Moment of truth

I was driving in my truck on Nevada Highway 34, the well-maintained gravel road that wanders through the vast sagebrush ocean from Gerlach to the Oregon border. The dusk was getting deep. Things were good. Life was good. I was feelin’ good. I had even checked in, indulgently enough, with that part of my mind that likes to remind me of reasons to feel bad about something. It couldn’t come up with anything more than a trifle. Possibly a piffle. But that was it. So the deal was sealed. I was glidin’ in the midst of your standard perfect Northern Nevada summer evening and gave myself the full-on green light to go ahead and be happy.

Off to the left, a flash of white in the desert caught my eye. At that time of day, as the light pulls back into blues and indigos, this blob of white stood out dramatically. It turned out to be a white wild mustang, feeding leisurely. All by himself. I slowed, and then stopped. He turned to look at me. I realized that the sound of the diesel engine, with its incessant bleb bleb bleb bleb, was detracting greatly from the quality of our encounter, so I shut it off.

Surprisingly, the horse didn’t budge when the engine stopped. Many times, wildlife will split as soon as you turn off the car. It’s not difficult to figure out their attitude. “Hey pal, if you’re gonna shut that thing off and look at me, that ain’t good. Because the next step is you getting’ out of that damn truck and me getting’ shot.” But this guy didn’t budge. He just continued to feed, letting me get my eyeful. I stayed put behind the wheel, not willing to push my luck. This scene was just fine the way it was—truck stopped and quiet, window rolled down. I wanted him to hang around as long as possible, since he stood in the sagebrush maybe 40 yards away.

His head came up from feeding and he looked right at me. Handsome fellow. He said, “So you’re the dude who wrote about eating me and my kin a few months ago?”

“Uh, yeah, well, um,” I began to stammer in reply. He cut me off. “Man, that was some cold shit.” I was smart enough to say nothing.

He turned and began to walk away. Slowly, without anxiety. He’d said his piece. I watched as he ambled down the creek bed. After a few yards, his white coat began to dim, blending further into the gloaming with each step he took away from me. I kept watching in the warm silence, when finally, he dissolved into a ghostly blur, and then became invisible.