August 17

In my tent, only about 8 miles from where I started this morning. I followed a game trail from the road into very high grass and found a spot where deer had bedded down. Deer pick pretty flat spots to bed on. So I pitched my tent there… perfect! Walking into Herrington, Kansas this morning I was balancing my budget in my head figuring out what things I could purchase of what I needed, with the small amount of money I had when a stunningly beautiful young Mexican lady walked up to me and said in a very thick accent, “Beautiful! Beautiful!” She handed me $30.00 and said again, “Beautiful!” I thanked her and tried to ask information about the location of stores I needed to visit in Herrington and she didn’t know enough English to understand me. As the gorgeous young woman was walking toward her vehicle, she said one more time, “Beautiful.” I mean, the young lady could have easily been a model or movie star. Her beauty began at her heart.

The coyotes are singing for me again tonight and this reminds me of my coyote encounter on the Appalachian Trail in 2000 during my return to my hike after my sons death:

“As I crossed the bridge over the Connecticut River to enter New Hampshire and the town of Hanover, I looked down and saw the Dartmouth rowing team practicing. I stood there and watched them for a long time. Those fine young men, God keep them alive; do not let their parents suffer what I’ve had to suffer. The terrain was changing, getting a little more rugged than Vermont. It was still quite beautiful though. My Appalachian Trail Data Book described a new hexagon shaped shelter that had only been built the year before. They had named it Hexacuba, maybe because it was only a mile and a half from Mount Cube.

I reached it early one evening and it was beautiful. It was made completely of pine logs and they still looked and smelled fresh. I didn’t usually like staying in the shelters but this one was different, I decided to spend the night. And I was completely alone, how wonderful! After I had cooked my meal and laid out my bed I sat up against the back wall and, wow, I could not believe the view. Nothing but mountains of green lay before me and there was not a sound, the quiet too was beautiful. I thought of how beautiful my son was and I started crying. And then I started screaming, screaming out the pain in my heart. I felt so detached from everyone and everything; I continued to scream louder and louder. Somewhere during my screaming, I realized I was not crying alone. There were others crying with me. There was a chorus of sorrowful voices blending with my own. I was not alone, I had understanding companions. Coyotes were howling along with my screaming, or so it seemed. When I cried out louder, they seemed to howl louder. I stopped so as to listen to their forlorn call. As they ceased their cries, I could hear the yelps of their young. It was a spiritual experience for me, it was soothing, and I felt comforted and not alone. As I heard the presence of their young, I felt the presence of mine, both of them. I soon fell asleep.

I had taken my mind off my own heartache because the coyotes had gotten my attention with their cries. I kept thinking about the sweet yelping sounds of their young. Within days I was thinking about the young of others, that I had to do something to prevent the young of others from doing what my little boy did. So that parents would not have go through the horror I faced. This would become a life changing experience for me.”