The Right Coast

October 30, 2004
A little Halloween story
By Tom Smith

This isn't the scariest thing that ever happened to me, but it will have to do.

So, anyway, not quite 20 years ago, I was driving my little Montero from Colorado to Idaho. It was summer, and I planned to just sleep rough when I got tired of driving. That happened somewhere in Northwestern Colorado, not far from the Utah border. It was late at night, a full moon was out, and I was in the very middle of nowhere. I was on some highway, not a freeway, and started looking for a dirt road off into the high grassland where I could throw my sleeping bag. Eventually I spotted one.

I turned off the highway to the north, and drove a couple of miles in 4 wheel drive, climbing through brushy, hilly country. Finally, the road petered out at a little, broken down coral. It seemed as good a place as any, so I stopped the jeep and got out.

As soon as I got out of the jeep, I was struck by a feeling that this was a bad place. Hard to say why, though the full moon shining its cold light on forlorn, broken fence rails didn't help. Next to the coral was a little shed. I thought just to careful, I should check it out, and make sure nobody was there.

I walked to the shed and pushed open the door. It was black inside, so I shone my flashlight around. The walls were splattered with something like black paint, and little bits of stuff. I took me a moment to figure out what it was. Then to my horror, I realized it was blood, and the little bits of stuff bits of flesh stuck to the walls. It was extremely unsettling. I quickly looked around to make sure I wasn't be stalked by somebody with a chainsaw, got back in my jeep, and drove a while until a found a little hill with a 360 view to camp on. I wasn't the most restful night.

I realized later what had happened was innocent enough. It's routine in managing cattle that you occassionally have to cut some beef critter out of the herd and slaughter it. It may be sick, or break a leg, or you just need some meat for the cowboys. I had stumbled across a corral and a shack where cattle were slaughtered, in conditions none too sanitary. But I was struck when I first got out of the jeep that it was a bad place. Perhaps the ghosts of sad cows, or perhaps just a faint odor of blood in the air, not enough to recognize consciously, but enough to turn on a little warning light in the old part of the brain.