RICHARDSON: Earning our spots along Leopard Creek


When I was 10, my brother Carl and I lived with our mom and stepdad, Roger Gleason. Roger leased summer pasture on Dallas Divide. Every Sunday we would go there to check the cattle. We had pasture leased along Leopard Creek where Ski Dallas used to be. Carl and I wanted to camp there and fish.


One Sunday after we checked the cows, Mom and Roger spit us out at Ski Dallas along with camping gear and a few groceries with plans to gather us up the following Sunday. Mom sent us with a dozen eggs, 10 pounds of potatoes, a huge slab of bacon, three onions, pancake batter, coffee, and some hamburger. I dropped the eggs, destroying all but one. Over a campfire we fried hamburger, potatoes, and one onion before we retired. We had overlooked bringing bug spray and had stupidly left the tent flap open while we ate, so the mosquitos and deer flies grazed on us all week long. We only brought a blanket for a mattress. For seven nights, we felt every twig and pebble under us.


Monday morning we made coffee and pancakes. Mom had forgotten to pack any butter, syrup or jam. Neither Carl nor I could stomach dry pancakes, so we threw them away along with the batter, then fried some bacon, potatoes, the only egg, and one onion. We wrapped the bacon and hamburger in plastic bags and put them in the creek to keep cool, then went fishing. For lunch we fried fish and potatoes. The fish tasted so good to us that we had them again for supper with potatoes and half an onion.


Tuesday morning Carl made a fire and started the coffee while I went to fetch the bacon. Where the bacon and hamburger had been, I found only bear tracks. With six days left to go, our stash of groceries boiled down to coffee, potatoes, and half an onion. To us a meal wasn't a meal unless it involved meat, so we caught enough fish for breakfast. For the rest of the week, we would have fish and potatoes for breakfast. For lunch we would have potatoes and fish. The evening meal would be a real treat! Fish, potatoes, and a sliver of onion.


Wednesday evening, Carl was fishing the highway side of the creek and I was fishing the tent side. Suddenly there was a loud roaring sound. Unbeknownst to us it had rained upstream. Carl yelled "flood!" and ran through the creek. With me hot on Carl's trail, we headed for higher ground. Carl stirred up a hornet's nest and I paid the price. I received 10 stings, with one of them being right between my eyes. Carl's boots had gotten soaked, so he put them on a grate over the coals before retiring. I wondered about the wisdom of that move, but being the stupid little brother, I thought it best to keep my mouth shut.


Thursday morning I awoke to the sound of Carl cussin' a blue streak. His boots looked like they had spent 50 years in a landfill! The laces were burned up, there were huge cracks in the sides, the leather was black and stiff as a board, and the toes were bent up to where they were touching the tops. I enjoyed watching Carl spend an hour wrestling them on to his feet. He then limped to the fence where he got some tie wire for shoe laces. By noon that day, my eyes had swollen completely shut. I was blind as a bat!


For the next two days, Carl had to do everything for me. He got some stinky ol’ black mud from the bottom of a beaver pond and packed it over my eyes then tied a bandana around my head to hold the mud in place. When nature called, Carl would lead me to a place to do my business. He always swore up and down that he had taken me to a secure hiding place, but on two occasions, I heard vehicles pass so close I thought they would run over me. I'm sure that Carl and the tourists got quite a kick out of watching me make a deposit right beside the road!


I could see again by the time Mom and Roger rounded us up, but you couldn't have touched me anyplace that didn't have a hornet sting or a bug bite. Carl was dead lame with raw, oozing sores all over his feet.


The following year Carl moved back in with Dad, but I continued to camp on Leopard Creek for one week every summer until I graduated from high school. It became a tradition that I looked forward to every year. I did learn to prepare a little better, however.