November 1st, 2011


All creatures great and small

It wasn't until I saw giraffes in the wild that I realized that there are several different "races" of giraffe. Brown and white and tan, with black and brown and khaki spots in different patterns. Such an amazing variety, all inhabiting the same area.

White giraffe calf, Mikumi NP, Tanzania White giraffe calf, Mikumi NP, Tanzania

wayside cross

All Saints Day in the woods

I went over to Wilderstead yesterday afternoon and stayed the night. It was so quiet that my imagination was making up sounds, as if I were suffering from sensory deprivation. The stars were beautiful, the air was crisp. I fired up my wood stove and was cozy all evening. I took a couple of pictures this morning (see below). The first is of the field across the creek that my neighbor has sown in winter browse. His hunting blind is just above the creek on the edge of this little field. The other picture is of a redbud tree just above my treasure chest. Each species of tree reveals a different color when the chorophyll drains out of them in fall: sassafras turn yellow-orange, sumacs brilliant red, oaks a dusty brown that hangs on until spring. It was all so pretty in the bright, frosty morning.

Deerfield Deerfield The meadow across the creek where the deer come to browse
Dogwood Redbud Flame red in the early morning light

I was a little nervous approaching my cabin for the first time since discovering the break-in. I went loaded for bear, literally: I was carrying a can of bear spray in lieu of a gun (which I don't own). Bear spray is concentrated pepper spray in an industrial-size can. Your best defense against a charging grizzly is to let loose with the contents right in its face, hoping that this will be painful and confusing enough to the bear for it to break off its attack. There's always a chance, of course, that the grizzly will be too p*ssed off to care how much it's hurt until it's done tearing you apart, but that's the chance you take.

A human hit full in the face with bear spray is going to go down in a hurry. The pain will be horrific. He'll need to be taken to a hospital ASAP. There's a good chance his eyesight will be damaged, perhaps permanently, and some risk that the swelling of the throat membranes could impair his breathing, perhaps fatally. Please note that I wasn't carrying this for bravado; I would hate to inflict that kind of pain and damage on anybody. The strategy if you surprise somebody where they don't belong is to give them a chance to run away. You can always give details to the cops after the perps have fled the scene. But if they choose not to flee, then, well, they're in the same category as a dangerous bear, and your best chance to get away is to know what to do to protect yourself.

I let myself in the gate and locked it behind me and then found at ATV parked in the middle of my road at the entrance to my cabin area. I got out, bear spray in one hand and camera in the other. I took a picture of the vehicle and was intending to look around to try and determine where the rider was when my neighbor came up out of the creek area dressed in his hunting clothes. He had parked where the deer wouldn't see him to do some hunting. We stood and talked over our situation and watched a little year-old doe nibbling in his deerfield (see above).

This morning, I pounded some more stakes in the front gate area so that ATVs can no longer enter without opening the gate itself. I did some other chores and then headed for home, considerably more at peace with myself and my backwoods security than before. Still more to be done, but at least I'm enjoying the holler again. And, as someone once said, "living well is the best revenge."