February 26, 2010
The place I hike each morning with my two goldens is a large block of woods. The part I visit is about 140 acres, and it is a ‘nature reserve’, given to our town by a generous benefactor. It is part of a much larger uninterrupted woodland, however. A couple of years ago I decided to go ‘bushwhacking’ and managed to get turned around. Like Daniel Boone was supposed to have said, “I ain’t never been lost, but I been confused for a week or two.” I finally put the sun on my left shoulder and kept it there until I came to a trail and found my way home. Of course, I could have just asked the dogs to go home at any time and they would have known exactly what direction to move. True. They do not get lost. Did you hear about the German Shepherd that found its way home from Arizona…..to OREGON?
So, I went up there a few days ago, to see if I could call in some coyotes and see these fabled ‘little wolves’, finally. I took a trail that led down to the edge of a frozen and snow-covered bog, set myself next to a cabin sized boulder and was about to start my caterwauling that would hopefully generate some predatory interest. Suddenly, I heard voices, very faint, but as I listened they grew louder…and louder. Finally, I could hear the actual words of semi-shouted conversations, and then I saw a single-file parade of people on X-country skis moving through the forest on the far side of the bog. As they passed by they seemed oblivious to their surroundings, all of them yakking away at the top of their lungs. It was like watching a gaggle of geese waddling across a farmyard, but decked-out in L. L. Bean’s finest and honking away.
Things quieted down as the skiers faded into the distance, and just as I was about to start calling, I heard more voices. They were behind me, and not quite so raucous. I realized that some folks were headed down the trail I had used, so I moved around the big boulder and hunkered down, not wanting to have some innocents scared out of their wits by the sudden appearance of some old codger all dressed in camouflage. As they came down the trail I saw that a rather large, boxer-mastiff looking pooch was leading the way. And, I knew that if he was startled by my presence that it would be a big scene….lots of barking, shouting, “Down, Bubba!”, and he might even feel compelled to protect his humans, by putting the clamps on me. So, I remained motionless and this little party passed by oblivious to my presence. I believe they were discussing the stock-market as they hiked.
So, I up and found another spot, much more remote…I thought. I started calling and suddenly heard, “Bap! Bap!, Bap!”, looked up and saw a male hairy woodpecker hammering away on a dead white birch. He was really going to town and the chips and flakes of bark were raining down right in front of me. He had probably a thousand acres in which to find a tree and he chose the one I was standing under. At this point, I smiled to myself, thinking, “Ah, Mother Nature and her wiggy sense of humor.” And, just at that moment I heard another disturbance, accompanied by an odd clattering sound. Then I heard a distinct, “Ompf! Sh*t!” and saw a fellow come into view. He was wearing a nice blue coat (yes, from Beans) and a sports-car type ‘touring cap’, as he skied—or attempted to—along what was essentially a solid ice path. The ‘Ompf!’ I had heard was the sound he vented when he hit a tree.
He saw me and smiled, “Hope I didn’t interrupt your walk.” I said that it was already way too late for that, and marveled at his willingness to ski on the ice. He said that aside from hitting the occasional tree, it wasn’t too bad. I smiled and headed back towards the car. There would be no coyotes in my day….probably because they were too busy laughing their asses off, watching the two-legged comedians throwing themselves around the woods.