Nate’s Ashes

Nate was Canadian. He was 24 years old. He was also an athlete. Got a full ride scholarship to university for Lacrosse. I guess thats some pansy, yankee, game thats kinda like soccer… Except you have a stick and you beat people up. Whenever anyone would ask him what a young guy like him was doing working on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, when he could actually be putting his life together back home he would always reply-

“Its just so damn beautiful out here…”

Ok. Thats rather cryptic. What was obvious though, was the grey tinge to his skin and the bags under his eyes. Anyone with half a brain (or a nose) knew that Nate was smoking the reefer on the job. I can’t really blame him. When you’re out in the fields, or up on the hilltops, or in the middle of an endless forest, theres not really much to stop you from lighting up. Ive had many a good puff on the clock. In any case, he got the job done alright. Its ranch work, not brain surgery.

Nate had been a hand for about six months when haying season rolled around. Grand-dad started him out on the mower. The problem wasn’t the mowing machine though. It was the tractor it was attached to.

At least it takes sharp turns…

My uncle trained him up on the basin and he cut it down just fine. The concentric circles really lull you into a meditative state. Its a good time to think about things. The next day we sent Nate off on his own to cut down the field in lower section 8. Ive opened this mediocre hay meadow about a dozen times now. Every time I have to have my wits about me because the crick runs along the south side. It twists and turns and oxbows.

Grandma had put lunch on. Enchilada casserole. Its one of my favorites with corn tortillas, beef, cheese, red sauce and olives. Nate never came in. After half an hour of waiting, Grand-dad went to check up on him. There he was, one round in, halfway down the length of the stream, upside down, in the drink, and pinned under the steering wheel. Dead. His marijuana cigarettes were still in his breast pocket.

After fishing out the tractor and Nate’s dead ass, we called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Calgary to inform them we had the corpse of one of their citizens. It was a rather embarrassing phone call because my grandfather had to admit that he had no idea where this kid was from. He recounted a brief story Nate had told about logging. His family would saw down the timber, then roll it onto the beach where oxen would then drag it to the mill. I guess they called this technique log rolling. With that limited information the lady Mountie was able to track down his folks all the way over in Nova Scotia to inform them their son was dead.

Two tottering lifetime college professors showed up on the doorstep. They were carrying an urn. It was filled with… Nate. We asked why they decided to cremate him. They answered that it wasn’t their decision.  It was Nate’s. In his will it specified that he was to be cremated and his ashes spread from the top of a mountain in Montana. All the sudden it was clear why Nate was so gaunt. Why he moved out here. Why he was so detached from the world. The reason they were on the doorstep was because they needed a mountain. They had asked all around, and everyone they spoke to was very clear that their mountains were not available. So that left us. My Grandpa is a pushover, and it kind of made sense for Nate to be scattered on the ranch that he died on.

So we lead them to one of the highest hills we had on the property. They struggled for about two hours, juggling their canes and the urn, but finally made it to the summit. The wind was really going that day. Probably 50 mph at least. Once the lid of that urn was opened Nate was immediately at his final earthly resting place. Underneath the puffball mushrooms on the tops of the grassy hills. Between the needles of the juniper and pine trees. Slowly sinking down to the homestead cabin thats somewhere at the bottom of the reservoir…

Carried on the wind…


Thats the hill on the far left.

Two months later the professors were back. They were looking for Nate. Grand-dad told them that they were free to go out and gather him up. Needless to say we have a new policy on burials around this ranch.


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