Wilderness Mary and the long-drop of doom
Long-drop: a New Zealand term for a pit toilet or outhouse
Many of you will remember the tale of Wilderness Mary as she led Mrs Wilderness and me into danger by wandering the halls of the US Mint with a pistol bulging out of her fanny bag (See "Wilderness Mary and the Mint of Doom". True, she accidentally 'smuggled' the weapon into the high security facility by not taking it out of her bag before she put it on the X-ray conveyor belt and, it was a comparatively small gun!
Yes, Mary is a mountain gal who lives outside of Denver but works, mostly night shifts, in the city. She is an enthusiast of four-wheeling and no shrinking violet when it comes to gun ownership and personal protection. Essentially, pity the miscreant that looks upon her as an easy mark.
There are times, however, when overwhelming fire-power is not an option. It is at these times that it becomes apparent that shooting somebody or something won't improve the situation at hand… much. Admittedly, it may reduce some of one's own stress levels, especially if they are a jerk, but otherwise; it won't really improve the situation.
Our heroine found herself in one of these predicaments while making the long trip from Arizona; where she had spent a much needed week of rest and relaxation, back to her home in Colorado.
At the best of times, this trip is long and tiring, taking, on average, about thirteen hours of driving to cover the eight-hundred-sixty-miles. There are long stretches of monotonous dessert before entering the Rocky Mountains and crossing over two very high and very cold mountain passes: Vail Pass at 10,662 feet and Loveland Pass at 11,000 feet.
On this particular trip, her two best friends, Kika and Kirby, a pair of Papillons, accompanied our intrepid adventurer. They aren't 'junk yard dogs' but what these two lack in size, they make up for in energy and braggadocio.
Our story begins as the trio leaves Arizona on a sunny, hot morning in late September. All goes well for the first part of the trip as they pass through Arizona, Nevada and into Utah. It is when they stop for fuel in Utah that things start to fall apart… well, at least the vehicle does. As they pull away from the gas station Mary tries to raise the driver's side window she had lowered… it wouldn't go up!
Now we're talking about the window on a rather new and rather expensive SUV that doesn't have that many miles on it. No matter what Mary does, the window won't go up… just down! This is also at a time when the sun is sinking lower and so is the temperature outside. As they continue down the highway and the cold wind whips through the car, both dogs give Mary questioning looks as if asking; "Is all this fresh air really necessary?"
Just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, Mary hears the call of nature. The trouble is, she can't go inside anywhere because she would have to take the dogs with her… not to mention her valuables… and her gun… none of which could be left outside in an open car! Just when things seem most desperate Mary spots a public campground. Surely there must be relief of some sort inside.
First, however, there is the matter of getting past the female campground-ranger who is guarding the gate like it is the entrance to Fort Knox. When Mary explains that she just needs to use the 'long-drop' facilities for a short time, the 'Stasi' trained official tells her there is a six-dollar fee for using the campground. Mary explains, "I don't want to camp for the night, just use the facilities right over there (within sight of the gate)" The ranger repeats, "There is a six dollar charge for using the campground."
At this point Mary tells the ranger she's going to get her damn six-dollars and reaches for her purse. The ranger suddenly has a change of heart (or maybe, sees the gun in Mary's purse) and tells Mary to go ahead and use the facilities but to do it as fast as possible… like in say… ten minutes!
The situation is getting desperate so without further delay Mary drives into the campground and parks as close as possible to the primitive but very welcome toilets. Now the trouble is, she has to park some distance from the long-drop. This means she must take the dogs, her purse, and the gun with her into the already limited space provided.
As our weary and desperate travelers squeeze their way into the toilet, Mary discovers the latch on the door is broken… of course! What else could go wrong? Nothing can be done now so she presses on with the job at hand and tries to find some relief.
A few moments later all hell breaks loose in the campground as another anxious female slams open the door and starts to crash into the already occupied and crammed space that Mary, two dogs, a purse and a gun are in. Both of Mary's dogs, feeling an attack is imminent, start barking, growling and snapping at the intruder. The woman, fearing wild dogs are attacking her, starts screaming, tries to turn around, ricochets off the sides of the door and starts running for her life. The dogs, sensing they have the upper hand, run after her barking and growling… leashes trailing behind them.
While all this is happening, our heroine, finding herself in a very compromising position, is unable to do anything except look upon the scene in utter disbelief. The door is still open so she can see the chaos that exists outside her little room. Everyone in the campground, including the ranger are looking at the terrified woman, two very upset dogs and Mary sitting there with her purse… and her gun. Her only worry at this point can be that the woman will not stop running, the dogs will not stop chasing her and, she will never see her beloved Kika and Kirby again.
A short time later Mary is relieved (pun intended) when the dogs realize they are running free and stop to smell the roses… or the nearest tree… or each other. The woman shouts to Mary that the dogs are not supposed to be in the toilet and Mary just looks at her, resisting the temptation to tell her where she can go to relieve herself. Mary gathers up her belongings and pets and, as she drives out of the campground, she notices the ranger is nowhere in sight.
The rest of the trip is comparatively peaceful except for the snow blowing into the car through the open window as our adventurous travelers cross the high mountain passes in the dead of night.
Never has this trip from a restful vacation week in the sun of Arizona back to home in Colorado been so traumatic and stressful. I Pity the service manager when Mary takes her SUV back to the dealership. Maybe they should install some security equipment… I hear there's some for sale as government surplus… at the Denver Mint.
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