Chelsea and I were masters of the mountain, if not masters of the goats. We went everywhere together, herding the goats, tracking and chasing the cows off the land, and roaming the endless trails all across the Nebo mountain area. It got to the point where Chelsea could practically read my mind as we crept up on a bird or some other animal and she’d watch me for the slightest indication and then shoot off like a rocket toward our prey. Every day was a different adventure, exploring new peaks, tracking wildlife, caring for the land, and largely taking care of myself without supervision or outside interaction.
My time with dad was usually brief, he was either off in the mountains by himself or down in the city working for several days at a time. He’d show up all of a sudden with food and a book or something, tired from hours of walking and hitchhiking to get back, and soon be in bed, snoring louder than a bear in winter. When we did spend time together, he’d bring me in into a sweat lodge or some other ceremony or we’d go exploring the mountains. He had a new girlfriend, and besides the fact that it made me mad to see him with a woman other than my mom, she was pretty weird and I felt awkward around her.
I did go into town with him every so often, working on a painting job and remembering what civilization was like. It was odd, the contrast between the fast food and radio talk show-filled days of painting and the isolation of the mountain with the goat herding and washing my own clothes by pounding them with rocks in the stream. The school year started and normal life continued without me.
My day included reading on my own, and playing with the dog, the goats, and the cows. I became a student of nature, listening to my father teach about the rich symbolism of the earth, its systems, and creatures. I learned to rely on myself and enjoy the unique opportunities I had. However, I didn’t have much contact with my mother or siblings, didn’t see or talk to my friends, and didn’t really think to run away as my brother had or seek a way out of my goat-herding life.