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MIKE McFADIN
California
About Mike McFadin
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I'll Die With My Boots On

Horses and mules mountains and rivers
Side hills so steep they give ya the shivers

Poison oak and brambles ticks and snakes
High mountain glades and breathtaking lakes

Granite fields that sparkle and shine in the afternoon sun
Eating dinner by the alpine glow when they day is all done

Falling asleep to the whispering wind
Getting up early, to do it again

These are the things that get into your blood
That keep you moving when the trail turns to mud

They say that heaven is waiting way up above
When I’m high in the mountains I feel God's pure love

What if I’m dead this is pretty darn great
And if heaven is better I can’t hardly wait

I hope when Saint Peter calls me back home
I’m up in the mountains at work all alone

Having just had coffee while greeting the dawn
I’ll die in the mountains with my boots on

© 2011, Mike McFadin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mike told us, "This poem was inspired through years of living in the woods, sleeping in the dirt, greeting the sun through high mountain air, and packing."

 

 

Another New Horse

Here we go, another new horse we were just hoping for at least Not Bad.
It seemed a good sign, when we picked him up and the owner was actually sad

We loaded him up there by the road he was a beauty and that much was true
We signed the papers, and switched halters, as for inspection this would just have to do

Ten minutes in we stopped for gas and checked how he was a do'in
He had a big gash on the front of his head, from the looks this was a new one

You could tell he was smart,
he'd found the one part
that could cause him any pain.
This trailer wasn't new
and brother it's true
he'd scuffed his head near to the brain

Many others of the Equine family had rode the trailer all with no incident
but there he stood calm as could be his forehead was certainly rent

we got him home without much more trouble, and we turned him out to admire his gait
We wondered out loud how he’d do in the mountains but for that we would just have to wait

the very next day
Though I hate to say
I really could stand it no more
A test was the play
I'd show him the way
through piles of scary junk by the score

The first pile we passed was old fire rings
from a campground mounded up high
When viewed by this horse they were satanic things
that deserved at the least a close eye

The next scary pile was old culvert pipes some with bat baffles welded right in
He stuttered and stared as we slowly walked by until now he called me his friend

The gauntlet of dead picnic tables was almost too much for this horse
We wandered through slow and he wanted to know
when he'd signed up for this obstacle course

As we left the dead tables and turned towards the stables
there was one last terror to be had
Old banding bands in piles and in strands
if this went wrong it'd be bad

I kicked a loose band as we slowly walked by,
the horse hunkered down as if ready to fly,
his belly was close to the ground.
His legs were all out as he skittered about
and his eyes they both rolled all around.

If this was the worst that this new horse had,
I can’t tell you how very much I was glad

He'd been in terror throughout much of the course,
but the lead rope stayed slack, he'd make a good horse.

© 2012, Mike McFadin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mike comments: This poem was inspired by the acquisition of a new horse to our pack program. The horse, Robbie, was donated to the Forest Service. As everyone in the business knows a free horse often is not the best deal. Robbie came with good recommendations though.

I and the lead Packer for the Northern California Center of Pack Stock Excellence (how’s that for a mouthful) picked Robbie up hours from our corral while traveling for another assignment. We met the owner at a wide spot along a highway to make the transfer, this didn’t afford us the opportunity to do much of an inspection but knowing and trusting the former owner helped bolster our confidence in the quality of the horse.

The day after we got him tucked in to his new corral I decided a walk around the maintenance boneyard would be a good first test as to his reaction to unknowns. I led Robbie through a gauntlet of junk and he did pretty good. He side stepped around and hunkered down at times but not once did he try to pull the lead rope out of my hand.

 

 

Livin the Dream

I wake up in the cab stiff…cold...shivering, my clothes are still wet 
I hear the mules fidgeting, it’s time to start work but isn’t light yet 

It was raining when we rode in, pitch black, by feel we unsaddled and fed 
The green mules didn’t like our flashlights especially when worn on our heads 

By the time we were done caring for the stock it was well past ten
We were soaked, battered, hungry and frozen…today we do it again

Dinner was crackers and three cans of beer
A half bag of chips and jerky made from a deer

The sound of the rain on the roof of the truck
Coming down hard makes me wish I was a duck

Or a frog, a beaver, an otter or newt
The wind starts to blow, now isn’t that cute

Miserable, this is what sorts out the men from the boys
The people of action from those that just make noise

The dome light comes on as I open the door
I stare at a puddle under my feet on the floor

My shoulder bone pops, my finger bones creak
My hat is all clammy; my rain coat has a leak

I stumble around in the dark and mud, giving each mule some hay
Some soggy alfalfa and a soft spoken word to start off their day

It sounds like hell if you know what I mean
But for some reason we call it, livin the dream

© 2011, Mike McFadin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mike comments:  In the spring of 2011 we purchased 13 mules to supplement and replace some of our aged civil servants ready for retirement. None of these new mules had ever packed before. They were all gentle, sorta, and all halter broke and some had worked shoulder to shoulder pulling but none had ever walked down a trail nose to tail with a pack on their back.

It just happened that our crew was working in the New River country that spring. This area is known for its incredibly steep mountains, narrow canyons and narrow trails. These new Mules got to start their careers as pack animals in the deep end of the pool… with sharks…and piranha’s. The trip that is spoken of in the poem was a camp move.

We had to make two trips in with two strings about 6 miles one way to get the camp out. Then we trailered an hour or so to another trail head and had to make two round trips about 3 miles to get the camp back in to its new location. During the three days and two nights we did this it only stopped raining when it started snowing. It was the kind of pack trip that is fun to look back on but not much fun to live. The new Mules did pretty good, we went through a lot of breakaways and we had a rodeo or two but no one was hurt and we all learned a little bit about one another.
 

 

 

Bees!!!

Not sure how I got here, flat on my back I look up through the trees
Then it all comes back...I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate bees

Riding along on a sunny day it seemed things were going quite well
Then up from the ground
With a soft buzzing sound
Came a swarm of winged demons from hell

My horse had awoke them, the lead mule made them mad
Second mule back got hit. . .third mule got hit real bad
Fourth and fifth had their ears laid back it seemed they were in a bee fog
They jumped and kicked and stove the nest in at the base of a hollow log

The mules all rushed forward, jostling their packs
They were not strangers
To all of the dangers
Of spontaneous hornet attacks.

I threw the reins forward and hollered out BEES
While swatting and yelling I hung on with my knees.

I could see the lead mule had ten on his face.
As he shook his big head all around
He got hit from behind and launched into space
As more hornets boiled up from the ground.

Within half a second we were pell-mell in a full panic
The poor mule in back had exceeded full manic
Those darn mules were gonna push me right off’a the trail
My horse was a’crow hopping and swishing his tail.

I had three mules behind me all side by side
On a trail that wasn’t but half a mule wide
The two in the back
whose lead ropes were slack
Looked like they might come over the top
As the yellow and black
flying demon attack
Slowed down. . .but when would it stop.

Two hundred feet later the swarm we finally out ran
I stopped to fix some packs. . .at least that was the plan

All in a froth I started to get off, to straighten out the gear
When a butterfly saw my horse and gently lit upon his ear

As I was launched in the air like a ride at the fair
My horse shot towards the sky.
My one and only care was the poor landing there
And I thought this is it, I might die.
I landed in a big heap one rein I did keep
At least I wouldn’t have to walk
I thought I was dead as I cracked my head
On a very large moss covered rock.

So here I do lie
lookin up at the sky
Watching the tops of the trees
I hope that’s a fly
buzzing on by
'Cause man do I ever hate bees.

© 2014, Mike McFadin
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Mike comments Doing what we do, where we do it, beesnot the slow moving bovine variety we steal honey from, but the striped hornet varietyare often one of the most dangerous things we run into. The bees themselves aren’t so bad but the reaction they cause in a pack string can be dicey. Training goes out the window and its every man and beast for himself...




About Mike McFadin:
                                                 
provided 2012

I work for the US Forest Service. I am currently the Wilderness and Trails manager for the Trinity River Management Unit. Parts of my duties are to manage the stock program. We have over 20 head of mules and horses here in Weaverville that we use for moving supplies and field camps into and out of wilderness and other areas un accessible by vehicles. Those of us who choose this work do it out of passion; the pay alone isn’t enough to tempt anyone who doesn’t love the way of life we lead. It is an honor to manage public lands and a privilege to work in the high country we call home.
 

 

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