Still Life: Cell Phone with Pile of Shit

The morning beauty of Prescott National Forest

My wife wants we should go camping. Be one of those couples you see plugged into the KOA power line, sitting out in folding chairs sharing stories from the road.

Sounds like a good idea, except I can just see me pulling this huge rig knocking down telephone wires and running over kittens. The whole thing scares me.

So I got on my hind legs and bawled about it.

“You’re not the one who’ll be driving it.” We’re talking a Type C camper van like a Winnebago, or an F-150 pickup and 17-foot trailer. “Ever try to back up one of those trailers into a parking site? It’s counterintuitive. I don’t need another Three Stooges show in my life.”

Nor did she; she didn’t argue. In fact, my opposition represented progress for our marriage. Instead of caving in to her zeal to Have Fun, despite her boring husband, then fucking shit up, like I did with those kayak racks which almost got us killed on the highway, I expressed my real feelings.

I employed the baby steps argument.

“Let’s get our tent camping game together.”

We have this ripped old tent, the one you get for $59.95 anywhere.

We stood in line in masks to get into the REI store in Flagstaff. I got us a good tent, more expensive, bigger than the old one. Then proceeded back home to show my handyman chops by setting it up in the garage. Rain fly too, no problem.

The whole time I kept asserting my outdoorsman bona fides. I do like being in nature.

Not long after we got back from Flag, I pulled off a neat trick when a challenge arose on a hike in the Prescott National Forest. I share this tale with you to prove – to you, if not my wife – I am not a bookish nerd. Well, not always.

I have to get the dog onto the trailhead at dawn. It gets into the nineties here and she hates heat.

I wake in the dark even on days off, but still don’t have much time to sip coffee and read online newspapers before I have to throw backpack, dog, and last-cup-to-go into my Forester and get going.

Get her onto the trailhead at five fifteen or five thirty and she shoots off like a rocket as I unsnap the leash.

Two days ago I was still yawning, even with two cups of coffee in me, as I released her to her dawn frolic at the head of Trail 393, off the Copper Basin Road parking lot.

I’d made it here good and early, full knowing there’s a more dire aftermath to the haste than mental cobwebs yet to clear.

I might have to do a number two.

At the one-and-a-half-mile point I swung off 393 onto 327. Not a half-mile up the new trail I realized I had to take a dump.

We two creatures were the only ones in the woods — I had yet to step aside for dirt biker one — so being discreet would not be an issue. Recent prescribed logging to thin timber and lessen the chance of forest fire made it harder to find concealment, but I located an ideal spot. Hung my backpack on an obliging stump off a tree, clambered up a rise over dirt and pine needles, and, finding a perfect place behind a shrub, dropped my shorts and jockeys and did my business.

I wiped with tissues from the front pocket of my shorts and, without looking behind me, stood back up and pulled up my underwear and shorts and started back down the rise, when who should I encounter bounding up the rise toward me but Rosa. She eludes me when I want her back, and here she is finding me when I’d rather not be found. Dogs.

The two-and-a-half-mile point, our customary snack-and-water turnaround, was half a mile away as I re-shouldered my pack and resumed my walk.

In about five minutes I realized my shorts felt light.

I slapped my pockets.

Oh no.

My cell phone was gone. It had fallen out a back pocket.

I decided not to worry; you only make mistakes. I got us all the way to the resting spot. Rosa was so thirsty she slurped up a whole collapsible bowl and a half of water as well as slobber down a few venison bites. I stayed cool, fighting off despondency about losing the phone. I sat on my customary stump, slugged some water, and realized I needed to head back sooner rather than later. I stood, changed into a fresh T-shirt, put the part-emptied water bottle, bowl, and sweaty jersey in the backpack, zipped it up, and shrugged back into it. Clipping the clasps at chest and waist, I said, “Come on, girl.”

Ever so slowly I worked my way around the switchbacks, waiting for instinct to instruct me.

No, not here.

No … not here either.


There, the tree and, up to the right, the climb I’d made. The whole scene a snapshot imprinted on my brain.

I started up the rise. Twenty feet up lay my phone.

Good thing it sat well apart from both shit pile and soiled tissues. Having to pull my phone out of a pile of my own crap might have sullied my victory somewhat.

Quiet elation filled me as I pocketed my Android and headed back with the dog.

I felt like a chopper pilot using laser focus to hit a target. A moon capsule astronaut pulling off a pinpoint touch-down in a galaxy of random lostness.

I went home and told Barb of my accomplishment.

She shrugged.

Next day she said, “Barry texted me some info about a good camper. Wasn’t that nice?”

“Yeah,” I agreed weakly.

She still wants her RV.

Ah well, a new challenge. What else is retirement for?

Wish me luck.

Ten-four, good buddy.