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Everyone Needs a Good Dread

What really bugs you? For our usually-intrepid columnist, it's usually, well, bugs.

 

Have you ever laid down for a good night's rest only to find your mind racing a hundred miles an hour with every thought imaginable? Sleep is impossible at such a time.

As I pen this, it is happening to me, and one of those endless thoughts is what gets me out of bed in the middle of the night to tell you about it and similar instances that have happened to Yours Truly — instances that brought on creeping dread because I knew I was in a "perdicament"!

The incident in question happened maybe 10 years ago, not too awful far above Pinos Altos. It occurred in the spring of the year while I was turkey hunting. It was along about 30 minutes after daylight.

I was standing on an old pathway and listening for "Big Bird" when I heard an odd buzzing sound that kept getting louder and louder. I peered down at my feet and was startled to see down there at my left foot a whole passel of yellowjacket hornets swarming in a gathering cloud.

Quickly I realized that my offending appendage was blocking the entrance to the hive in the ground. I actually could feel the hornets hitting the bottom of my sole as they tried to fly out of their nest!

You might know these critters by other names like "fruit bees" or "meat bees," but they aren't bees; they are actually hornets. Bees can sting you only once, while hornets can hit you over and over again — not a pleasant feeling, believe me!

Well, the Dread was coming on me all too quickly as I realized I had to do something in the next coupla seconds, before the flyers outside the hole figgered I was the cause of all of their grief!

I was near panic as a plan formulated in the dim recesses of my brain. I finally decided that I would shift all of my weight to the offending foot, then crouch slightly and make as mighty a leap as I possibly could, then run like Satan hisself was after me!

Ya know what? It worked, too!

 

On another occasion, this time with ant-critters, I lost the battle. It was turkey season then, too, but this time it was an hour before darkfall, and I had heard a gobbler. I quickly sat down with my back against a broad juniper trunk and began to talk hen-talk. He was a-comin'!

It was maybe five minutes into the scene when I felt first one, then a whole bunch of white-hot sensations on my body — all over my body! Yikes! I looked down to see that I was literally covered with tiny brown ants. Now that's dread!

I forgot all about that ol' gobbler comin' in, as I jumped to my feet and stripped myself bare naked. It took nearly 30 minutes to rid my body of those critters and another good while to thoroughly divest all of my clothing and pack.

Then there was the time that I was elk hunting and tired and decided to lie upon the ground and take a rest; it was in the early fall of the year. After an hour of lying there and soaking up some sun, I arose to find I had an almighty itching around my waist in several places. It felt real good too to scratch those itches, but I soon realized that in place of the itching the scratching brought on white-hot pain at each spot! I uncovered my waist to find tiny red welts with a white boil on the peak of each; I decided no-see-ums were the culprits.

Those boils lasted in torment for weeks afterwards and I came to find out that they were really caused by microscopic red chiggers. There have been times since when I have experienced such infestations and always the dread of knowing what was to come in the next few weeks got to me.

 

Nothing gives me the chills and dreads, however, like a good ol' spider, no matter what the size. There has been many an early pre-dawn morn when I've sauntered into a sticky web right in my puss, and then found that an equally sticky and large spider was now clinging to my terrified face! Ugh!

The ensuing antics and verbiage would win "America's Home Videos"!

One hot July found me cutting my year's supply of firewood, and believe me, that is no time to be doing such! Two incidents are forever burned in my brain: The first occurred as I was bent over, cutting an upright tree. Not six inches away, right before my eyes, was a longitudinal, quarter-inch-wide split and out of that split was emerging the hairy appendage of one huge spider!

I hate spiders! And this was the grandmother of them all and it was up close and getting very personal! Thankfully, before I could react, an equally hairy body of a bat appeared, much to my relief. You see, I'm not afraid of bats!

At a different tree in the area, I was again cutting a dead tree and I thought I could hear buzzing even above the sound of the saw. I looked around and then up, and there to my dread was a whole passel of honeybees emerging from a hole not 10 feet above me. I mean millions of them!

Fortunately, this was at a time before Africanized bees had come north of the border, but I ran anyway, running saw and all. Foolish and dangerous, yes, but at those times you don't analyze your actions, you just do them!

 

I also know what dread feels like when walking on a layer of frozen ice covering a pond and in the middle, all of a sudden, you hear the dreaded, "CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!" Uh-oh.

Speed skaters had nothing on ol' Lar that day! I shot across that pond as if I was indeed wearing skates.

But the worst dread of all happened on another day of woodcutting. This time I was using a rusty-headed axe that had been soaking a week in a bucket of water to swell the handle. Did I mention that the blade was dull, too?

After a couple of swings on an upright trunk, the axe glanced off and downward; I peered down to see that it was now stuck in my sneaker. Dread hit fast and furious with a double punch as my butt hit the ground at the same time as I threw that axe in a high arc.

In a split second I had tossed my sneaker and the sock in another direction and saw a split in my foot in-between my big toe and its partner. No blood, though, and I sorta sighed in relief because it didn't hurt, either. Blood and hurting came later as I used the bare foot to compress the clutch pedal on the way to the hospital and stitches.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you.

 

Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.

 

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