The good news is my wife's two black eyes are fading away like last week's news.

The good news is my wife's two black eyes are fading away like last week's news.

The only reminders of the ugly incident are black smudges under each pretty brown eye. Even the nasty cut across the bridge of her cute little nose is largely healed.

The bad news? There are folks out there wondering just how Maureen came to look like a beginner boxer pummeled by a veteran pugilist. Inquiring minds have been glaring at me with stares that question my parentage.

It all began innocently enough on a beautiful day two weeks ago high in the Cascade Mountains.

Horse friend Dave needed riders to help him exercise three steeds on a cross-country trek into public lands in the Cascades.

In my mind I hopped into the saddle and galloped off on my high-spirited mount that morning.

But a horsefly on my friendly old plug's posterior would have noticed that Dave and Maureen had to help me into the saddle.

My horse plodded peacefully along, stopping periodically to snack or snooze.

While I love to ride horses, an old injury makes it difficult to mount or dismount. True, sometimes the latter is decided by the horse.

The morning air was crisp and clear under a brilliant blue sky. Mother Nature had painted broad strokes of pastel yellows among broadleaf maples and oaks up the draws.

I was thinking that if I were a smoker I would have squinted at the horizon, lit up a non-filter cigarette and breathed deeply of the high country air.

Then I remembered I would also have coughed my lungs out.

That's when I heard a disembodied voice, prompting immediate concern about having fallen off a horse one too many times. Fortunately, my riding companions also heard it, judging from their equally puzzled looks.

"Are you hunting or just out riding?" the voice asked.

We had just pulled up to a metal gate near a stream. Dave had dismounted to open it.

After looking everywhere, including heavenward, I realized the voice was coming from an old outhouse just beyond the gate. The sagging one-seater had an open front that, fortunately, was turned away from us.

"We're just up here riding," I responded.

"I'm up here fishing," the male voice replied, then added with a pregnant pause, "but not right at the moment."

We politely skirted the privy, giving the disembodied voice its privacy.

I bring that up because the weird incident served fair warning the day may throw us an curveball. But I pulled down my non-existent Stetson and rode on.

Several miles later we came upon another gate, this one composed of barbed wire with a wooden post at the end. To open or close it, you have to push against the top of the post so that a wire loop at the top can be released or hooked. Thanks to the taut barbed wire, the post becomes a spring-loaded weapon.

As before, Dave dismounted and opened the gate. I and Maureen passed through on our mounts.

Dave was straining to close the gate when his horse began to wander off. He went after his horse.

Meanwhile, Maureen, always one to lend a hand, dismounted and walked over to close the gate. I turned my horse around to see if Dave needed any help in rounding up his mount.

That's when I heard a yelp from my wife.

"The post just hit my nose," she said.

When she turned around her glasses were bloody. Blood gushed from a cut on the bridge of her nose and poured out of her left nostril onto her shirt.

But she coolly grabbed some tissues to staunch the flow. Dave pulled out his first aid kit. Unable to dismount my horse, I sat there dumbstruck, offering feeble bits of useless advice.

After resting for half an hour, Maureen was back in the saddle insisting we ride the rest of the way to an overlook where we had originally planned to stop for lunch. Hey, they don't make rawhide that tough.

"What a great day — I wouldn't have missed this for anything," she said before we headed back after lunch.

But the next morning she awoke with a mighty sore nose, two big shiners and a still dumbstruck husband.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.