If I had a nickel for every leg-pulling, eyeball rolling hunting story I’ve heard in the San Juan over the decades I’d have the cash to buy one of them fancy cell phones or at least a plug of decent chew. A list of the most preposterous episodes chronicled over the past twenty years would have to include the one told by my eternal fishing buddies, Delmar and Cedrick. We’re not talking liars here. We’re talking the perfect blend of a severely twisted imagination with a retarded memory. Here is Delmar’s rendition of the time the two found what appeared to be a stiff along the San Miguel River during deer season.

It was a particularly inhospitable November morning. Me and my cousin Cedric were out prowling for buckskin. We wanted to see how the local herd was up to before we dropped a bunch of money on licenses. I was on the far side of the river and Cedric walked the east bank. We scanned the area for about ten minutes when all of a sudden Cedric liked to jump out of his skinny hide.

“Delmar, come quick,” he gasped, as I made my way across the water at a low spot. “We got us a stiff!”

Well, sure as hell when I reached the spot in question there was a full grown man, in blaze orange, just as frozen as one of those store pizzas. We didn’t know what to do at first so I pulled my trusty jug and took a swallow. Cedrick did too. Then we sat down and had another.

“I wonder what he was doing out here?” started Cedric.

“Whatever it was, it sure didn’t agree with him,” I answered. “One thing’s for sure, though, we had better get this boy to the police before he rigor mortis sets in.”

As we sat there perplexed the weather began to warm up a touch. I would have to get the pickup which was parked about a quarter mile away down river.

“You stay here and mind the cadaver, Cedrick,” I told my cousin, “and I’ll go get our transportation.”

“I ain’t babysitting no stiff,” said Cedric.

After a little reassurance and a promise to leave the jug, Cedric came around.

“Don’t be gone long,” he pleaded.

When I returned there was Cedric talking to the stiff. He was firing away telling his captive audience all about how to track elk through the mountains and how to field dress chipmunks, or something like that. I snuck up on the two of them. Cedrick left the ground when I popped out from behind a stand of scrub oak. The stiff didn’t move.

“Don’t be scaring me,” said Cedric. “Ain’t things bad enough?”

After reflecting on that last statement I felt compelled to reflect on my jug. After another swig Cedric said, “What if the cops find us with this guy? Maybe they wouldn’t understand…”

“Now that’s good thinking, Cedric,” I said. “Maybe there’s hope for you after all.”

We carefully loaded our find into the back of my Chevy. He looked quite comfortable and for a moment I thought I saw some color coming back into his face. We decided to bring him to Montrose since these boys in San Miguel County don’t have a morgue. As we started back toward Placerville I noticed my gas gauge was stuck on empty.

“We’d better head up Norwood Hill and grab some petrol,” I said to Cedrick, who was now preoccupied staring at our cargo through the rear window of the truck. From time to time, on the way to Norwood, Cedrick would offer an update on his condition. I had another swig and played the radio.

After purchasing two dollars of regular we decided to stop at the Lone Cone for a quick shot…what with all that road dust and all. We ran into a few hunters from Oklahoma and shared a few rounds. Then we climbed back into out outfit and headed over Dallas. We were almost down to Ridgway when Cedrick pointed to our passenger in the back.

“That boy has rolled over. Look at him. Maybe we’d better flag down the sheriff!”

“He just flopped over on that last turn,” I answered. “Don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere this morning. Let’s stop for a cold beer over at Old Man Prichard’s trailer.”

Finally after a few more stops we arrived in downtown Montrose where we pulled up in front of Stockman’s Cafe. Although the weather was noticeably warmer we figured that we still had about an hour to make our delivery. We went in.

“Hey, Delmar,” nudged Cedric. “Ain’t that Joe Sparrow from Gunnison? He owes me twenty dollars from last New Year’s Eve. I’m gonna get it.”

Cedrick approached Sparrow for the debt and I sat at the bar. Cedrick returned and said he had settled for a few draws as his mark had claimed temporary poverty.

“I can buy you boys a few beers but that’s gonna be it,” said Sparrow.

“We got us a stiff out in the truck,” whispered my cousin as another round of draws arrived. “You want to come out and have a look at him?”

“Not at this time of the day,” teased Sparrow. “Have another beer.”

We sat and talked for about another hour. Soon this stranger staggered up to the bar and ordered a cup of coffee.

“Had a rough night?” I asked him.

“I’ll say,” he mumbled, downing his coffee and ordering more.

“You do look a little beat up this afternoon,” offered Cedrick. “You want to sit down?”

He did so and after lunch I remembered our cargo in still the back of the pickup. I looked out at the sky. The temperature was already dropping.

“He’ll keep,” I assured myself and paid the bill.

“Yeah, that was some night,” continued our new friend who said his name was Jim and that he lived in Dalhart. “I haven’t been in that kind of shape since my first wife got married,” he laughed. “I think what I need now is a cold beer.

“Hell, I don’t even know how I got here. One minute I was walking along the river looking for my hunting camp and the next thing you know I wake up in the back of some strange pickup here in town.”

“You want to see what we got in the back of our pickup,” asked Cedrick proudly, oblivious to the developments going on under his nose.

“Oh, no thanks, son. I think I’ve seen enough for one day,” said Jim.

“It’s a goddamn stiff!” said Cedrick, a little put off that the stranger wouldn’t at least take a peek.

Aw shut up, Cedrick,” I shouted. “Jim ain’t no coroner or nothing. Besides, I think it’s time to get on with our delivery.”

Cedrick and I made our way out the door. When he looked into the bed of the pickup he jumped again.

“Delmar!” he screamed, “our stiff is gone!”

“No kidding, Cedrick,” I spat. “Our stiff is that guy Jim, from Dalhart. Now let’s clear outta here pronto.”

Cedrick turned white as a ghost. As we headed back toward home my cousin noticed a red hunting cap lying harmlessly in the back.

“And that’s Jim’s hat too, huh?” he asked.

I told Cedrick that the hat most likely belonged to Jim but that he could get another when he got back to Texas.

“Yeah, I guess we’ve already done enough for him, ain’t we?” said Cedrick.

– Uncle Pahgre



Filed Under: Reflections on Disorder

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