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A Texas Two Step

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It's a wild world!
The Gazette Staff
Once again, I keep encountering sad stories about people being killed or injured during contact with wild critters. The latest is the death and injuries to campers at the hands of a desperate momma grizzly. Humans are encroaching on terrain that was once the grizzlies' kingdom. If you sleep in a flimsy tent in grizzly country, I guess you would know that you are putting yourself in danger, but people continue to take that chance.
There are people who keep pythons in the guest bedroom and seem surprised when the python has the baby for dinner. But that's what pythons do. Mother Nature has decreed this. Today, there are reports of white sharks near Cape Cod beaches.
I semi-agree with Frederick Remington that Nature is cruel. Possibly it's more accurate to say that Nature is neither cruel nor benign - she simply is.
As a young child, I was lucky to be able to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors in winter and in summer. But as I grew older, I became less comfortable with Mother Nature. I recall a huge fight with my parents about a camping vacation. I was fourteen and wanted to stay at home and hang out with my friends. My younger sister was gung ho for the camping adventure and I lost the argument.
My parents were on a tight budget. They had concocted a Rube Goldberg camper. This contraption rode on top of our Ford Fairlane station wagon. It was taken down and assembled when we stopped. Basically it was a ground sheet, an old army surplus tent, sleeping bags and a couple of two-by-fours.
We were headed from Montreal to Nova Scotia, where I was born. Our first night was spent on the Quebec/New Brunswick border. A farmer allowed us to camp in his pasture, with the cows.
My mother cooked dinner on the portable stove and as the sun went down, we went to bed in the tent. I began to hear an intense buzzing sound and I knew it would be a long night. The tent entrance had mosquito netting but that did not deter the insects. We were pretty much bitten alive and decamped as soon as there was enough light to pack up the tent.
We were exhausted and cranky. I implored my parents to stop that evening at a motel so we could get some sleep. They finally relented and we slept in a real bed without mosquitoes. When we reached Halifax, I slept in my godmother's guest room. I won't go into the encounters with jelly fish at a beach on Prince Edward Island. That was the end of the camping vacations.
Many decades later, my husband and I were vacationing in Texas' Big Bend National Park, a place of stark and dramatic beauty, relatively unknown outside of the state and therefore quite pristine.
One day, while driving a primitive road, I asked my husband to stop the car. It was springtime and I had spotted a desert "rose" in full bloom. I wanted a close up photo of this beautiful cactus.
As I snapped my pictures, a vehicle from Texas Parks & Wildlife drew up. A park ranger got out and motioned us toward him. We went over and he pointed to the plant I had been photographing. We didn't see anything unusual. He handed me his binoculars and told me to look beyond the bush. I did and the hair on my neck rose. There was a very large snake sunning himself on a rock. He was nicely camouflaged. His skin was similar to the color of the rock. The trooper looked at our bare legs. He said, "It you are going to walk around in the desert, you need to have your legs and feet covered."
He then handed the binoculars to my husband and directed him to aim them at a particular spot on some nearby cliffs. He did so and his jaw dropped. There was a beautiful mountain lion sunning herself on a rocky outcropping, watching us languidly.
We got back in our car. As he left, the trooper rolled down his window and said, "Watch out for the wild javelinas. They've damaged three cars this week." Javelinas, my husband informed me, are large wild boars with a generally nasty disposition.
After a look at the haunting Chisos Mountains, we stayed within the perimeters of our fenced resort.
I found when I lived in Manhattan that concrete canyons suited me just fine. My closest brush with Mother Nature was the occasional brief walk in Central Park. Here in East Texas, I basically stay in town. I won't even venture to a nearby nature reserve which is home to an assortment of wild critters including, I hear, the occasional wild boar.
Nowadays, my idea of the ideal vacation is indoors at a mega deluxe resort in Las Vegas and perhaps a dip in a concrete pool. No jellyfish and no sharks, except perhaps the human variety! Copyright©2010SheilahPepper