, I’ve made two trips up the Fryingpan Valley with my son, hoping to see the herd again. You see, my son refuses to take naps, so sometimes we have to go on a snooze cruise, with the goal being for my son to fall asleep inadvertently in his car seat. Occasionally, I will use “going to look for the bighorn sheep” as my pretense to get my son to agree to go for a ride.
Sadly, those particular snooze cruises generally fail on both counts. We basically never see the herd, and my son, irritated about not being able to count sheep, doesn’t go to sleep. In fact, there’s only been one time that either event has occurred, and that time, of course, both happened. We saw the herd, but my son was already asleep. I stopped the car and woke him up to see the sheep, but he was so groggy I’m sure he doesn’t even remember them. Other than that, we’ve struck out on seeing the sheep every time.
So, naturally, I went for a drive by myself this morning, and about a half-mile from Neil Diamond’s house I encountered the sheep as they were crossing the road. This time I stopped and actually got out of my car to take a few pictures with my cell phone. The sheep looked at me warily but stood their ground as I approached. I got pretty close and snapped some pictures as a huge ram stared me down. Then I got back in my car and tried to drive through the herd. This was much easier said than done.
The ewes refused to move out of the way, despite my leaning on the horn, and the huge ram raised his head and gave me the ol’ stink-eye through my open window. He walked slowly toward the car, getting so close that I could have reached out and slapped him, and then he peed right next to my tire and snorted defiantly. The remaining ewes moved aside, and I drove on.
So here’s my plan: I think I need to get my son in the car and go for a snooze cruise right away. I figure as long as my tire stinks like a bighorn ram’s urine, it could potentially be a way of attracting the herd. Maybe we’ll finally see those suckers together. I just have to drive really slow and somehow make a red Subaru look like a bighorn sheep.
That is by far the best headline Todd Hartley has ever written.