The last several days of snow have finally eased up. I decide to take a chance that the sinuous road that leads to Somerset will be clear enough to head out for a spot of painting. My apprehensions are unfounded as the road is clear and as I drop down to the lower elevations the fields bear only a light covering of snow. I head along Mount Aukum road, the sun is breaking through the clouds illuminating the rain sodden digger pines in the rugged terrain.
I turn onto Perry Creek road. An old ramshackle barn—its sun-bleached red paint on disheveled boards—had caught my eye a few weeks prior while I was out scouting for a subject to paint. Two sullen donkeys in a rock strewn meadow and an assortment of goats complemented the scene. I begin to set up to paint, when a shower of hailstones descends, so I retreat back to the car which now becomes my makeshift studio.
Trying to juggle all the elements of my painting gear in the passenger seat of my car proves a little challenging, but is worth it to avoid the external elements that would assault both me and my watercolor and make the prospect of a successful painting less likely.
An hour or so passes and the alarm goes on off on my phone—initially to my annoyance. I then realize with pleasure, that it is time for my favorite radio program—The Thistle and Shamrock. What could be better than an afternoon of painting out in the California back roads accompanied by some of the best Celtic and Old Time music?.
Lost in my reverie, I am eventually brought back to earth by a car heading in the opposite direction. The car slows and the passenger window slowly descends.
“Do you need some help?” A middle aged lady in her silver, Jeep, Grand Cherokee shouts through the half open window.
“No, I’m just painting” I say, waving the watercolor as a way of visually indicating my activity.
“Oh, that’s my barn” she says with enthusiasm.
You can take a look at the painting if you’d like.
“I would . . . I’ll just park the car.”
I get out of my car, and introduce myself to Susan, the enthusiastic barn owner. She is clad in a canvas jacket and accompanying earth-colored attire. Her ivory-colored stone necklace complements her olive skin. Black hair with white wayward wisps dance in the wind.
“You’ve made it look so lovely, better than it really is in real life,” she says enthusiastically. “I’m so glad you painted my barn.” Immediately she leans forward, and in a display of free-spirited West Coast style gives me a big hug.
After chatting for a while about some of the attributes of the forlorn red structure and her plans to renovate it, she gestures to the two donkeys. “I’ve had trouble with the mountain lions, they’ve been attacking my mustangs. Since I’ve got the wild donkeys though, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, I think it’s their smell, . . . the cats don’t like their smell.”
“And of course, as well as the mountain lions, we’ve had other visitors. Around 4.30 one afternoon down by the creek, I saw a Sasquatch.
This was said very matter-of-factly and without the least expectation that I would question her account. Unfortunately, my skepticism, which I had hoped was not externally evident, was quickly picked up by Susan.
“No, really, . . . the man primate! Big, muscular, red fur—Big Foot! He was the same color as one of my bay mustangs. I turned away for a second, and then when I looked back he was gone.”
I attempt to redeem my initial lack of faith in the hairy bi-ped. “Oh, yes, a friend of mine said her father discovered a footprint of one in the Trinity Alps. He made a cast of it.”
“Yes, I found a footprint too, across the road on the other side of the creek.” Susan spaces out her hands to denote the size of the footprint, as if describing some huge prize-winning squash at the local county fair.
Our conversation continues for a while longer. The gray clouds prematurely darken the evening sky and Susan excuses herself and departs to feed her equine assemblage before the light is totally lost.
I return to my car, ruminating on the realization, that on my sojourns into the Californian wilderness, I must not only keep my eyes open for the uninvited interests of Ursus americanus, or the appetites of a hungry Puma concolor. But now to add to the list, I must not be stepped on by an irritated, big red, furry Gigantopithecus, also known in the far reaches of El Dorado county as . . . the man primate!