Close Encounters

With mountain lions, bears, the occasional bobcat and coyote.

Growing up in the rural Sierra Nevada foothills in California with lots of wooded acreage to explore, my family has had more than one encounter with the wild beasts that also roamed the area. Mountain lions sightings and attacks were (and still are) a not un-common occurrence, and bears also are pretty bold about getting into trash, chicken coops, gardens, bee hives, etc… I have some fun, and scary memories of my own encounters with these predators over the years.

  • My first encounter with a mountain lion happened when I was 7 or 8. I had been warned about what to do if I saw one, and well versed about mountain lion habits, like coming out at dusk, they’ll chase you if you run, and momma mountain lions being mean. It was shortly after dinnertime, dusk had fallen, and I had been sent outside to fetch my bike I’d left lying in the dirt. I had just picked up my bike when I heard a noise. Looking down at the apple trees, I saw a tawny colored small animal. I looked closer. There were two of them. My heart started racing when I realized they were mountain lion cubs; I wasn’t brave enough to look around for the mother mountain lion. I dropped my bike, and slowly made my way to the backyard fence, hoping I wasn’t moving so fast I would be chased, but when I reached the gate, I ran like mad for the house, slamming and locking the door behind me. When I told everybody inside what I had just seen, they laughed at the silly notion that I had seen mountain lion cubs, and told me it must have been a fox instead. Huh? They did believe me the next week, however, after the mountain lion got both of our goats we had at the time. When a hunter came out to deal with the problem, and he finally tracked down the mountain lion, he found that she had two cubs, as well. Uh huh.
  • Our whole family was out on a walk around our property, and had gone pretty far down our hill towards our well, bordering another neighbor’s property. We were walking back up the hill towards our house when we heard noisy rustling in the fall leaves close by. Not too far from us, a mountain lion had crept up on a deer and had taken it down! Fun family adventure indeed! Mom and Dad took us back to the house as quickly as the could.
  • Sam and I were out on a walk (or perhaps riding bikes) around the road on our property and we our corgi Home with us. Suddenly, Homer started barking like crazy (since when does he not?), and we look down the hill to our right and saw a BIG.BLACK.BEAR. Just standing there. Looking at us. Homer was still barking at the bear, so Sam and I inched our way back up the hill towards the barn at the top, and when we got to the top started shouting and screaming at Homer to come here! Finally, the stupid dog obeyed us, and we ran all the way back down the stairs to our house and inside as quick as we could.
  • I was 13  and walking up our neighborhood road knocking on doors and handing out fliers for my new business. I’d already secured a few sales from sympathetic older ladies, so I was feeling pretty good about my business, and decided to walk up one longer, more secluded driveway. When I got to the end, I knocked on the door and waited, waited, and waited some more. Nobody was home, so I turned around to go. Running away from me back into the woods was a mountain lion. And here I was, at the end of a long driveway, a blackberry hedge blocking the view from the road, and nobody inside the house. I started praying as hard as I could, and, willing myself to not run down the driveway, took what seemed like an eternity to make my way back to the road. When I got to the en,d a neighbor lady drove by, stopped to say hello, and offered me a ride home, which I gladly accepted.

And, that is the extent of my distinct memories concerning encounters with mountain lions and bears. I have seen the odd bobcat and coyote out and about on my parent’s property, too. I know that all of my siblings have their own memories about encountering bears, and mountain lions. Perhaps they would be kind enough to share some of those memories here, too.

Coram Deo,

Anna

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From a Railway Carriage

This poem is dedicated to mine and Bekah’s trip with four young children on the train this coming Sunday. There’s a magic about seeing life fly by from the window of a railcar that I’ve longed to enjoy. I hope all goes well for us! 🙂

From A Railway Carriage
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clamber and scrambles, —
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is the river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

Coram Deo!
Anna

Anya and the Wolf

Anya brushed her fingertips against the bracken, quickening her pace.

Night crouched on the other side of the valley, shadows swelling towards her as the cold reached further inside her coat.

Shaking hands clutched her loaf of bread tighter. She mustn’t drop it; her feet continued picking their way down the rocky hillside. Branches clawed at her legs and arms, begging her to slow down. Not so fast, Anya — why the hurry? They asked.

Home. Must get home. She thought of the quiet little cottage in the woods, smoke rising from the warm heart of the hearth, moss covering the cedar shingles outside, people waiting within… she must get home before the dark really set in. Anya knew the creatures that came out at night — they were much more skilled at maneuvering around trees and boulders in the dark than she was. They were hungry, too, just as she hungered to stop and eat the bread she carried.

She marched on. No stopping, not unless she wanted to never make it home.

Peter and Ivan must be practicing carving wood soldiers and horses in front of the fire. Hopefully, Sasha had finished tanning the pelts today to take to town next week; he had better not have forgotten to stir the pot of stew over the fire!

