There was a cold front blowing in with a force to be reckoned with. The windshield cover for the car was threatening to be torn in two. After trying to tuck it beneath the windshield wipers and find other objects to weight it down more i decided it’d be better to scrape the windshield in the morning than lose the windshield protector to the wind. I folded it with difficulty in the relentless wind, tucked it in the trunk and set about my other preparations for the weather that was coming in. The heat lamps had been unplugged, either by wildlife or trespassers…who knows. I needed to reposition and connect them. I also needed to water the trees and tuck the potted plants into the well house for the night where there was a heat lamp and four walls that would protect them and the well pump from frost. The spigots were locked so i needed to unlock them and get the can from the shed to water. As i crossed the yard the wind whipped my coat around and threw my hair in my face. It was a constant nuisance, pushing me around the yard with each gust. The trees thrashed and swayed. The laundry line bounced in the wind. The little clothes pins clipped to it danced and spun about when the wind blew hard enough. I couldn’t hear myself think over the noise of the wind rustling the leaves and whistling through the tree branches around the back of the house. I was trying to unload the groceries, secure everything against the wind, finish the chores before nightfall, and set all the heat lamps up for a freeze. I had enough on my plate as it was, not counting any of the long term stressors going through my mind. So you can imagine my level of enthusiasm when i began to hear voices…a screaming match…riddled with profanities, at max volume. In the middle of nowhere that could only mean one thing. Another escapee from the nearby state of the art drug and rehab center in the middle of the lovely and relaxing hill country.
At first i could hear voices but the trees were dense enough that i couldn’t see anything immediately. I continued my chores in the yard and kept an eye on which direction the noise was coming from. The first thing to know about addicts going through detox was that they were not in their right mind. They were not looking at a big picture or thinking “long term”. They very much existed in the moment and seemed convinced that nothing outside of what they felt in that moment existed. Perhaps, they couldn’t be blamed for their adolescent or careless behavior, but the thing to recognize was that adolescent or careless behavior was all that should be expected while they were in that very raw and self-consumed state. There was no reasoning with them, no helping them, no saving them, and definitely no getting them to put themselves in your shoes. I had to change the way my thinking occurred when i moved out to the property a year ago.
In any other setting or circumstance if a woman jumped out of a moving car screaming profanities and began running a person would think she was being kidnapped and call 911. That is in fact exactly what happened in front of the gate to my dirt road leading up to the house. Except, she wasn’t being kidnapped so much as returned to rehab. But she was determined not to go. So much so that when the speeding car taking her back to the facility drove past my gate she opened the door and jumped out. What she didn’t account for was how hard it was to jump out of a moving car. It wasn’t graceful and suave like in the movies. The door came back and hit her as she was trying to jump out and she was lucky she wasn’t run over by the tire as her leg got caught in the door in her great escape attempt number 2. She rolled across the ground in front of my gate, stumbled to her feet, and then took off running along my fence line screaming, “i’m not going back! I’m not going back!” I knew at this point that she was looking for one of the many holes in my fence to climb through. When escapees were returned to the “prison” as they so affectionately dubbed their rehab experience that their families undoubtedly shoveled buckets of money into to try and get them clean, they told others of their adventures and discoveries. Mine was the only property around with giant holes in the fence and the nearest business or gas station was miles down the road. Everything was ranches. There were no doors to knock on. These people either flagged down cars on the road and tried to hitchhike before the sheriff noticed them or they holed up on my property after climbing through one of the spaces in the fence without wire. If i thought them capable of big-picture thought i would ask them to realize that no matter what was going wrong in their lives at that moment, this was my home, this was my property, and the end result did not justify the means. They were trespassing. My property did not exist solely to serve their needs. My property was private and they had no right to bring all their drama and withdrawal and often smart mouths over to my property and yell and scream and throw a tantrum in my yard because they didn’t want to go back to rehab. But, people going through detox were mostly wildly physically uncomfortable and had not done any of the reflection or therapy programs that would help them understand themselves, communicate better, and be aware of other peoples’ feelings and needs. To reason with them was pointless. There were no words between myself and the trespassers recently and hadn’t been for a while. It was just understood that they wanted to be there and i wanted them not. I kept my machete on my hip at all times and had two fiercely territorial dogs and so we danced. The escapees tried to sneak onto the property without myself or the dogs noticing. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. On this particular day the young woman was in hysterics; shouting, crying, jumping out of moving vehicles, swearing like a sailor. She had failed to fly under my radar and she hadn’t just caught my attention. She had the full attention of both dogs.
I had left them in the dog run. Cashew was doing her best to gain enough height in her leaping and jumping to make it over the fence to go chase this girl down. Sili was sounding the alarm. Both dogs were in a barking, snarling frenzy and following the woman’s movement along our property from within the dog run fence. I could have let the dogs out. Cashew would not have been friendly to an unscheduled visitor and Sili would have followed Cashew in whatever course of action she took. If Cashew had seen her sneak through the fence, she would have known the visitor was not approved as she didn’t use the front gate. The girl would have been bitten. It was this i was trying to prevent. I didn’t think it was necessary to involve the dogs when i could handle it myself. At least i would give her a chance to turn round and climb back through the fence before i unholstered the machete. Cashew would not be so kind.
I saw her and she saw me but we said nothing to each other. She continued along my fence line, occasionally stopping to try and climb through but she hadn’t found a big hole yet and her shirt kept getting caught on the barbed wire. I wove through the trees on my property, following her trajectory along the inside of my fence, close enough for her to see me and my machete. She picked up the pace a little bit, trying to get ahead of me. The car had come back for her and was driving alongside my property yelling at her to get in. She continued to scream, “i’m not going back” on repeat as if she were a broken record. She began to cry. One almost felt sorry for her for a split second and then the string of profanities and adult-sized insults started up again as she spat venom towards whoever was driving the sedan and the empathy was gone. I knew what i was looking at was an addict that needed to get cleaned up. I had to almost look at them as that before men or women. You couldn’t solve their problems. A professionally trained team was needed for that. You couldn’t expect adult behavior or reason. It just wasn’t going to exist at this stage of their recovery. What was going to exist was dangerous and childish behavior. She finally found one of the big holes in the fence and climbed through. As she lifted her head up she saw me standing before her in scrubs and boots with my hand on the machete. She climbed right back through that fence without a word. She ran into the street and flagged down a mini van. The window rolled down and she began her sob story and asked for a ride but the driver was a rancher. He knew where she had come from. He refused to pick her up. Many of the ranchers called the sheriff whenever they saw someone wandering alongside the road, as we just didn’t have people doing that for any other reason. None of the ranchers had time for leisurely strolls. They were all in cars. A pedestrian on foot really stuck out. Somebody had called because at this point the sheriff’s white truck pulled up behind the sedan and the mini van. The girl, recognizing that it was over, hung her head and began to cry. “I’m not going baaaaack….” she whined in a loud and childish voice as she sobbed and walked slowly down the middle of the road away from my property. The sedan, the mini van, and the sheriff followed her in a slow moving procession as she continued on down the road. I shook my head. My job was done. The sheriff would take it from there. I patted the dogs on the head, “Good job. Good job. House. To the house.” I finished my chores and went in for the night with the dogs. I wondered if the people that trespassed on my property ever felt silly or ashamed for their behavior once they had a clear mind. I hoped for their sakes that they did, so they could make a different more productive existence for themselves. I had to think of them as clay. It would be depressing to think otherwise.