It had been a long day of guiding on the upper Conejos River in July. My clients were the types who said they’d fish till dark and meant it. The sun was low when we got back to my car, and it had been a good day.
I am notorious for losing track of things, and at that time thought it prudent to stash my keys instead of taking them with me. But when we got back this day, the keys were nowhere to be seen. I always left them on top of the rear right axle. Before long all three of us were rolling around in dust and dried cow dung underneath the car, to no avail.
My clients’ shoes, wallets and cell phones were in the car. I had trips for the next straight month, and I couldn’t imagine a locksmith coming forty miles up this particular dirt road for anything short of a small fortune. Darkness was coming on fast, and we abandoned hope, hitching a ride to their rental cabin in the back of a rancher’s pickup.
Next morning, I borrowed what gear I could and convinced my clients to provide the transportation and fish water near my car. While they struggled into waders and strung rods, I looked around again for my keys. What could have happened to them? Human interference seemed unlikely, and nothing appeared to be missing. My clients were ready to go. I gave up looking and we crossed the fence and started walking towards the river. About two hundred feet from the car, at the very entrance to a marmot burrow, I spied a flash that turned out to be them.
Closer inspection revealed tooth marks but no structural damage; a marmot had stolen my car keys. Thinking back, this is perhaps not as strange as it sounds, at least for me. Rodents and I have a long history, and there is no love lost.
When I was a little girl I had a cat that liked to bring me live mice for inspection while I was in bed asleep. He would wake me up and let them go on the bedspread, where a mad chase would ensue, serenaded by my shrieks.
Later, when I took up gardening, Chipmunks plagued me. I spent hours building elaborate perimeter fencing with chicken wire, which kept out the rabbits but was nothing to the ‘munks. They loved seedlings best, and only plants started inside months ahead had any shot at surviving. For a little while I vented my rage with a .22. I became a crack shot and my father dubbed me Elmera Fudd.
Eventually I got in touch with my female side and lost my taste for killing. A family friend made us a trap out of scrap wood and we used it to relocate the Chippers to the places we had fishing trips. Our most favored destination for witness relocation was the Valle Vidal, a high mountain Eden for animals of all sorts. The chipmunks there are huge, and I know now to be very careful of them when I guide there.
Last year I left a car window open and a whole crew of them got inside and not only compromised lunch and crapped everywhere, but chewed through a whole mess of wires that work the windows and door locks. Karma can be a drag.