Tag Archives: hunting

Something’s Out There

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

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“Would you stop it,” I said loudly to the two black Labradors, Roxie and Pixie.  They had been restless all evening and their activity was getting on my nerves.  I would order them to lie down and both of them would look at me questioningly as if I was making a mistake. They would lie down for a short while, and then, one at a time would go to the front door, bump the door knob, and stare at me.  I was too busy to pay much attention to them as I typed a poem on the computer.

Their behavior grew worse.  Now they were bumping the knob and softly growling.  “They’re being very strange,” I thought, but I continued to ignore them.  Finally they plopped next to me and stared at the door. 

Usually they were very well behaved and obedient.  A month ago I had taken them with me to a family reunion.  They played with the young children, stayed out of trouble, caught two mice in my cabin, and performed flawlessly as they went through their repertoire of tricks at the talent show. They not only did the basic commands but remembered all of their more advanced tricks. They were stars and were even invited back.

Their good behavior and obedience was expected at all times and sometimes that obedience brought unexpected results.  For example, last week they were wearing harnesses and lying in the bed of my truck.  They were quiet and I had forgotten they were there.  In the meantime my  beagle, Scooter, had wandered into the road.  Scooter had very little training and had a tendency to do what she wanted.  I was determined to change Scooter’s free wheeling behavior to obedience.  “Scooter!” I commanded sternly.  “Come.”  She continued down the road, her nose to the ground, oblivious to my command.  “Scooter,” I shouted, “Come!”  Scooter paid no attention but the two labs leaped to action. Both jumped over the tailgate when they heard my command. Now both were dangling over the tailgate suspended in mid-air, hanging by their harnesses but unhurt, looking foolish. I felt even more foolish because I had given a command in their presence and they were just trying to please.

Now as I watched them pacing the floor, wanting to be obedient but they were distracted by something outside.  “Okay,” I said. “Let’s go and see what’s there.”  Roxie race in front of me and blocked my path to the door.  “You’re so funny, Roxie,” I said.  “Now get out of the way.  I want to go outside.” 

Both of them brushed past me and began sniffing the air, the ground, and then one of the nearby trees.  Pixie began throwing herself high against the tree.  Then Roxie began leaping into the air, making strange high pitched yelps.  I could see nothing in the trees and the dogs were still excitedly leaping and trying to climb the tree nearest me.  Finally I turned back to the house. “Come on, girls. There’s nothing out here.  You’re making a big fuss over nothing.”  Once we were inside again they quieted right down.

Two days later I was talking to one of my friends about how deer hunting had lost its excitement.  “Not for me,” he interrupted.  “Wait a minute.  I’ve got a picture I want to show you.  I took it two days ago, not far from here.”  He went to his truck and returned in a few minutes.  “I was alone when I shot a buck.  I wanted to take my picture with it just to show my friends.  I set up my camera on a tripod, set the timer, and posed.  I didn’t realize what a good picture it was until I brought the camera to a photo shop to have copies made. Take a good look at the picture and tell me what you think.” 

This was ridiculous.  I’d seen enough hunters with their deer next to them.  But, to humor my friend, I took the photograph and looked it over.  The camera’s flash clearly showed him proudly posing next to his deer.  I started to put the photo down but noticed another figure close by.  A mountain lion was within ten feet of him, clearly advancing.  Startled, I looked up questioningly.

 “Yes,” he said.  “The mountain lion was probably after the deer that I was holding, but I don’t know for sure.  I think the flash scared it away.  I didn’t know the mountain lion was there until I got the pictures. I reported the incident to the game warden but he was skeptical.  Have you noticed anything strange around here?”

“No, not at all,” I said.

A few days later I glanced at a small article in the paper with a picture of a mountain lion on a branch.  The article stated that hunters spotted the mountain lion while hunting in southern Platte County.  Experts verified the mountain lion’s presence by collecting hair and studying scratch marks. 

I was curious now about the behavior of the dogs.  I went outside and looked up.  Just above the first large branch were several scratches.  I shivered and went inside.  “When will I ever learn to listen to those dogs?” I asked myself.  “I’m just not as smart as I think sometimes.”

Sons of Thunder

The Sons of Thunder

 

There were early warning signs that violence was on the way.  The two boys were untamed, unfettered, and usually unsupervised.  Their mother had disappeared mysteriously, leaving her husband alone with three children. The father refused any help from the community, insisting that the family would work out their own problems.  Alicia, the beautiful eldest child, reportedly kept the house running smoothly.  She and the boys, James and John, were always clean, fed, and well dressed. Their father, known to drink a bit but not to excess, paid the bills and saved money. Although the father was gone frequently and sometimes for long periods of time there wasn’t anything specifically anyone could point a finger at, yet we all knew there was danger lurking behind the façade.

Alicia never went on dates, although at sixteen she caught the eye of every eligible male in the surrounding areas.  Frankly, they were afraid to ask her out.  Her dad made it a point to seek out prospective suitors and let them know their lives were in danger around his house or around his daughter.  Alicia meekly followed orders, kept the house immaculate, and maintained her straight A average in high school.

