The campaign to retake Mosul from ISIS was one of total war. The enemy had no intention of either surrendering or retreating, nor of leaving a single building standing or civilian unharmed as ISIS literally fought to the death. This was the environment, the “battle space” in military terms, that Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, under the command of Lieutenant Jacob “Jake” Portier found itself. The platoon was fighting alongside the Iraqi Emergency Response Division, a unique security force primarily trained by U.S. Special Forces and commanded by Major General Abbas.
“You aren’t going to quit.” It was not the reaction I wanted from my father. As we drove to little league baseball practice, he looked straight ahead without emotion as I sat tearfully next to him. The practice would bring more torture for me. The year before I was a strong contributor to a solid, developing team, now I wanted out and to be free from the hostile environment.
Maj. Natividad de Jesús Cáceres Cabrera, second in command of the Atlacatl Immediate Reaction Battalion, was frustrated. He’d just ordered the men under his command to begin killing the children of El Mozote. They’d shown little hesitation in the killing of adult and elderly men in the village, and no hesitation at all in leading away the young girls, most between 12–to–15, whom they gang-raped, then butchered.
Last week I took some time off from working the colt, writing, and fixing the myriad things around the Figure 8 that broke in the last big snowstorm. I put all that away for a three-day fishing trip down the Lower Deschutes. I went with my friend, neighbor, and legendary guide Steve Erickson, and an old cop colleague who has spent much of his adult life working violent crimes – a grueling career that has left his armor severely dented by the sword and axe-blows of human behavior.
If there is one principle I am steadfast to uphold, it’s that a man’s waist size should always be smaller than his inseam. If your inseam is 36, and you wake up to find your waist is a 38, you have crossed the bridge into a contrary life.
I had promised a different piece this week, but had a friend and his wife stop in for the weekend and that threw me off my game. They were up from Paso Robles, California, where they raise wine grapes – Syrah, Petite Syrah — on a magnificent chunk of the central coast, and also to pick up some elk meat I’d been holding for them in our freezer since our hunt last fall. And, as things go, the weekend vanished in an insalubrious 72-hour fete that left me feeling like I’d spent the weekend with Robert Plant and the boys in a chapter from Hammer of the Gods.
I was reflecting the other night that, other than chase cows on the desert, play shortstop for the Yankees, and do some decent shooting, I’ve only ever wanted to write. I published my first piece when I was five. That’s a grandiose vision, and meant to be funny, but it is also true although it wasn’t really writing. It was a picture I drew — an alligator sliding into a swamp — which even after all these years isn’t really that bad for a first effort. I’m still drawing alligators sliding into swamps, it seems, and we are fortunate these days to be able to share our thoughts and visions broadly.
Each year on St. Patrick’s Day my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. 18 years ago on St. Patrick’s day we eloped and were married at the Chapel of the Bells on 4thStreet in Reno. Ten minutes earlier there had been a funeral in the same chapel, and I was so broke I couldn’t even afford the VHS tape of the nuptials. Two decades later I wouldn’t change a thing.
Busy days here on the Figure 8. The first order of business has been to compile an accurate BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) following a series of snowstorms that camped over Central Oregon in late February and early March. So far the damage has been significant. Both the turkey and chicken pens collapsed under the weight of snow. The birds are fine because when there is 3 feet of snow on the ground they don’t come out of the henhouse. They are uppity that way.
Out here in the mountain west water is always precious, particularly when living on the east side of any of the hundreds of mountain ranges between the Sierra-Cascades and the Rockies. Out here, the east side of anything is always the drier side, the rain-shadow side, and so eastsiders live within a perpetual loop of drought and diminishing returns. The diminishing returns are a result of aggressive settlement beyond the 100thMeridian, which is desert, and has been a desert since before the end of the last Ice Age.
I stopped believing the weather woman about 2 months ago. This was a deliberate act of rebellion because riding the prediction roller coaster was damaging my nerves and upsetting the dogs. Calls for snow this winter have too often dissembled into blue skies, warm chinooks, and mud in the paddocks, and although I have sympathy for anyone who signs up to predict the weather in Central Oregon my stores of good humor were used up three fake storms ago.
After a delay in recording brought on by the horrors of technology, Craig, Jim, and “Oil Can” Rathbun are back in the bunkhouse on the historic Figure 8 Ranch to bring you another episode of the Running Iron Podcast. In this episode Lane Jacobson, owner of Paulina Springs Bookstore in Sisters, Oregon, sits down for a wide-ranging discussion about books, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and his vision for what a great small-town bookstore looks like.