By Jack Edwards
I recently escaped a harrowing near death experience. Luckily, I did not know about the danger at the time. I thought I was just going for a leisurely hike. No one told me I might end up a chew toy for a cougar (not the good kind) or a hungry bear.
Once every ten to fifteen years, someone slips a pill into my coffee that distorts my judgment (at least that’s what I think happens), and I suggest to my family that we go on a nature hike. This is how I found myself hiking to the top of Spencer’s Butte, located in the creatively named, Spencer’s Butte Park. As we were beginning our daring assent up the groomed trail, I looked over and spotted a poster a few yards away. Because I already questioned my stamina to get the top and back, I decided not to expend the precious energy to go over and read the poster.
After a successful trip, we happened to walk by the poster. It warned: “Be Advised,” with a picture of a bear and a cougar. Oddly, the picture of the bear showed the whole bear, while the picture of the cougar was a head shot. This led me to the obvious conclusion. The cougar had a better publicist.
Leave it to the “glass is always half full” park officials. The advisory began on a positive note: “We are fortunate to have these beautiful creatures living in our natural areas. Please respect these animals and their home.” Hello? Is there really a problem with park visitors failing to give these “beautiful creatures” a wide berth? A berth that could dock something like an aircraft carrier or two?
It’s a really good thing I didn’t run into one of these guys on my hike, because I had not read the Be Advised sign which helpfully listed five pieces of advice under the heading, “If you encounter a bear or a cougar.”
First, “Do not run, scream or turn your back.” See, right there, that would have been the end of me. My last earthly act would have been running and screaming in the opposite direction of the “beautiful creature.” (“Mommy, look! That man is giving a cougar a piggy back ride.”)
Second, “Make yourself look as large as possible.” Ironically, after years of trying to get a foothold on my diet and gaining modest success, this achievement could have caused my demise.
Third, “Put children between adults.” This suggestion is no doubt the result of some startled parent using little Johnny as a getaway distraction.
Fourth, “Speak firmly and back away slowly.” Speak firmly? What do you say to a terrifying beast that’s staring at you like you’re a fresh baked Calzone?
And fifth (and I swear to you I am not making this up), the final piece of advice is, “If attacked, fight back.” Uh…, thanks for that gem.
So, as I previously stated, I survived – this time. But from now on, I’m keeping a better eye on my coffee.