The Old Ones
...until I come upon one of the old giants...the ones that mandate it to be big in this country, to be big or die, but not to compromise... - Rick Bass, The Book of Yaak
My girlfriend and I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park about dusk. Anywhere at dusk suits me just fine, but being in RMNP at that wonderfully melancholy time of day is top drawer, man. We had seen several herds of elk throughout the park. It is that time when you can thrill to the sound of bugling bulls, if you've the patience to stop, look, and listen. Anyway, we exited the park and pointed the van in the direction of our cabin.
Just as we entered "town" we saw people standing along the shoulder of the road. You could hardly make them out, since dusk was quickly surrendering to the night. They were shadow people, transfixed by something in the mist. We kept driving and all of a sudden there was movement right beside the van. That little kid in that Bruce Willis movie said he saw dead people. Well, we saw live elk, running alongside our van. And then we saw him.
This old giant just steps out in front of his harem and stops. It's cool enough that we can see his elk breath coming out of his elk nostrils. I carefully inch around him as my girlfriend is snapping pictures like a woman possessed. As we come completely around him, I stop the van and he's standing directly in my rear view mirror. The fog is heavy around his haunches and he leans down with his majestic rack and trumpets into the night air: Here am I, hear me bugle. I am big. And I won't compromise.
At that moment, something inside my gut shifted and I found myself on the verge of tears. I had to ask myself what that was about. In retrospect, I believe the old giant spoke to a place deep within me, a place that is seldom stirred, a place that only responds to the mandate of be big or die, no compromise. And when that place catches a glimpse or a refrain from one of the old giants, that place responds with gut shifts or tears or joy. Maybe gut-shifting-tears-of-joy.
We drove away as the old giant stood his ground in the middle of the highway, but we could continue to hear his cry: Be big or die, no compromise...