John, the middle child, had an explosive temper that occurred with increasing frequency. Often I would confront him in school about some infraction and his face would become contorted with rage.  His voice would shake and obscenities would pour out. Sometimes I asked him to walk around the schoolyard in an effort to cool his anger.  I would watch him pick up a stick, point it at me, and pretend to shoot.  Since I knew he hunted the fields around the school and around my house it was reason for concern.  I knew he would seethe for hours until his anger finally abated.  John was also very intelligent.  He did well in his school subjects and also stayed informed about world politics. He had great plans for his future but I worried about his bouts of anger and how that anger controlled him at times.

John and James were unwelcome in neighboring homes because of their destructive hunting forays and their penchant for breaking things just for fun.  One day they followed their dog down the road and into the driveway of a neighbor’s house.  The dog chased chickens while the boys whooped their support.  Finally the neighbor stepped out of his house.  “You boys go home. I don’t want anything killing my chickens.”  The boys didn’t listen.  Instead they entered the barn and began breaking windows while the dog continued his relentless pursuit of squawking chickens.  The neighbor stepped out of his house onto his front porch, holding a shot-gun.  “Please take your dog home.  He doesn’t belong here. You go home, too!”  “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” 

The boys left, only to return a short time later with their dad.  He had two six shooters strapped to his sides, gunfighter style.  He confronted the neighbor.  “If you want to have a shoot-out, then let’s get to it.”  The neighbor backed down, uneasy about an altercation with a crazy man.  And so it went, from that moment the community shied away from any arguments with the dad.

The family business was another strange thing that was rarely discussed.  The dad made caskets.  The boys often bragged about their personal coffins, made from the finest materials and ready to be used. “You should see the polished wood and the blue silk.”  “When I die, dad will make mine even better,” the other replied.

James was known for his antics, his infectious smile, and his sudden angelic appearance.  He could be deeply in trouble and yet somehow escape unscathed.  Once, as a fifth grader, he had been caught peeping over a stall in the girl’s bathroom.  He received no punishment because he was so sorry it had ever happened.

One day in spring, after the fire at Christmas had burned the school totally, and we were in school at the church, a strange thing happened.  On this rare day James was sitting quietly in class trying to decipher the big words.  The teacher,  however, could not focus on the lesson.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but there’s something that really stinks around here.”  She walked from chair to chair but to no avail.  She eventually walked to the closet.  “I think something died in there,” she announced to the class. She flung open the door and peered in, holding her nose.  The children’s coats were hung on pegs, waiting to be picked up.  The teacher went from coat to coat, sniffing and coughing.  She stopped at James’s coat.  “This coat stinks,” she said.  “What is the problem?”  James laughed.  “I slept with my dog in the bed last night,” he proclaimed.  “A skunk had sprayed it.  My dog was still scared so I hugged it all night.”

James was the center of the universe at times.  He could not read any words with more than four letters.  The principal proudly proclaimed he taught James to read.  Later, when James was discovered memorizing the lessons ahead, the principal was deflated and gave up.  He turned the task over to a young teacher who decided James was a worthy project.  For several weeks she toiled and James struggled onward. The reading project seemed a success until one day after school the woman turned her back on James.  He quickly closed the distance between them, reached around and cupped her breasts.  She was horrified and fled to the principal.  “What are you going to do about it?” she demanded angrily.  “You shouldn’t have been alone with him,” the principal snapped.  The conversation was over.  James and the reading lessons were over, but James continued on, oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong. 

In the eighth grade and in high school James proved to be outstanding in sports.  Grades were overlooked as long as James tried.  There were occasions when those in the stands were pleasantly surprised by his adroit moves and quickness.  There were also occasions when those same people were shocked by his ability to get confused.  When he got turned around he might run the wrong way in football or make the winning basket for the wrong team in basketball.  Yes, James was something of an enigma.

We didn’t hear much about Alicia after she graduated from high school.  The boys said she went to college but we didn’t know where.  And John?  He graduated from high school and drifted northward, working one job after another.  Later we heard he had been arrested in Seattle for armed robbery and would be locked away for awhile.  And James?  I had forgotten about James until one night at eleven o’clock I was awakened by the persistent ring of my phone.  I picked it up and was greeted by a familiar voice.  “Mr. Roberson, remember me?  This is James and I just called to thank you for all you did for me.  You didn’t give up and eventually you got me to reading.  I’m now a lumberjack in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  I volunteer at a local elementary school when I can.   I just wanted to thank you but I don’t want to keep you up.  Good-bye!”  And with that James was gone, but definitely not forgotten.  He was one of the more difficult students who had learning disabilities and social problems and somehow had managed to rise out of the murky depths. He had taken the next step and was reaching out to others and giving them a chance to succeed.  His persistence also woke me up.

 Sometimes I forgot that school was more than teaching subject matter.  It was about touching human lives.  I slept easier that night and for many nights to follow because I had made a difference in his life. James didn’t give me a chance to tell him, but he also had made a difference in how I perceived things.  I must have done something right, and to this day I still believe I can touch that invisible spirit, and bring it to a higher level.  Thanks, James, wherever you are, for giving me feedback.

 

By Dan Roberson  2/26/09