Lassen County, California, is bigger than Rhode Island, but what isn’t? And it has less people than the average funeral in New Orleans. It is famous for its volcano and Western tradition. Joy and her husband run cows, guide hunters and rent cabins at their ranch near Butte Creek.

It was nighttime, two days before hunting season, and two poachers were butchering a deer hangin’ in a tree down by the road.

A couple of carefree young new-agers were enjoying the fruits of the “medicinal” law whilst driving down the back roads of Lassen County and singing.

This particular back road was classified as “open range,” a term familiar to chicken connoisseurs and sagebrush citizens, but not to our young bon-vivants.

Out of the dark of night wandered a large black cow. Suddenly, she was jarred from her tranquility by a glancing blow from a Nissan Toy compact car carrying our happily lit-up couple.


Joy was startled from her sleep by the terrible crash! She pulled her Carhartts on over her nightgown, grabbed the shotgun and ran to the porch.

Up the driveway she could see crazy headlights on the highway, then the two poachers screaming and running at full speed, beer cans and deer entrails in their wake, followed by a large, bellowing black cow!

Meanwhile, Joy’s cabin guest, Terri, had made her last trip to the outhouse for a daydream and a smoke.

The outhouse was provided as part of the authentic backcountry experience, as was firewood to chop, horses to feed and cowboy poetry.

Joy took in the scene: the poachers now huddled behind her on the porch, the cow running in fear of the unknown, two carcasses hanging in the trees and two new-agers straggling up her driveway with their hats askew talking to each other: “Hey, dude, I tol’ you I shoulda drove. You completely missed the turn.”

“… Yeah, but I hit the buffalo, didn’t I? How many people have done that?”

“It wasn’t a buffalo, dude, it was like, ya know, a musk ox. I’ve seen pictures …”

Then Joy spotted the outhouse. The latch was unhooked. She could see a whiff of smoke coming through the quarter moon and smelled cigarettes. She heard humming, “…four strong winds that grow lonely, seven seas that run high …”

As they watched, the cow swerved at the splitting log and thundered over the outhouse, which sat on two runners, completely upending it! It was knocked 10 feet away and landed upside down.

Everyone, including the poachers and the new-agers, ran to Terri’s rescue. The door was smashed closed, the vent was broken off and Terri, hat and all, was peering up through the one-holer! She looked like a portrait in a picture frame.

It was a scene only Charley Russell could have painted!

In the end, the Nissan was totaled. At the time, the new-agers were confirmed vegetarians, but Joy learned later they had taken up eating beef occasionally, in revenge, they had said. PD