We planned our trip so we would have a full day at the lodge before the wedding to fish a little, relax, and make sure that Otis was comfortable with the ceremony. We had emailed the Native American Blessing to him earlier in the summer and told him he could choose any vows he wanted as long as he kept them clean and pronounced us Husband and Wife, as opposed to Man and Wife. Mr. Squash already knew he was a man, as did I. I think this was more important to me having gone to college during the late 1960’s and during the women’s movement. Not that I’m a feminist as they call it nowadays - I just could never understand why when a man got married, he had to be pronounced a man all over again! But we won’t go any farther here. Otis understood and promised me he wouldn’t fail my wishes.
The day we flew in and the following day were filled with new and old friends who were staying at the lodge. However, they were all leaving the next day which would leave just Otis, Teresa, Don, his girlfriend Jessica and the ranch cook, Zeb and housekeeper, Tiffany. Even the wrangler was headed out the next day to take a pack train to town for supplies. This was fine by us. We didn’t want a lot of fuss and to-do over the wedding. We wanted it to be a simple, easy affair and go fishing afterwards!
After a hearty breakfast, we grabbed our rods and fished up the river for several hours. Oh how we love fishing the Minam River! In August the river is at the most knee deep and not too cold in the shallower reaches. There are some great pools and some really nice rainbow trout waiting to be caught then released back to the water to grow bigger for the next season. If you’re lucky, you might even be there when the salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. I’ve stood many times in one spot motionless from the waist down casting back and forth into a deep pool and looked down to see a large salmon swim between my legs on its way back home.
Now I’ve already explained how remote the Minam Lodge is. There is no electricity except for a generator located down in the horse barn that is run for a couple of hours in the morning and evening. Water comes from a spring that is piped from behind an adjacent hillside across the river and up another hillside to the lodge. Each cabin has a shower and commode, and hot water provided by propane tanks, which have been known to run out in the middle of your morning shower! In the colder weather there is a small woodstove to warm the cabin up in the mornings and late evenings.
There is also - how shall I say it - a wildlife problem from time to time. We were quite used to the horses and mules grazing right up to the cabin doors and around the main lodge. There would even be an occasional deer or elk fairly close to the lodge and cabins. Otis and Teresa also had three dogs we adored - Hanna, the Border Collie, and Jawea and Boot - mother and son Springer Spaniels. But this particular year and the prior year and seen a lot of forest fires. When this happens, animals such as black bear, come down from the higher hills searching for food sources.
That evening after dinner all of the guests gathered in the lodge for conversation and laughter. It was as full a house as we had ever seen. Otis played some tunes on the banjo accompanied by others who had their guitars with them. We laughed and laughed and had a wonderful evening. As we were all getting ready to say goodnight and head to our cabins we saw Zeb, the cook, head out back with a rifle and a sleeping bag. What was he doing, we asked?
Zeb explained that the bears has been raiding the food storage shed on and off for several nights recently. He would hear them breaking the door down, but by the time he got outside with his rifle, they were already heading back into the woods. This particular bear had a nasty temper as well and they were worried that it might harm one of the guests. So Zeb was going to lay his sleeping bag down on the path that leads to the food storage and try and shoot the bear as he entered the area. We were in awe that he would take such a risk.
Later that night I heard something very heavy walk across the porch of our cabin. I always sleep lightly in the wilderness - you never know when a marauding raccoon will come into camp so you have to be vigilant! I didn’t want to wake Mr. Squash, but not long after that we both heard a gunshot loud enough to levitate us both out of bed. Zeb must have gotten the bear! We fell back asleep assured that we were safe and sound. Sure enough, next morning there was the bear - nearly right next to where Zeb had placed his sleeping bag! It was enormous, with huge paws. We quickly tried to put this out of our minds - after all - we were getting married the next day!