I rubbed my sore forearms with stiff fingers as I made my way to the camp site. I hadn't dropped trou to look yet but I was pretty sure that the inside of each of my knees had been rubbed raw. There was so much dirt caked on my face that I probably could've passed as belonging to an ethnicity with a shade more melanin than my own and any chance at a shower wouldn't come for at least twenty more hours. I was bone tired.
But, I was absolutely happy.
Even with the constant battling with Breeze, the uncertainty of not having a clue what I was doing, and the dirt, grime, and soreness I was having the time of my life. I was totally immersed in a world that I had only dreamed of before and the entire day had been surreal. Colors seemed too bright, the sounds too clear, and smells too sharp. Everything was beautiful. Hills rose up from the ground while a creek bed cut through to reveal the red dirt below. Cedar trees and cholla cactus dotted the landscape with shades of green and the grass glowed amber as the summer sun bounced of its blades. In the distance, great bluffs of crimson and white provided a stunning backdrop.
Situated amongst the cedars at the base of a small hill, our campsite was comprised of several canvas cowboy tepees and an enclosed stock trailer that served as a chuckwagon. Weary and with the knowledge that the next day's work would come early, the lot of us ate our dinner, visited for a short while, and then turned in for the night before the sun was even out of the sky. As the only two women, Connie and I were granted luxury sleeping accommodations in the form of an air mattress on the floor of the stock trailer. As tired as I was I would have been happy to bed down in a cradle of cactus.
Dressed in the clothes I would wear on the morrow, I barely made it through the "Dear Lord, thank you" portion of my prayers before I was sound asleep.
Unfortunately, my peaceful slumber would be short-lived.
At 2:15 I was awakened by the disgruntled rumblings of my innards. It took a few seconds for it to register in my sleep fogged brain just how ominous the sounds really were and even then I lay there for a bit staring into the dark in denial. When the cramping became too much and I realized it wasn't going to just go away I began formulating a plan for taking care of my, ahem. . .problem.
I threw back the covers and eased my generous length off the air mattress, taking care to not jostle Connie too much (air mattresses have a tendency to shift considerably when that much pressure is removed from the surface). Fumbling around, I found my glasses and the flashlight I had laid on the floor beside the bed.
My intestines continued to protest.
I dug furiously through my duffel for my roll of toilet paper. Finding it, I unraveled several feet and then crammed the wad into the pouch of my hoodie. Beads of perspiration had started to form on my forehead and upper lip by the time I located my boots and shoved my feet into them. I creeped over to the trailer door and pushed it open.
I sucked in a breath and held it, expecting to see a cowboy, or two, pop out of their tepee to see who was skulking about. When none came I exhaled and gingerly stepped down. I closed the door ever so slowly then turned the narrow beam of my flashlight out into the void beyond camp and began walking.
Determined to get far enough away to be out of hearing distance, I wound my way around the cedar trees and scrambled over rocks until I met a fence line on the opposite side of the small hill we were camped beside. The cool night air was filled with the sounds of birds singing and chirping and I remember considering it odd that they would be so noisy in the dead of night.
The rumblings of my stomach joined in the birds' chorus.
Deciding this was as good a place as any, I unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans and shoved them down around my ankles in desperation.
I hesitated for the briefest of seconds when, as if in anticipation, the birds' joyous chorus came to an abrupt halt and the night became very still.
Self conscious now, with the sudden silence, I was mid-squat when something occurred to me; just that morning one of the cowboys had shot a rattlesnake and we'd all gathered round to take a gander at the thing as it lay dead in the grass, forever frozen in the middle of consuming a hapless rabbit. And here I was, in the middle of the night, exposing my very white derriere like a beacon to all the vermin.
I quickly swung my flashlight round behind me and shown it all over the ground surrounding my makeshift privy. When I was satisfied that nothing was going to suddenly sink its fangs into my rear, I relaxed a little and resumed my previous stance.
Then. . .
I gave in and answered the call of nature.
The trek back to camp seemed much shorter than the trek out had. Mindful of the creaky door, I slipped back into the stock trailer, shucked my boots, carefully lay down on the air mattress, and fell asleep for the second time that night.