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February 11, 2013: Traffic Jam

It began snowing this morning, as I was pen cleaning. There were at first a few flakes here and there. Then minutes later, it began dumping. I went inside, and began working on a Rasmuson Artist Grant. It went well. I’m proposing to write a memoir in which I make the connections between composing myself as a writer and composing myself as a pen cleaner. Right now, the working title is Material Matters: Dispatches from Squalor Holler Farm.

I didn’t think that I’d get the horses out because it was snowing heavily, and it was wet, heavy snow. But at about three, I went out and figured that it would be

okay to do a short ride. I rode Tinni and ponied Signy. And Hrimmi followed suit.

Then, when I got back, Pete decided to take a break from plowing, and go with me. So he rode Siggi and ponied Raudi, and I rode Signy and ponied Hrimmi. The big plow had not been by yet, so the footing was uneven and the road was narrow. We were on the homeward stretch when we saw headlights at the distance. Pete stopped and I went on ahead. The vehicle drew closer. It belonged to the driver, our neighbor. He was going fairly fast. There was no room for me to pull over, and Hrimmi was in the center of the road. So I rode Signy up to her far side, which put us in the middle of the road.

The driver had no choice but to slow down and stop. I peered through his windshield. He was clearly incensed. I was attempting to push Hrimmi to the side of the road with Signy when he floored the gas. The truck shot forward, and the rear end fishtailed. Signy jumped sideways and stumbled. Hrimmi raced past the truck, and in the process nearly got nailed.

As the fellow passed, I gave him the bird. We all continued on down road. The fellow pulled into his driveway and I breathed a sigh of relief. This, on my part was premature. Seconds later we heard gunfire. Rat a tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat. Quite obviously this fellow wasn’t squirrel hunting. Rather, he was indirectly chiding us for our bad road manners. The driver must have presumed that I was, by putting Signy directly in his path, attempting to antagonize him. And my giving him the bird confirmed this.

I have for the past few hours been thinking hard about what happened. Our neighbor’s firing his gun off has made me reconsider the consequences of my actions. Alaska seems to be a geographic magnet for crazy people, many of whom erroneously believe that in firing off guns, that they have the final say in the matter.

Maybe so. Maybe not. I have been giving serious thought as to how I’ll act if and when I again am in a conflict-related situation. First of all, I’m going to wear mittens and keep them on my hands. This way, an upraised hand will look like a friendly wave. I’ll next breath deeply. And I might, if need be, get off the horse and walk it past the vehicle in question. And I’ll smile and in this way indicate that the person behind the wheel is a long-lost friend.

I’m right now picturing neighbor guy as doing as I’m doing. He’s sitting at his computer and writing his daily dispatch. He too is, of course, thinking hard about how in the next time, he might do things differently. He’s decided to part company with his gun, and is going to take it to a pawn shop. He’s going to take the money and buy a donkey and a toga. He’ll then spend his days riding around the loop on his new mount, blessing all creatures, four and two-legged critters. The squirrels, having just learned of his decision, are of course, now deliriously happy.

Next: 43. 2/12/13: Narrative Reliability