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Free Range: Ice Blue

By Felicia Morgan

I’d only just met Hawk Eye, but I instantly liked the quiet guy who rides the old Shovelhead and told about earning a living as a farrier and about life in SoCal. He says he’s pretty sure he’s the only guy riding up to ranches on a motorcycle to shoe horses, which pretty much blows people away. Throwing his tools in a saddlebag for work these days, he shares his idea to set up a Honda Goldwing with an anvil and everything he needs so he can hot shoe onsite. “I think I can make it work. It’d be cool,” he says.

On the sunny, summer day I met the calm man with the weathered cut, he was riding with his oldest son and club brothers as his early-20s-aged son prospected. The proud father of five also told about his youngest son, a handful of wild who loves wide-open spaces, climbing trees and his dirt bike. The boy is home-schooled, since his parents know best how to help their child thrive in between the rigors of academics. I imagine him as a patient father.

We gathered in the shade of a redwood tree as we stood discussing our ride, the miles and weather when the conversation shifted to cold-weather gear and heated grips versus battery-operated clothing, and we hashed out the pros and cons of various equipment. The long-haired rider with the ice-blue eyes listened intently and then told us he just can’t take the cold as well since he got frostbite a few years back. He spoke about the hunting dogs he used to have and the winter where it all went wrong.

The old bitch was showing signs of age, but still tended to follow the younger male off on his adventures as he followed his nose. Hawk Eye was afraid she’d lose her way back if the two got separated and the nasty, blinding blizzard with total whiteout conditions upped his concerns, so he lit out in his truck to find the pair. After a slow, tedious drive and a hike through the storm, he located the hounds on the opposite side of a frozen river. The female seemed confused as he shouted across the canyon, so her anxious owner tried to coax her back by whistling her across the ice since he knew her eyesight was failing and visibility was poor. Even though she appeared to hear him, she refused to obey. Frustrated, her determined master climbed down the embankment of the river to bring her back across the ice when suddenly the shore gave way. Unbeknownst to Hawk Eye, the strong current of the river had etched into the bank, eroding the ground underneath and hollowing out a weak spot. Though frozen, the weight of the man caused the ground to give way and he plunged into the icy water. Grabbing as he slid, he barely caught himself on an exposed branch with just a pinky finger, but it was enough to keep him from being swept under the thick ice. Fighting against the strong current of the frigid water, he lost a boot to the river before he could drag himself back to the safety of the snowy bank. Once on solid ground, he sat catching his breath and analyzed his desperate predicament. Cold and pissed off, his patience was spent and so was his energy, yet he told himself he could either sit and die of exposure there in the middle of nowhere, or he could get up and hike the two miles back to his truck. The impossibility of the situation fueled his anger even more. Fuck the dogs. He righted himself and headed for safety, sloshing along with just one boot.

Back at the house, he wrestled himself out of the stiff clothes that had frozen to his body, peeling patches of flesh off with his pants. Sections of his exposed skin turned dark with frostbite and his feet were a mess. To this day, he tells us, his upper lip turns purple and some fingers won’t work if he rides in the cold. His legs are scarred.

The biker’s eyes get small when he admits he has a terrible temper, but he’s convinced that internal rage is what ultimately saved his life that day since he was just too damned mad to die. As for the dogs, the wayward hunters eventually found their way home a couple of hours later, each with a huge chunk of ice frozen from their chins to their collars from their exhaled breath. Their owner took a hammer to the icicles and the exhausted dogs retired to a back room where they lay without moving for two days. Both survived and, yes, both continued to take off every chance they got. Hawk Eye, however, never went looking for them again.

 

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