The Deer Hunter

sherlockedThe first time I met the man, it cleared up one mystery.  The second time, it initiated another mystery that’s never been solved.

I love the woods behind my house.  From October to late April I’m out there every chance I get.  It’s my happy place.  After spending so much time back there I feel kind of possessive.magic forestMostly, I’m the lone human of the forest.  So one day when I saw an ATV half hidden out there, it made me very curious.  I was sure I was alone.  Had it been stolen?  Where was the owner?  Was he ok?

A few days later, I saw a man riding on the ATV.  I smiled and waved and figured when we passed each other we nod and continue in our separate directions.atvBut as he approached me, he stopped.  And he asked me for a word.

He had bowhunting equipment.  He said hello, and then he broke my heart.

“I’m sorry.  This is private property, and there’s no trespassing.”

I was poleaxed.  “But I just walk around.  I don’t damage anything.  You own this land?”white hat“My friend’s father does.  I look after it, and he lets me hunt back here. When you’re here you disturb the deer with your white hat.”  The way he said hat, it was like I was wearing rabid badgers on my head. For some reason, he really hated my simple white baseball cap.

“I’ve never seen any signs.”“Every time we put ‘em up, someone pulls ‘em down.”

“Could I visit when you’re not here hunting?”

The answer was no, and it was final.

On the way home, I kept thinking about his words.  There had to be some way I could continue to go into my woods.  I decided I’d find the owner and ask him myself.After a couple hours of research, I discovered the man’s name and eventually found a phone number.  I gave him a call.  I explained who I was, where I lived, and asked if there was any way, under any conditions, I could keep going.

What he told me shocked the heck out of me.no huntingHe didn’t have a son and there was no friend looking after the woods.  Not only was I very welcome to visit his forest, he absolutely did not want somebody back there hunting.

Well.

So, I went back a couple of days later around the same time I’d seen him, and in the same area.  Honestly, I was kind of laying in wait for him.  I felt a stomach-churning mix of nervousness and righteous indignation.Finally, he rode up on his ATV.   He looked like he was going to scold me for coming back, but I didn’t give him the chance.  I told him about my conversation with the owner.

He looked angry, and then he said something I’ll never forget.

“It’s your world, baby, we’re all just living in it.”atv byeThen he rode off and I never saw him again.

Thus, the second mystery.  Why did he lie?  If he had just asked me not to come back there when he was trying to hunt, if he had been willing to share the land, I would never have talked to the owner, and discovered his deceit.

I still can’t figure that out.  I guess he must have thought I’d give up and stay away.give upBut there are two things about me he didn’t know.

He didn’t know how very much I love my woods would hate to stop visiting them.

And, he didn’t know how very dangerous an educated, motivated woman with an internet connection and time on her hands could be.she was warnedThanks for your time.

The Forest, In Early Evening

crowley snow

Look at my big, brave boy.

Ever since our dog, Crowley screwed his courage to the sticking place and crossed a creek the very first time, he’s become a true-blue creek-crossing convert.  He used to be nervous to walk through a ditch after a rain.Snow WalkerZ Walkers Winter Day Walking Walk Jungle Man Dog Walker HD Wallpapers 1080pNow we walk for hours and hours crossing and re-crossing the creek at various points and never cover the same ground twice.  In the years I’ve been going back there I’ve probably walked close to 300 miles, and even now I still stumble upon places that I’ve never been.Last January Crowley and I were having one of those extended constitutionals.  The afternoon was slowly transitioning to evening, and we were just about to cross the creek once more.

As I started down the bank, I walked past a bush, and one of its twigs brushed my face.  I reached up to push some hair back that had fallen into my eye.  It was then I noticed my glasses weren’t on my face.I began to panic but thought that surely if my glasses had fallen off, I would have noticed.  Without my specs, I’m blind as a bat wearing shades in a dimly lit room.  I must have come out without them.  I’m not blind and an amnesiac as well.

Where are my glasses, and how did I get on a bus?

Right?

Then I remembered scrolling through the music on my MP3 player in the front yard.  So, I glanced down at the screen.  If I could read it then I told myself I had left my glasses at home.  If I couldn’t, then I was in deep trouble…

I was in deep trouble.fog, foggy, forest, forest path, nature, scary wallpaper and backgroundIt would be dark within twenty minutes or so; I needed to find them quick.  As dim as chances of finding them were, I could only retrace my steps and hope for the best.  I urged my canine companion to, “Find Mommy’s glasses, boy!”

