The Last Butterfly of Summer

Against the worn black leather jacket that he insists has “street cred,” his grandfather’s rifle is a branch of rich brown wood matching the forest around him.  His friend let him out of the old Ford at Hayden’s Ruff this morning and he planned to meet up with his dad and little brother this afternoon but he’s missed the pickup point somehow.  He hasn’t seen a buck all day but that doesn’t bother him.  He likes the quiet.  The sun warms his shoulders as he winds in and out of the trees.

The path has led him so far into the woods that he knows that if he wants to make camp before dark he’d better hike the crick straight back to the road but he can’t make himself hurry.

The trees are thick along the bank.  Firs with trunks he can’t reach half way round collapsed across the waterway making walking the banks nearly impenetrable but he winds in and out easily enough.  As he climbs a log, what is probably the last butterfly of Summer balances on a fern and he stops to watch the pulse of its wings.

The short snap of pistol shots to the East catches him off guard as he prepares to leap from one log to the next.  For the first time that day, he stumbles, barely catching himself from falling into the chill water of an autumn stream.  He hesitates.

Pistols are for people.

His heart still thumping from his almost fall, he moves down the stream–branches catching at his rifle and scratching at his face.  “Psssh!” He breathes out with a snort as he smells skunk.

And then, he’s surrounded.

All around, as far as he can see, maybe a thousand marijuana plants in pots stretch buds towards the sun.


This is the slightly (very slightly) fictionalized story of my 14 year old son’s hunting trip not far from Ruth Lake 2 years ago.  He made it back to camp but sometimes the wild isn’t wild enough.


The photo was taken in a butterfly house last summer.



  • Sounds plenty wild (and scary) to me!

  • Now Kym… I had a similar experience back in the mid 70s out on the North Fork of the Eel. I had a fishing rod instead of a rifle. We walked in from Salt Creek and as I set off up the river in search of trout, I found the first river bar covered with pot plants. I kept on and found the same thing at the next bar and the next. Suddenly, I had the panicky thought that the grower might be armed and nearby and I found my companions and urged them to leave. We did and saw no one. Spooky. There were hundreds and hundreds of plants. My Kettenpom freinds later told me that the Forest Service had pulled the grow.

  • shit! that’s a pretty freaky thing for a 14 year old to go through.

    (did he at least pocket a couple of buds?)


  • This was very scary for him and me too. I wanted to not let him go hunting by himself again but his dad convinced me to relax and trust him. He’s a smart guy. Too smart to risk being shot as a thief by pocketing a few buds;> This is Humboldt if he wants to smoke he just has to ask a friend, I’m sure. That is the way it was when I was a kid. Even more likely to be that way now, I bet.

  • I wonder what type of butterfly it is that you have captured so nicely?

    Wandering into pot grows stories always interest me. I’ve had a number of close calls back in the late 70s, and later, in the late 80s. One time I had a shotgun pointed at me. Needless to say I dee-deeded out of there!

  • Sad. I spend a lot of time hiking on local public land and I’m forever finding old waterlines, empty soil bags, etc. out in the woods. The idea of some pistol packer watching me from the hillside as I inadvertently stumble through his garden gives me the creeps.

    You sure fooled me with the title though, as I was expecting a total feel good piece =)

  • Mendocino isn’t much different anymore. Every now and then the papers publish something about hikers or mushroom hunters stumbling upon gardens, and in extreme cases, having a few warning shots fired in their general direction. I’ve been fortunate in that as much as I trek amongst the wild, I have never found myself in a sea of weed.

  • I’ve never had the experience myself as I tend to hike on my own land and established trails. The places I have hiked though off trail do tend to be sadly full of marijuana trash.

    Raincrow, I actually should have given you the hattip because your post got me to remembering the story. You should connect your url to your signature when you comment so that people can click your name and go right to your blog. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to more of your stories. The last one cracked me up.

  • I’ve only run into three grows in the wild. One that was just recently abanboned, or maybe raided, by cops or others. It makes the hair on your neck stand up, like someone has a bead drawn on you from some hidden place, and you don’t know where to look or duck. You just move away as fast as you can, and try to pretend that you didn’t see anything.

    Great Writing!

    Oh… Nice Photo. And, I sure hope you don’t hold grudges!

  • I’m usually pretty cautious and don’t wander off established trails. I’ll bet The Redneck has some stories though.

  • Scary story. And I’m supposed to be afraid because I live in a supposedly “bad” part of town. BTW, that’s a Blue Morpho butterfly. When it’s wings are unfolded, it looks like this. It’s one of my favorites that they have at the Tropical Butterfly Pavilion at Pacific Science Center.

  • Did you take the photo? They are hard suckers to get with their wings open but beautiful!

  • Good writing. That could fill a chapter. Any desire? mark

  • oh, that story made me nervous! What a beautiful butterfly. It looks like it has huge purple eyes on its wings.

  • I didn’t take the picture, Kym, I can’t get them to open their wings, either. The picture is from here. Although I do have a preserved one in a glass case. Growing butterflys for sale to tropical butterfly houses and for displays like mine help some poor people in poor countries to survive. They wait to the end of their natural life cycles to mount and frame them.

  • Yeah….I forgot about that, Kym. My blog is brand new, so I’m still tinkering with parts of it =)

  • Kym,
    I love the butterfly, such pretty wings. Nicely told tale! I could see it in my mind.

  • That’s a scary tale, Kym. I think I’d want ot keep a close eye on my son, but your hubby is probably right. Beautiful shot of the butterfly.

  • I don’t have your email address Kym so I’m taking this opportunity to say Happy New Years to you and yours!

    May the New Year bring peace and posterity.

  • So evocative of my own Ruth Lake experiences… eek. This story sounds like you’ve taken some inspiration from sohumborn’s genre of writing, Kym. Ironically, Heraldo was recently accussed of waxing “redheaded blackbelt” for posting an interesting photo instead of his usual fare. I think it would be fun for all you bloggers to mix it up for the new year and take on each other’s typical subject matter for a day… Ernie, nursemyra?

  • Not in a million years could I take Kyms place. I envy everything that she does. Except the slanted picture thing, and I still think that was some kind of a test, to see what we would say. But, why do I keep getting that feeling that I failed the test any way?

  • Ernie, F-
    Kato, A+ (Ernie with NurseMyra’s subject matter….You have a strange mind;> )
    Dave, Happy New Year to you, too.
    Toni, He is right but I find it still scary to let Quinn go.

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