“Heading out for the territory…”

My dogs are clingy, especially when I’m on the phone. In that circumstance, Teddy sits beside me and leans against my chest and Bear puts herself across my legs, basically sitting on my lap. I don’t know what it is about the phone, but that’s what they do. I’m clingy (to them) too, especially after this year. As I think ahead to possibly traveling out of this valley (why?) I imagine returning to my practice of boarding the dogs while I’m gone. I don’t know about that. Covid has intensified our interdependence. I’ve learned I could live in a remote mountain cabin for months with only my dogs, the internet and my studio for company. I’ve also learned I kind of like that life.

As I’ve been drawing these pictures — some are kind of “old-westy” — I’ve thought about my ancestors who did the whole American thing of “heading out for the territory ahead of the rest.” I don’t know much about the early ones — well, the VERY early ones, 11th century, I know about THEM — but some of them were really OUT THERE on their own in a wild country. A lot of people didn’t venture out that way, but every generation of my family (once out of Europe) DID venture out.

I’ve often wondered what propelled them and considered the possibility that there might be a solitude gene and maybe a wanderer gene. Back in grad school, when I HAD to read them, I found I liked James Fenimore Coopers books, collectively The Leatherstocking Tales. In one of them — and I don’t remember which one — Natty Bumpo (protagonist) explains to someone why he keeps moving westward. He said something to the effect that he prepares the way for settlers and all the attributes of human civilization and comfort, but he, himself, feels uncomfortable in civilization and has to move on.

Of course, Huckleberry Finn makes the ultimate statement on that. Saying, at the end of his adventure (this isn’t a perfect quote) “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

I kind of get that. On jaunts out of the San Luis Valley I’ve felt — thought and said aloud! — “Every other place is bullshit. Why am I leaving?” Back in the day when I was only dimly thinking of retiring I thought it would be to a little town in Montana between Billings and Red Lodge — Roberts or Bridger. This is more-or-less what I did but in Colorado, with longer winter days and more sunshine.

There’s the mythos in our culture of the “rugged individual,” and I know a lot of the so-called vigilantes and survivalists of our time see themselves that way, so I’ll stop here. Besides, Bear has just come in from some serious guarding (young woman walking her golden retriever on the sidewalk) and is clinging to my leg. I have to go pick up my groceries. I get my second Covid shot tomorrow and, not knowing how it’s going to affect me, I decided to get chores out of the way just in case. Facebook informed me yesterday that the last time I went into a grocery store was March 17, 2020. On that adventure I procured two pounds of Swiss Gruyere. It’s almost worth venturing in again, but chances of finding it again out here in the back-of-beyond are slim to none. That’s the price of “heading out for the territory,” I guess. 😉


20 thoughts on ““Heading out for the territory…”

  1. I admit I sometimes have the “rugged individual” fantasy, but it turns out that I’m really a “ragged individual.” Won’t be able to head out for the territory until Toulouse passes. I won’t board a 16 year-old dog buddy. He might handle it okay, but I wouldn’t.

    • I know what you mean. Bear is only 6 and Teddy is 2 1/2 but we’re a team. With an older dog it’s another question. I couldn’t board one, either.

  2. Interesting. I wonder if the dogs can hear voices on the phone and think people are near and so hang close to protect you.

    A nice bit of gruyere is a treat especially with a few luxury crackers, a glass of grape juice and some Huck Finn!

  3. My sisters dogs always get their squeaky toys and play near her feet when she is on the phone even though as they are older dogs they don’t do toys as much the rest of the time. We wonder if it is an attention getting thing. “Don’t talk to that thing. Play with me instead.”
    I feel the same as you about leaving my dog. I can’t imagine leaving Cindy for any length of time now she’s so old. I have boarded her many times in the past, always at the same place but it is too far away now. I won’t plan any long trips while I still have her now.

  4. Yes get out and about and find the outside world again Martha. Of course you need cheese….everyone needs cheese. My besties dog Teddy also comes where she is on the phone to me to say hello. Thanks for joining in 🙂 🙂

  5. I often wonder if I inherited a wanderer gene. It brought my paternal ancestors to this continent in the mid-1700s, from Germany.

    If so, I embrace that, especially as I’m planning to relocate yet again. Keeps life interesting.

    Heading out for new territory is just a tool for reinventing oneself. All good.

    • I love that my two dogs are clingy. I have needed them very much this past year and that mutual dependence has taught me a lot about these two great creatures I’ve brought into my house.

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