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Comedy And Funny Stories About Nature: How I Came Close To Being Part of an Elk Harem
How I Almost Became Part of an Elk Harem
What would Yellowstone especially in September and October be without elk? And what would Yellowstone in September or October be without the calamity that I usually bring to any scene? As this was my first time being in Yellowstone, I was determined to make it a memorable time and as it turns out, I certainly did. I’m only hoping that in retrospect it was as good for the elk as it was for me! I have a feeling I very nearly escaped being part of Big Eli's harem.
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Our first weekend in Yellowstone, our son and daughter-in-law took it upon themselves to be our guides to the beauty they had become so familiar with since they lived there. What a day! We had seen so much wildlife and been in such wonder at the beauty that is the Tetons and Yellowstone. It seemed we were on a whirlwind tour but nature was cooperating this day for sure. We saw Old Faithful, we had walked amongst the bubbling muds that are Yellowstone and had seen herds and herds of elk. It was getting on towards late afternoon and all of a sudden, our son Jon spotted a herd of elk wading into a large stream so we pulled out for yet another photo op.
I have to insert this very important fact here – even at age 30-something, our son Jon had and still has ADD. There is not too much that escapes him and to coin a phrase, which he readily admits to himself, he can be ‘impulsive’. When he pulled out to view the elk, mostly female and young elk wading across this very large stream in the dappled sunshine, I didn’t think too much about it – after all – what could happen? Earlier in the day, however, he had waltzed (okay maybe not waltzed, more like strode) out into a meadow unprotected to photograph a herd of pronghorn. All the while of course Bob and I were shouting from the car, much as we had done all of the time that we were raising him…'Come back here – do you think you should be going that close to those? They are WILD you know’ – yada yada yada We never have learned to keep our big mouths shut, no matter how old he gets. We always feel that we have to tell him what we know is going to happen or what is ‘best’.
At any rate, we pull in and the 4 of us pile out of the car. Bob and our daughter-in-law Christine go (wisely) down to sit on the side of the stream where the elk are not so that they can get a good photo op. I see Jon disappear into the trees and figure he is doing something I don’t need to ask about and am just scanning the array of wildlife in front of me. There are about 20 elk of varying sizes right in front of us, some grazing, some swimming in the stream, some lying down. While I am taking this all in, I see Jon emerge not from the woods where I thought he was headed but up on a berm a little above us instead. He is frantically motioning to me to follow him – meanwhile telling me with body language to be quiet.
I look over at Bob and Christine – they are having a nice, pleasant lie-about on the grass and taking pictures of the elk and talking. I figure what the heck – Jon must have spied something and he wants to show it to me – so I go against my better judgment and decide to go ahead and follow him. I climb up the berm where he is patiently waiting and keeping an eye on something behind him in time to hear him whisper to me ‘be quiet – whatever you do – do not make a sound and just don’t do anything sudden’. What the hell does that mean? Anything sudden – like breathe? He proceeds to whisper further – ‘whatever happens, stay BEHIND the trees or very, very close to them – do not and I repeat DO NOT go out into the open. Oh – and do not RUN for any reason – just remain calm, quiet and stick to the trees – do you understand me?’
Well, first off - a sentence that contains the words 'whatever happens' really is not a good thing in my humble opinion! I wasn’t born yesterday though and I nodded in agreement – but what the heck was he taking me to see? As if satisfied this once that he is control of someone and he is going to show me something spectacular, he says ‘okay – follow me’ – duh – now that I’ve passed the test! So off he stalks – he is much taller than me and much more athletic I might add – so I’m running double time to try to keep up with him as I trot along deeper into the woods. The woods suddenly give way on the other side of this berm to a meadow – and in the meadow is none other than ‘king of the hill’ so to speak - one gigantic elk. As I’m looking down at him, I could not help but be totally mesmerized by the enormity of his rack. When people talk about big racks - WOW. I will never equate it to anything again other than this fellow. This dude is sporting a gigantor rack – and I happen to figure out that he is not just messing around here for nothing – he is actually working his harem and he is into the mating dance. Oh good heavens.
I am torn (I know – I’m such a prude) – I would like to see this ritual and all that but then I’m standing there with my SON for crying out loud and it could get ‘awkward’. I’m trying not to think of that though and watching the lady elk flitting to and fro – ‘no – you take him – I don’t want the guy – you take him’ and he is bugling and following first this piece of tail (literally) and then that piece of tail. I actually don’t think the guy cared who he nailed – just someone. It was all very interesting – and of course Jon was snapping photos with his digital camera faster than I could watch everything.
As another aside here – I watched a program some time later on elk in mating season – and while the bugling and all that is SO cool (we later saw some up close and personal but thank GOD were in the car by then) – it is kinda gross. The males literally pee all over themselves and that gives them the ‘scent’ to attract the females. From what I saw, maybe the males need to rethink the technique! (har har) I did mention to Bob later on not to try that at home – I would NOT be attracted.
At any rate, the tableau is playing itself out below us (I might add not very far away....maybe 100 yards) - but I’m feeling safe up on my high berm watching all this. Unfortunately for Mr. Hunk Eli, no fillies are nibbling and they are just running around. I think to myself he must be feeling pretty deflated about now and then OMG – as if he HEARD me – he scented the air and looked up – he looked me right in the eye – I SWEAR it – then he bugled some more. Okay.....now I was freaked. Did I look like a part of a harem? Did a 50-something old lady with glasses on remind him in ANY way possible of an elk woman? I started to kind of get worried - big time.