We were in an area where I didn’t go very often when Crowley saw, heard, or imagined something, and took off at the same time my hold on the 25-foot expandable leash was less than secure.  It flew from my grasp, and the plastic handle bumped along behind my galloping pup.  He was quickly out of sight.So, there I was, in the middle of the rapidly darkening forest, bereft of both dog and sight.  It was shaping up to be a banner day.  I did not want to return home and reveal the depressing situation to Petey.  I briefly, but seriously considered making my home out there among the trees, or possibly taking up work as a troll, and living under a nearby bridge.

But just then I heard the jingle of the tag on Crowley’s collar.  I rounded a shrub and saw him ahead, sitting and calmly watching me.  The leash had gotten caught up, and it and his forward progress had been halted.crowley snowfaceThe handle had gotten caught on a sapling, but just.  One gentle tug from the dog and it and he would have been free.

I reached down to grab it before he took off again, and unbelievably, not three feet away, sitting there as if I had set them down myself, were MY GLASSES.

I was shocked and incredulous.  By all rights I should never have found them in what is approximately 60 square acres of heavy woods, but there they were.This just proves, once again, that my woods are magic, and only good things can happen back there.

But just in case my usual, less than awesome luck shows up and the magic departs, I’m keeping that troll under the bridge thing in my back pocket.Thanks for your time.

Into the Woods

What I truly regret is that I lived here almost 25 years before I explored it.

In the fall of 2013, the Matthews Family Band was shaken to our core.  Petey was desperately ill.  From mid-October to the end of March 2014, he was in the hospital much more than he was home.

Every day I got up and headed to the hospital, staying until evening.  At the beginning of Petey’s illness, The Kid was all the way across the country in San Francisco, doing an internship.  So, I left an empty house each morning and returned to an empty house each night.

But not totally empty.riker layingOur dog, Riker, was my only, my constant companion.  Before I left the house, I took him out.  After patiently waiting for me all day, we’d go for a walk as soon as I came in at night.

After being cooped up, Riker was sorely in need of exercise, and a change of scenery.  After being cooped up, I also needed exercise, and to turn off my brain which teamed with lab tests, prognoses, and bills.Drinking was an option, but I save my calories for desserts and macaroni & cheese.  Riker might have turned to drink, but 200-pound dogs can be really ugly drunks.

One night, about a week after Petey’s initial hospitalization, our pup and I took a new route on our walk.Our street is a dead-end, and beyond is forest.  Instead of walking our usual route which was to the end of the road and back, when we got to our turnaround, for the first time ever, we kept going.

It was beautiful, calm and quiet in those woods.  There were houses all around, but because of the trees, they were silent and invisible.  There were various paths that led through trees and along a creek.

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This is a tiny little waterfall; the correct proportions for a Barbie doll.  But it’s pretty and sounds nice-like a young David Cassidy.

As soon as we stepped into the woods, all my worries and fears vanished for the duration.  Petey was still sick, and the related stresses and complications still existed, but a forty-minute walk acted upon me like eight hours of restful sleep.  It rejuvenated both Riker and me.

We kept walking.

When Petey was home I continued to walk in “my woods”.  It was a respite.

Last fall, we lost Riker.  I continued to go into the forest, for both exercise, and to mourn my sweet pup.One day I was walking an unfamiliar path and saw a large German Shepherd coming toward me.

I had two choices: I could try to get away, but there was no way I’d outrun him.  Or, I could stay where I was and hope the dog wasn’t aggressive.  So, I stood still.

It was the right decision.  The dog was friendly and sweet.  We spent about four hours together tromping through the woods that day, with him by my side.  Never having been formally introduced, I called him ‘Mister’.  I later learned his name is ‘Polo’ (I like Mister better).

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This is my favorite view in the woods.  I’m afraid my shoddy photography skills fail to do it justice.

I’m so grateful to Mister.  The forest had become a very sad place, which frequently saw me in tears.  I both smiled and laughed during my adventures with that sweet doggo; the first since losing Riker.

Now I take our puppy Crowley, into the woods.  I still love and look forward to every step.  And seeing it through the eyes of my dog has made it new all over again.  But, I don’t think I’ll ever celebrate my euphoria quite in the way he does.

No matter how happy the woods make me I just can’t see flinging myself down onto the forest floor and rolling around in deer poop.

2-25-2017

This is how our furry little knucklehead used to sleep.

Thanks for your time.