Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scary Campfire Story

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kapu'>kapu /
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Isn't it interesting how one little thing can trigger a very old memory? Then a chain of connected thoughts often follow. Oh the wonders of the human brain and emotions!

My friend and I were recently discussing our gardens. He said that badgers gather in his every night to dig for roots and worms to eat. He sent me a couple photos of them.
I was immediately transported back to my childhood in New Mexico- the first time I went to Girl Scout camp.

I was in third grade. Our group of 8-9 year olds arrived about 4 pm that early summer's day. It was just the beginning of our 24-hour stay in the beautiful wooded campsite. It was located on a few acres of land that had been donated by a nearby dairy farm.



That was the first camping trip for most of us. It was certainly the first time to have such a daring experience without our parents. So exciting and a little scary!

A couple of minutes after our school bus entered the gates of the campground, the twelve (or so) of us were startled by a high-pitched animal sound. My best description for it is a combination of a crow cawing and a rooster crowing. We were informed that we'd be sharing the area with wild peacocks.



Peacocks? Fantastic! But we weren't so thrilled about the rattlesnakes that might be there. Those were common in New Mexico.

After we unloaded our gear, our fearless camp guide gave us a tour of the grounds. Her detailed narration was punctuated ever so often by the screeching birds (that sound continued to make us jumpy for the first hour or so).

We little scouts were in awe of our surroundings! We spotted a pea hen sitting on her nest in a secluded spot. Acorns were everywhere. The scents of pine trees and cow manure. A peacock even strutted by us, in all his green, indigo and turquoise glory.

We had mixed feelings about the lovely latrines. But we knew they were better than risking poison ivy on our bums!

At one point in the tour, we stopped for a short break. Our leader said we could explore, but only within certain perimeters. We had to stay with our partner too, because we were on the "buddy system".

My cohort and I were just exploring near some bushes. Suddenly we saw something move! It was on the ground, under the shrub. It looked right at us and jumped toward us! Then it vanished. We both screamed and ran to the adults. The conversation went something like this:

"There was something in those bushes!" Camp-Buddy and I were stifling sobs. We were truly petrified.
"What did you see? Calm down a little. Can you describe it?"
I think it was HUGE snake! It's head was this big!!" (Little hands guesstimated the size.)
"It was brown and it had stripes on its head!"
The grown-ups seemed concerned. They looked around the area but didn't find anything. After they asked us a few more questions, the campground employee said "It was probably a badger."

When I was nine, I was familiar with some typical forest creatures, but not badgers. So my imagination was in overactive mode the rest of the day and into the night.
The cracking of a twig underfoot, the rustling of leaves from a sudden breeze, anything and everything unnerved me. That mystery monster was certainly nearby, ready to bite, strangle or at least jump on me or one of my friends!

Thankfully, I still managed to have some fun during my first wilderness expedition. I also learned some valuable skills and facts.
Most importantly, now I understand why peacocks make that loud, unsettling noise. It's the voice of sheer terror! You'd screech too if you had to live near rare humongous snakes, that had heads as big as raccoons!

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