It was about this point in time that I heard twigs and branches breaking – like not that far from where we stood. Too bad it didn’t register that Eli the Elk was still down in the meadow – who knew – maybe he had a horny brother! All I heard was snapping sounds and thought of my body being speared by elk horns – or hooves....or other elk parts I'd rather not think about! I looked to my right and saw some females gingerly trying to sneak up the berm – trying to get away no doubt from urine-sprayed Lover Boy!
They looked slightly apologetic (right) as if to say ‘sorry we are sneaking up here but you understand – we aren’t in the mood’…..however, it was the snapping twigs and the branches that did it. At least that is what I’m sticking with. I hit panic mode in less time than it takes to say ‘I’m screwed’ – literally. I took in the situation, thought about how brave I had been to follow Jon up there (or stupid - which ever way you want to look at that one since I’m old and not athletic) and decided there was only one option----RUNNNNNNN……..
Obviously everything Jonathan had mentioned to me also flew out of my brain at that moment because it didn’t matter apparently what he had said about my safety. He said later that I looked like a 75-yard-dasher bolting from the blocks (oh yeah – as much as a 50-something-year-old hag is going to be bolting from the blocks in bifocals). I had obviously forgotten as well his admonition to stay to the trees – and not run down the middle of the path. Here I was, booking for all I was worth totally AWAY from the trees, TOTALLY in the open – and going about as fast as Ruth Buzzi or something down the trail.
I have to insert here as well – in my head – I was FLYING. I was Wilma Rudolph sprinting for the finish line – in actuality I probably looked like Charlie Chaplin running down the trail. My head was bobbing up and down trying to figure out the tree roots and keep upright because God help me – if those elk came after me, I was a marshmallow on a skewer with those horns. I was so trying to just get OUT of there and back to safety, flinging a glance back over my shoulder – not to check for my son’s safety – but to see if the elk were following me! God knew I gave them enough of a show to follow!
Well, I’m making it – I’m almost to the other side of the berm and I’m going to escape my plight as it were with the elk - oh holy crap! There is a huge log in front of me – if I had stuck to the trees, maybe that would not have been there oh Wise One – but oh well – I see it – I’m athletic in my head maybe – so I attempt to launch myself over it. Just jump the damned thing and keep running! Things always sound so much better in my head! Oh crap – just what I needed! I caught my foot on the top of the log and smashed into the trail on the other side. Now I’m covered with dirt, my glasses are on crooked, I’m having a frigging heart attack from fear and running – but hey – I’m still a survivor. So I haul myself up and run screaming out of the woods. I do not have to say that Christine and Bob were a LITTLE surprised to see me come flying out in a panic running down the hill as if the hounds of death (elk) were on my heels.
It did take me about 5 minutes to breathe right again – and to realize that yes – Eli the Elk had spotted me – but he was NOT chasing me – nor were his girlfriends. No one was chasing me – except my shadow! My son fortunately for me kept his cool and literally just strode out of the whole mess watching his back the whole time and not showing the slightest sign of panic. He looked very calm though and I was thinking maybe he had not really seen what I had done – maybe he just was oblivious to my panic! I could only hope.
When Christine and Bob casually asked me what the heck I was doing running out of the woods like that, I tried to just explain to them what had happened – and okay...so I had panicked – like when did THAT ever happen (every day). I did admit that yes indeed, I had forgotten everything Jon had mentioned to me and I wasn’t really sure why I had been so overwhelmed but it had just scared me – end of story! All’s well that ends well and all that – and I was just slightly worse for the wear – aching thighs, covered in dirt and maybe my glasses might be bent – and then there was that tumble over the log – but hey – I was nobody’s bitch!
All this time, Jon has been remarkably quiet and has never said one word since we had come back to the ‘real world’ – for which I was very grateful. I was so convinced that he had not seen anything that I had done and he was just grateful that we had escaped without being gored or part of elk porn. As I limped back to the car though, he shattered that little illusion by grabbing onto my arm and saying ‘now mom, let’s just give the REAL story here shall we?’ and proceeds to launch into his rendition of me running down the trail and the whole totally embarrassing way I was running – then leaping into the air thinking I was clearing the log only to catch my foot and fall over….and then by the way how I had not followed ONE single thing that he had told me. ‘Nice to see that you stuck to the trees and you DID NOT – I repeat DID NOT run down the center of the path and you absolutely did not make ANY noise’….
How humiliating!! The only thing I can say in retrospect is that he did not have pictures!!! Everyone by this time (including me) was rolling in laughter and it remains to this day one of the Audrey stories that Jonathan reenacts whenever there is a family get-together. I have to say – it was hilarious – after the fact – and after the nightmare of becoming Eli’s new woman!
Bob thought it was pretty funny to bugle like the elk for the rest of our vacation – and I have to say – there was something totally sexy about it! I did tell him though that he needed to remember the part about not peeing on himself or the deal was off!
Summing It Up
Whew - another close call in the charmed life of an old lady! I don't know how I get myself into these situations but when I find out who is responsible, I'm gonna kick some serious butt! Hopefully it won't have to be elk butt because I don't think I'm up to the task. Who knew going to a national park could turn so dangerous so quickly. I think I should be on a poster somewhere....
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