The letter arrived as usual, smelling a little rank, and sealed with a hoof print. BB had invited me to meet with him at our favorite spot, the Bugle Inn in Forest Lakes. The note said we could spend some time, as it was prior to the rut, and he would just be getting in shape. Since it was mid-August, I was looking forward to some conversations without his usual screams, chuckles and whistles. I actually thought it might be a fun evening. Little did I know how wrong I was to be.
Just one day after receiving the invite from BB, I received the dreaded messages from the Arizona Game and Fish department: “Not Successful.” Now I don’t know about the rest of the readers, but there is just something wrong with that message. I would prefer to see something like, “Gee, you’re a really great person, and we appreciate you for trying to get these wonderful tags, but there were a few more people applying than tags available, and this year we had to let others hunt rather than you.” I somehow would feel better than seeing those two nasty words. However, I digress. I knew that meeting BB in a bar with no elk tag for the year was less than fun, but a job is a job, and elk relationships are hard to develop, so I went up early. The bar was just getting ready to close, and the owner let me in as long as I promised to close it up tight when I left. I agreed, and sat down to watch some big screen entertainment until BB arrived. Sitting there nursing a good bottle of Cabernet, I started thinking about how hard it would be not to be hunting this year. Pretty soon, the bottle was gone, and I was brooding about how to handle the rough season ahead.
I must have dozed off, because the next thing that I heard was the slamming of the front door as Mr. you-know-who arrived. I had to admit, he looked great. He had grown a little bigger set of antlers this year, and he even had a drop tine on his left side. With his antlers polished to a nice shine, he had managed to get rid of all the velvet and he looked ready to rumble.
“Hi BB,” I said. “You look pretty darn good this year.”
He barked a laugh and said, “I look good EVERY year, boy, and don’t you forget it.”
He strolled behind the bar, put in a DVD, and started up a movie.
“What are you up to?” I asked.
“I’ve got a great movie I’ve been dying to watch,” he said.
My curiosity was aroused, and I asked, “What’s the title?”
BB chuckled again and said, “Bambo.”
I knew I had a few too many, but I had to ask, “You mean Bambi, don’t you?”
He gave me that sly grin of his and said “Nope, this is Bambo. It’s about a young mule deer buck that leaves the Rim Country, makes a perilous journey to the fabled Strip area, and becomes a huge buck. Then he comes back home after four years, only to find out that a bunch of horses have taken over his family’s territory. He gets into some really kick-butt fights, and drives the local horses and their fat boss stallion crazy. He winds up driving them off the best grazing land, but I don’t want to ruin the movie.”
I shook my head and tried to get a grip on reality. “Let me guess” I said, “he puts a rag around his antlers and says something like, ‘They drew first blood,’ right?”
BB stared at me for a second and had a stunned look on his face. “You’ve seen it already?”
Without going into any explanation, I merely shook my head. “BB,” I said, “those horses aren’t going anywhere. The Forest Service is under an injunction, filed in federal court by the horse lovers. They came up with no solutions, they only said that the horses cannot be removed. I wish it were different, but humans sometimes don’t look at the whole problem, they only look at one tiny area, and then that throws the whole environment into a huge mess.” I went over and turned down the volume while I tried to talk. “BB, I have a long drive tomorrow, can we just talk a little about what has been going on up here?”
BB stared at me for a few seconds and finally shrugged his massive shoulders and said “OK, but I want some time to watch the ending again. I love that part when he is chasing the whole herd back to the Reservation.”
I finally put the movie on hold and sat in front of my old friend. “How has life been this summer?”
Again he smiled and said “Well, we had plenty of very dry conditions, and the Forest Supervisor closed almost all of the forest during the holiday weekends. With little or no visitors, and just enough water and forage, we did pretty darn well up here.”
I gazed at his beautiful rack and started thinking about how impressive he would look to some of the local cows. He then broke into a long chuckle and started pointing at me. “I feel so much better knowing that YOU will not be chasing me around this fall.”
I stared hard at BB and said “That’s below the belt, BB. You know how much I love being up here for the hunt. Besides, you and I have an understanding. I don’t chase you, and you give me interviews.”
BB paused and finally said, “I know, and I like it too, it’s just that some of my cousins think you might be a little too lucky with those pointy sticks, and they all were relieved that you were not drawn.”
I needed a favor from BB so I tried to remain pleasant. “BB,” I said, “Could you let me have a photo with you and I together?”
His antlers jerked up real quick like “What kind of photo?”
he asked suspiciously.
I quickly said, “Just a photo of me taking notes like a
BB mulled that one over for a few seconds. “OK” he said, “As long as you only get a partial view of me. I don’t want everyone to know how good I look.”
I finally laughed and said “Alright, I will do only a partial view to protect your true identity”.
And so with that, we watched the end of Bambo as the morning light began to creep up over the horizon. As the sun rose, we took a few photos. I promised to send him some copies, and he promised to do his best to keep out of harm’s way for the next three months.
As he strolled across the highway to the edge of the meadow, he let loose a long resonant bugle. He then turned around and shouted “Time of our lives, boy. Time of our lives.” I knew that when all was said and done… he was right. Stay well my friend, and I will see you in three months.