Anya let her mind drift to happy thoughts of life when life was not such a struggle. Peter and Ivan when they were three, and life was nothing more than play. Her first years of being married to Sasha, carefree and young — wrinkles and tedious responsibilities far in the future for both of them. Life before the War had impoverished the land, and destroyed so many families she knew. Thank God, that Sasha had not been called to serve on the Western front, like every other able-bodied man under forty had been. But that was only because Sasha was no longer able-bodied after his fall from the cliffs five years ago. He survived, but his ability to walk easily was gone forever. Peter and Ivan were a much needed help now with checking the traps and loading the horses. Eight years old, and already behaving like little men.

The wind picked up, bringing with it the chill of night and the smell of rain. Just the encouragement she needed to walk faster!

Anya thought about the house she had left just a little while ago to head back home. Perhaps she should have stayed the night with Alex and Nadia. They had offered, after all. Too late now. She could barely see the path anymore. Breathing in hurt because she was so cold. Nadia’s baby girl was healthy and doing well after the difficult time they had bringing her into the world. Her red hair was almost equal in color to her red, scrunched up face! New life always gave Anya joy to see it.

A sudden, small sound made Anya stop and listen. Her mind sensed movement in front of her. She hoped it was just a skittish deer making way for her on the path. If not… she dared not wrap her mind around other possibilities. She plunged her left hand into her coat pocket and grasped the small knife there. It wasn’t much, but it was something. She no longer heard any noise other than the wind shifting in the treetops. Cautious, she crept forward, taking her knife out of the sheath and holding if by her side. The darkness still didn’t feel right. It was uncommon that people were robbed on this path, but it could happen, especially to a woman all alone.

Suddenly, Anya’s mouth tasted like dirt and blood, and her ears were filled with loud ringing. Her loaf of bread, given to her by Alex and Nadia, was gone, lost on the dark path. Her right arm felt heavy, then a bright pain burst on her mind. Sharp teeth bit down harder, going all the way through her wool coat. Anya’s scream came out so high-pitched she could barely hear it. Her arm was being shaken like a rabbit in the mouth of a dog. Hot blood flicked her face. Anya’s mind lagged as her body moved faster than she knew. Time after time after time, her free hand rose and fell, searching for a target, anything. The massive head and bright yellow eyes glowered down on her, her right hand still crushed between its jaws. Then her knife met resistance, and she pushed down with all her might. A howl rose through the trees, echoing off the mountainside, and sinking deep into Anya’s soul. Her arm dropped, and Anya’s gasp of relief caught in her throat where it mingled with a scream of pain. She waited, tense, as her body anticipated another bite.

Instead, sharp claws clipped her in the stomach as her attacker jumped over her and loped away into the dark.

Fur and blood clotted in her good hand, as the other one simply pulsed, her blood dripping out on the ground. Anya knew that her knife had lodged deeply in the wolf’s throat, and hoped it did not live much longer to come back again.

Stumbling to her feet, she fell back down again, waves of pain and dizziness overwhelming her. She could see nothing now in the dark, and she was only able to imagine the damage the wolf had done to her arm. If she did not make it home she’d die out here, food for the wild animals. Sasha would never even find her body!

She held her other hand out in the dark, feeling for branches and tree trunks, her feet trying to just go straight ahead.

Time dragged on… Her head grew heavier and heavier to hold up. Her eyes began winking, blinking. She could not tell the difference between the night and the dark behind her eyelids. Sleep would be so sweet. There wasn’t any pain in sleep.

Anya slipped to her knees. Deep in her mind she knew she shouldn’t, but she no longer cared. Her body took over what she would have rationally ignored had the blood flowing down her arm not slowed a trickle. She sank her head into the forest moss — it was the softest of pillows she had ever felt.

When Anya awoke, she almost couldn’t stand the brightness of the morning sun. Mist rose from the ground as the sun summoned life to rise once more. She looked down. Where was her wound? She held up her arm, fingers flexing, working again. Had it all been a dream? She must have slipped in the dark, hitting her head, and dreaming about things that did not happen. That would explain why she was in the woods instead of at home.

She set off running, her feet carrying her faster than ever before. Home was soon in sight; woodsmoke was rising from the chimney. Sasha must have been worried with her gone all night. Hopefully, he hadn’t gone looking for her yet. Anya ran through her yard, past the geese and the horse corral.

She stopped in the doorway, joy filling her to see Sasha, Peter, and Ivan inside; she opened her mouth, ready to greet them with happy words.

Then the sheepdog barked outside. Ivan jumped up, his eyes bright as he ran through the doorway, stopping to look around the yard.

Disappointment clouded his face as he turned around.

“Mother still isn’t home.” He said, as he walked back through doorway. Sitting down, he picked up his toy soldier and began whittling again.