in the summer, i sleep in the van most every night. i may only park across the dirt road from the house, or up on the hill but you'll rarely find me sleeping in the house. it's that "first thing you see" thing i wrote about in an earlier post.
one morning i woke up just after sunrise. i threw on jeans and jumped out of the van to throw a stick for mutt. he was really wound up, giving these snarly growls when he would capture the stick each time.
in the field, a pheasant called out a warning. it doesn't take much to distract us......we immediately started in the direction of the sound, curious. we flushed the bird, and then followed it's flight for a little ways. as usually happens, we got lured farther away from home and into the woods. only i'm not usually in my jammy's with a pair of jeans thrown over them. and barefoot to boot.
just inside the treeline, there is a sound in the brush, and mutt bolts into a stand of pines. he starts to bark, a high pitched bark i was not familiar with, and cannot understand. i call him, and he does not respond. i am pissed. i can't go into the thicket in bare feet without major pain, and the only thing i care about is getting to him and reinforcing the recall command.
then a grunting starts, loud and terrifying. we have had nuisance bears around, and my mind flashes to the fact that i am standing here, barely clothed, without a single thing to to protect us. mutt's barking becomes more strident......
i abandon my dog. i don't do the hero thing, which i like to fantasize i would do when i am daydreaming in my hot van on a summer day. instead, i stop calling my dog, afraid what may follow him if he came. i don't dash barefoot into the brambles to save him. i turn, and run back to my brothers for a gun.
it's only a few minutes until keith and i are back at the woods. the barking and grunting continues. but now, armed with smith and wesson courage, i call mutt again, and he comes out of the trees with blood on his head and muzzle. nothing follows. while i check mutt for injuries, keith ventures off the path. in a clearing a little ways away, he finds a downed deer with a large, necrotic wound on it's flank. it resumes that frantic grunting, suprisingly loud and harsh, in it's fear.
the deer has been down awhile. it is starving, and has lost most of it's hair. it is impossible to tell the age or origin of it's wound....possibly a bullet, or an encounter with a car. despite all of this, it is desperate to live. i look away while keith does the merciful thing......it's spirit survives the echo of the gunshot.
i didn't like guns much. i had hunted years before, a good shot with a .22, but reluctant to interrupt the joy of squirrels. i recognize the usefullness of guns as tools, and had considered them for self-protection many times. i don't know if i would have gone into that thicket if i had had a knife, but i knew i would not have hesitated if i had had a gun.
my mind was made up. i re-took a hunter safety course, and started to practice with the rifle my brothers gave me. i studied calibers and ammo and everything i could to master my discomfort. one day, my brother set up a target to practice with his new glock. he dared me to take a couple shots at the target, showed me how to hold it, and stood back. i put the first three bullets in a two inch cluster, and i was hooked.
it took awhile for me to settle on a gun. i wanted something small and light enough for daily carry, but with the stopping power i needed. i had been the victim of a violent assault once, and wanted a gun that would even the playing field whether i was defending my life in my van, or my dog from a bear. i wanted something reliable and unlikely to jam. i got a sweet little 7 shot .357 revolver by taurus.
aside from abandoning my dog to an unknown wild animal, i consider my self pretty brave. not fearless, by any means. i get scared alot. but i've learned to walk through most of the things i fear. i had to, in order to live.
i don't know that i am less fearful carrying a gun. my first line of defense remains an acute awareness of my surroundings, and sharp intuition. but i move through my days and my dark nights with more confidence. i am not operating in fight-or-flight mode any more. it feels good.