Quad Tracks in the Grass
Quad tracks in the grass. The driver must have just driven off the road for the fun of it, the joy of ripping up the grasses and the fragile new spring flowers that grow so abundantly here after a rain. At least he had not skidded about; the damage was minimal actually. But still really annoying.
I know that 180 acres of hilly grassland in the south Okanagan Valley is probably going to be thought of as Crown Land, especially when there are no improvements, not even steer-worthy fences. And ever since some ski-doers took down my barbed-wire gate, some years ago—to the total and irreparable damage to their tracks, which I totally enjoyed, by the way—I have just left the place open. I like to think I trust to the goodwill of anyone who enjoys travelling through the back country.
But this guy. He had intentionally gone off the roadway, with the ATV, partied through the meadow for a bit, then got back on the road. No reason. Just attitude. A bad one.
By the one set of tracks I could see that he had not returned yet, so, I continued up my road. I was on foot and alone, but loaded for bear. Really. I had my bear spray, a hunting knife, a flare gun, and my Girl Guide whistle, all tucked into the various pockets of my hunter’s vest. I used to joke that I would never run into a bear—it would be able to hear me clinking and clanking way before we got close. My roadway ended at a locked gate at my neighbour’s property, a half mile away. So, unless the quad guy had wire-snippers and a chainsaw—which was not beyond belief—he would have to be returning my way, at some point.
I marched on, getting angrier and angrier. Usually I walk, or stroll, amble really. But today I was marching. Angry. Which did not do my rather fragile right knee much good. But march on I did. The speed of a good march does wonders for maintaining attitude.
Sure enough, within a few minutes I heard the recognizable low murmur of an ATV motor. And it was coming towards me. At this point on the property the roadway had been dug out of a hillside to the east, and the land falls away sharply to the west. There is no available route on either side of the narrow track. This is where I will make my stand, I thought, as I glowered up the trail, and finally, rested my now really sore knee.
The ATV bounced over the ridge up the road, slowed, and stopped a safe distance from me. Two men, the driver middle aged, the passenger older and unsmiling.
“Hi,” said the driver. He sounded friendly, which I had not expected from a man encountering someone who was quite obviously standing in the way of his vehicle. “Do you know who owns this place?”
“I do. It’s me.” That was done in my best John Wayne imitation, which, my brothers tell me, is not very good, not even recognizable, in fact. But it is the best I have got.
“Oh, hello then. I’m Des Mellers. This is my dad, Syd Mellers.” I recognized the name. Syd Mellers was a local rancher who had sold his holdings a few years ago. He had moved into town, then suffered a stroke, and become confined to a retirement-cum-nursing home.
Des continued. “I am glad we met you. I wanted to say thanks to the person who leaves the gates open. So many people don’t anymore. Getting around through the back country is getting harder and harder. And all those Forestry Roads with their ‘Decommissioned Signs’ and great bloody pits dug into the roadways…” His father nudged him. “Oh. Sorry about my language. But you know what I mean. It’s nice to have an open road. Dad can’t get out much anymore. The Quad is about it. So places like this mean a lot. This is such a beautiful piece of property. Dad had some sections nearby.”
“I know,” I said. I did not know how to get back to the fact that he had driven off my road, into my meadow, when he seemed such a nice guy. But he saved me from myself.
“You might have noticed. We drove off the track, down here a bit. There was a killdeer faking a broken wing. I figured she had a nest, right on the road. Which is what they do, of course.” He shrugged. “So I drove off the road, just to give her some space.” He smiled. “I hope that was okay?”
“Of course,” I said. “And come back anytime. You are always welcome here.”
I stepped aside and waved as they passed me. Then the ATV reversed, back up to me.
“Hey. Do you want a ride? I noticed you were kind of favouring your right knee? And your eyes are watering. Are you maybe allergic to something out here?”