Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Love Lucy - Part I

I had a mild heart attack when Lucy stumbled on the Devil's Backbone. That was shortly after I had a full-fledged aneurism at a place called Oh Jesus Corner, where Lucy hung me and most of herself out over a 1900-foot drop-off as she made a casual right turn.

By the grace of the aforementioned savior, I survived, and I would love to tell you all about my trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule, but I’m much too sore to type. Everything hurts.

When I weighed in at the Bright Angel Lodge on Sunday afternoon, I was thrilled to discover that I’d made the cutoff by four pounds. At one hundred and ninety-six pounds, I was cleared to ride the mules. Hooray! I thought to myself. Looking back on that now, I’m thinking I might have been smarter to hit the bacon cheeseburgers a little harder and bring it in at two hundred and five. Then I would have been forced to walk down and I wouldn’t be as sore as I am right now.

I can’t sit at my computer to type this, because my butt hurts too much. Actually, technically I should say the bones at the tops of my legs where my butt should be hurt. Tragically, I was born without a butt. A butt would have surely helped with all the bouncing on that pile of pointy iron bars the wranglers had cleverly disguised as a leather saddle.

I can’t stand up to type this, because my thighs hurt too much, and my knees simply don’t work anymore. Apparently I have tendons or ligaments or nerves or something on the outsides of my knees. I had no idea they were even there, but it turns out they are incredibly allergic to riding a large animal down a steep hill for more than six minutes. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of riding left after the first six minutes, and the wranglers are very strict about their “don’t get off your mule and lay down on the ground” rule.

During our orientation, before the mule torture began, Scott, the bowlegged lead wrangler, told us that the mule rides have been operating in the Grand Canyon for one hundred and seventeen years. After about twenty minutes of riding I began to wonder why someone one hundred and sixteen years ago didn’t say, “You know what, this is silly. Let’s just walk.” I began to wonder that because nineteen minutes into the ride, a rock about the size of a basketball rolled down the cliff directly at one of the mules in the middle of the line. This caused four mules behind Lucy to try to hurl themselves over her, and consequently, over me.

Lucy was the tallest and widest mule in the group, likely due to my just barely clearing the weight limit. Presumably because it’s a pain to get cowboy boots on and off, they measure horses and mules by the “hand,” which equals four inches. Based on my public school math, and the fact that my stirrups were two or three feet above eye-level when I was standing next to Lucy, I’d estimate she was about two thousand hands tall.

Lucy was big and wide, but unfortunately, the trail we were on was anything but. When the rock came down, we were on a section of trail, carved into the cliff, about a half a Lucy wide. The four mules that needed to pass us - at two hundred miles per hour - each decided to take a different route. Lucy, not knowing what the problem was, but not caring either, was not about to be left behind. Just like children on a playground, if one of them starts to run, they all run. They don’t ask questions. The mule that was climbing over Lucy and the one that was under her legs were both left in the dust when she exploded away from the scene of the crime. The two mules that had managed to squeeze past her were understandably surprised when she just used her brute size to shove both of them up the trail into the five mules that were in front of us before all the excitement began.

The end result was ten mules all piled up at the next turn in the trail, kind of like a giant game of equestrian Jenga, all occupying a space you would be very hard-pressed to fit a mid-sized sedan into. Amazingly, no one was hurt in the melee, and we were able to extricate ourselves and our mules back out into a straight line again, albeit in a very different order than we had started.

The trip just kept getting more exciting after that.

Anyway, I’ll tell you all about the rest of it next week, provided my butt bones heal up enough for me to sit for any length of time. For now, about the only way I can be comfortable - and I’m using that term very loosely - is if I lay on my back while shoveling Advil into my mouth and washing them down with beer. As you can imagine, it’s hard to do that and type at the same time.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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