A Peaceful Forest can be Deadly if you "Don't Know Your Woods"
I remember well
when I was a boy listening to old timers who were wiser than their looks, talking about people and how some can lose their way and many times find themselves lost. These stories were scary to me at my young age for I would always imagine myself in the lost people's shoes and I would feel the fear and panic building in my soul.
But as I remember it was these old timers' introduction to their stories about people getting lost--mostly in unchartered forestlands that prevented me from losing complete control of myself. "Yes, sir. If a man doesn't know his woods, he's in trouble before he sees the first tree." That statement (meant to me) for people to be prepared just in case they found themselves in unfamiliar forestlands, their wisdom of their surroundings would prevent them from being lost or worse never heard from again.
for a moment that you, a natural born city dweller, work with a handful of men who love the outdoors and some were even raised in a rural area. One day, your rural friends invite you to accompany them on a weekend camping trip. Suddenly, you feel fear gripping your thoughts. You try to get out of this invitation for you are not an outdoorsman.
But your manly ego pressures you into going with these expert outdoorsmen on their camping trip (and you go so you won't be considered a sissy) and the early hours of the trip are seriously not that bad. You and your rural buddies drink cold beer, do some fishing, tell jokes and well, just be men. But later on with more cold beer being consumed, these rural friends decide to prank you by getting you to go on a hike. You agree still thinking there will be no harm in a hike, but as soon as you and your buddies are well inside an unfamiliar forest near the campground, they all run like scared deer leaving you alone--and fearing for your life because you do not what dangers to look for in the forest.
My terrified friend, it is mostly what you do not look for that will cause you the most terror. Take a good look at my list below and you might copy this list of dangers down to carry with you just in case you go with men who are good at surveying their way through a dark, frightful forest.
Bears: both black and brown. Even in my neck of the woods: northwest Alabama. Not too many years ago people claimed to have seen black bears in the woodlands alongside Bear Creek (fitting name) that is found north of Hackleburg, Alabama and the people who spotted these bears were non-boozers so their stories could be believed.
Cougars: are not that common in my area of the United States, but if you are lost in a thick, wooded area in the western United States, your chances of seeing a cougar are pretty good. Be careful at any rate. For some of the things (below) that you might find in forests might prove even more dangerous than any cougar.
Rattlesnakes: are very common in most wilderness areas for rattlers love the camouflage that the wilderness provides for them. All I can advise you to do if you walk upon a diamond back or timber rattlesnake, do not panic. Stand still and do not move. If you stand long enough and do not cause the snake to be frightened, you will survive as it will crawl away with the knowledge that you are not a threat.
Rat snakes: king snakes, and even rat snakes hang out in thick forestlands and will not bite you for they are non-venomous. You should study the many online sources for telling poison and non-poison snakes apart so you will know when to run and when not to run.
Wolves: are well-known in the western states of our country as well as California, Oregon, and Alaska. Wolves are like rattlesnakes in that they love the hiding places available in thick forests. Wolves and rattlers stop being similar because wolves will not run away when they know you are not a threat to them. Wolves travel in packs and are very dangerous. Study, my friend, study.
Snapping turtles: live and produce near the small creeks and river areas that are sometimes found in or near forestlands. Why should you leave snapping turtles alone? Well, for one thing, they are not cute or cuddly like those little terrapins that you see in pet stores. These critters' jaws are strong and can cause a human a lot of injury if provoked.
Mother birds: with little ones in their nests. The mother eagle will not tolerate you trodding near the tree where her young are depending on her to feed and care for them. She will attack and other female birds will dive at you with scary cries to scare you from harming her young.
Run-away Circus Performers: who saw their chance to run away from the traveling circus and start a new life. Do not take these people lightly. They might look and act strange, but if they think that you are the police or a private detective hired by the circus to find you and bring you back, they might hurt you. And you would also if you were taunted for days and weeks by a mother with a brat-of-a-child who kept screaming, "mama, look at the fat Gorilla Guy! He looks so weird." I know that I would.
Men who are A.W.O.L.: and to you non-military readers, this means "absent without leave," and these guys can be as dangerous as run-away circus performers. These individuals are not going to put up with you trying to convince them that the Army is a great way of life. Stop and think. If the Army is such a great way of life, why are these two ex-soldiers hiding in a scary forest? Leave well enough alone and pretend that you do not know that they are on the run from the Army and you will live to tell your grandchildren about your near-encounter with danger.
Burned-out salesmen: who "gave it their all" to sell a new product on the market: Battery-powered loafers available in three striking colors. These shoes are the product of genius thinkers in that they will keep a person's feet warm in the winter time--when the person's feet slide into these new-age loafers a specially-designed heating coil will kick on and the shoes' owner will have warm feet. But after two days of tough talking to hundreds of people, no one wanted battery-powered loafers and rather than face an angry boss and be fired, these poor salesmen took to the road to hide in a secluded place until they could get their bearings on doing something different for a living.
Hide trapper wanna-be's: yes, you may even find these guys who have watched way too many outdoors shows on Discovery Channel and think they can make a living trapping fox, beaver and moose in the forest where you are a trespasser. These guys may not hurt you, but if you linger too long on their area that they are claiming "squatter's rights" to own the land, they will tell you in plain, and sometimes harsh manner to leave and not tomorrow, but immediately.
Post-"Flower Power Era": aged hippies living peacefully in their commune which they think is located on the far side of the world. But here you come disturbing their peace and love lifestyle. These old hippies may not harm you from them being in a stoned state of mind, but I would not take chances. They might pelt you with flower bulbs they were going to plant and I know from experience that these bulbs are very hard and can cause knots to appear on your head when hit with them.
Fugitive convicts: where did you think that convicted men or women would have the least chance of being found and taken back to prison? The thick forest makes for a perfect hiding place. And yes, these covicts are a lot like the ex-military men on A.W.O.L. in the fact that they can be dangerous and will fight for their freedom. Act dumb and walk past them with less conversation as possible. If you hear them ask, "friend, you look like a cop," commence to running.
Husbands and wives: who have deserted their spouses to hide from verbal and physcial abuse. Or maybe their spouses caught them having a steamy affair with the divorcee who lives two houses down the block. Are these people considered dangerous? What do you think? The husband who are $50,000 dollars behind on their already-high child support and alimony I can assure you will cause you some problems.
Extreme teenage danger junkies: who are bored with scaring people in the city with their daring, blood-curdling feats on skateboards. So you might be looking for a "dude" or two on colorful skateboards flying at you at 100 miles per hair making their multi-colored hair flying in the wind. You can survive these dangerous teens if you learn how to use the words "dude" and "like" at the beginning and ending of each statement that you make. Dig?
Dangerous street gangs: who have now found it safer to retreat deep into the forest and hide in a secluded location safe from what brave police officers are on their trail. So you best watch carefully for guys with headbands (no offense to people who love these head ornaments), bluntly-spoken tattoo's, skull and crossbones on a necklace and firearms in plain sight. Use your dumb act and if they harass you about the forest being "their turf," quickly agree with them and apologize while on your knees and beg their permission to pass through the forest and out of their way. You might at this point give them your last twenty-bucks and your shoes that are still in good shape considering the harsh treatment they have went through in your forest quest.
Fact: the above dangers are not found in all forests, but in a few of them. My now-forestland-educated city dwelling friend, just make sure that the forest where your rural buddies leave you stranded is completely free of any of the above people, animals, and fish.
I have educated you so much about surviving the forest, I may have to start calling you Daniel Boone.
Speaking of that, good night, Lexington, Kentucky.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery