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Coyotes and Communists

Oregon Basin is sagebrush desert surrounded by sandstone formations outside of Cody.  It’s desert hiking with so many things to explore.  I’ve only been there a few times.  Its a maze of BLM dirt roads, mostly used for oil and gas explorations.  One of the oldest oil fields in Wyoming, coal was also mined here from the late 1890’s to the 1940’s.   Old mines and buildings can still be found. But long before all of this, Native Americans camped and hunted in the basin.

On one of my few explorations here last year, a friend took me to a petroglyph site.  We drove through barbed wire gates, mile upon mile of windy dirt roads, past working derricks, until we parked alongside an abandoned coal mine.  We walked around a sandstone ridge to a small box canyon.  Protected from wind, it was the perfect campsite.  That’s where the petroglyphs were, along with a giant rattlesnake.  Sadly, many of the glyphs were defaced and beer bottles and trash was strewn around.Oregon Basin, Cody

I really like exploring the desert and its formations.  W__  spent 20 years hiking the basin and surrounding badlands.  Today we turned off onto a dirt road from the Meeteetse Hwy.  Someone had been killing coyotes and dumping them there.  Two fresh kills  attracted several Golden Eagles that flew off as we drove bye.  More old coyote carcasses were strewn along the way.  Coyotes rank as predator status.  That’s the status that Wyoming wants for wolves, which means it’s legal anytime to shoot the animal on sight.

I asked W__ why someone would be shooting coyotes around the basin.  There’s no sheep here anymore, just cattle at certain times of the year.

“Because its something to do”, he answered.  “Someone is baiting around here, so watch your dog.  There’s traps.  Do you know what a coyote trap looks like.”

I told him I didn’t.  W__said that by law a trapper is supposed to hang a sign, like a rabbit’s foot, by the trap.  We hiked over the hill and alongside a sandstone ledge.  Almost immediately he said “Here, I’ll show you what to look for” and took me over to a small overhanging rock with a 2×4 piece of wood half buried.  Attached to the wood were two wires.  “This is what they wire their traps to.  I stepped in one once.  They didn’t sign it, and it was half buried in snow.  Luckily, it didn’t get much of my foot and I could wiggle out.”  I tore the wires away from the wood and tossed them.

We talked for a while about random coyote killing with no reason.  W__is my philosopher and preacher friend.  “Always gotta have something to blame your troubles on.  Used to be the ‘communists’.  When I first came to Wyoming, everything you didn’t like got blamed on the communists.  When that went away, it became the coyotes.  With the sheep industry mostly gone, now its the wolves.”

I told him a story about my old neighbor, JB.  Only a few days ago we were talking about something contentious, maybe the economy, when suddenly he said “Its the communists.  They’re the ones doing all this.”  I was certainly puzzled.  Then he looked me dead in the eye and asked “You’re not a communist, are you?”  I had to laugh.  I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but that was so ’50’s!

We walked around ledges, exploring all the niches.  Koda kept busy looking for jackrabbits.  Rabbit scat seemed to cover every inch of the desert.

“I’ve found a few arrowheads in the Basin.  Once I found a scraper.  Never found that much though.”  We came across a ‘boneyard’, an area with a large scattering of small bones from jackrabbits, gophers, and mice.  W___ pointed out a ledge that contained a small cave that looked like a coyote had set up camp there in the past.  I found a perfect gopher skull inside.Sandstone formations

With the desert sun warming and the ground was free of snow, we choose a windless large smooth boulder for a lunch spot.  I passed some time picking sticky bentonite clay from my boot soles.   In the distance, a herd of pronghorn lazed and ate.   I’d just watched an episode last week of Wyoming’s Congresswoman, Cynthia Lummis, tell Stephen Colbert that the Pronghorn is the world’s fastest animal.  Colbert made a big deal out of correcting her, saying that the Cheetah is the fastest.  But in a sense they were both right.  Those Pronghorn can sprint as fast as 60 mph and sustain a speed of 30 mph for miles.  Cheetahs sprint faster but flag out after a few hundred yards.

When I first got here, people told me Pronghorn were related to goats.  They’re not.  In fact, they’re not antelope either. They’re completely their own thing.  Antilocapra americana are the sole surviving member of a family dating back 20 million years, which means they’re an ancient animal.  They don’t quite fit into any category.  They have horns that are somewhere between antlers and horns,  that shed and are branched; they lack dew claws, and  can pick up movement 4 miles away. They are super fast and love a good race.  There are many stories of them racing cars at 60 mph and beating them.    At one time they were probably as numerous as the bison, and were slaughtered at the same time.  Today most Pronghorn live in Wyoming and Montana, and probably total around one million.  Male Pronghorn

We  headed back towards the car and I picked up a small old pronghorn horn.  I dropped W__off and did some shopping in Cody.  In the health food store, I noticed at the counter there was notice urging me to call my congressperson about a bill to make organic farming illegal.  The sheet said that Monsanto, the GMO giant, was behind the bill.  I talked with the store owner about it.

“Its’ outrageous.”  he said.  I agreed.  Monsanto are corporate crooks, I added.

“You know who it is, don’t you.”  He looked at me perfectly seriously and said, ” It’s the communists.”

And even I started to think, “Maybe its the communists who were killing those coyotes.”

2 Responses

  1. Looks like there are places where red baiting is alive and well!

    Again, very interesting; keep it up.


  2. Just read Coyotes & Commies— I advise answering the commie queston in the affirmative next time and see what happens.

    A great read !!!


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