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I Know What I Know

Posted by johnnieraz on September 21, 2019 at 6:55 AM

By John Rezell

     It just flashed in my peripheral vision.

     Only for a moment.

     Just an instant.

     But I knew.

     Oh, how I knew.

     Before I could flick my eyes to the left for a confirmation, it disappeared.

     The hair on my neck leaped to attention.

     A chill ran down my spine.

     My gut fluttered.

    I screamed a profanity.

    And zipped on by.

    I charged down a nearby logging road at a pretty good clip last Saturday when it burst into view. I’ll admit I didn’t see it long enough to know for sure. I just know what I know.

     A cougar popped its headed above a bush just 30 feet ahead on the side of the road, then ducked away. I didn’t have time to think about it. Just react.

     If I would have attempted to stop, I would have stopped right there, right at the spot. That didn’t appeal to me.

      I know you’re not supposed to run from a cat, but really, I had no choice. Besides, it appeared to have the same reaction to seeing me as I did seeing it. We didn’t want any confrontations.

     I kept digging, increasing my pace even a little more, constantly looking back, making sure. My entire body went on full alert. Fight or flight, without question.

     I know cougars prowl this area. I saw one about 18 months ago. A big one. Really big.

     About a quarter mile from this spot, where a river runs about 50 feet beyond the trees and bushes to my left, and a wide open meadow runs for about 500 yards to the base of a hillside clear cut some 20 years or so ago to my right, a hunter stopped last November and told me a cougar just crossed from the river to the meadow.

     I carry pepper spray and a knife that I call my false sense of security. I figure my bike helmet might be my only saving grace in an attack, absorbing the impact of the cat’s first bite, maybe long enough for me to react somehow.

     And then there are all the bones ...

      But more than anything, it simply confirms what I’ve told my wife and daughter when they hike with me in the cougar area, nervous about an encounter. I’ve told them if a cat’s nearby, you’ll know. They ask, "how?" I just say you’ll know.

     In many years outdoors, only a handful of times have I just known. Just known something is out there. Something close. Something dangerous.

      For most of the past 13 years I’ve had my black lab Ridgely with me. My rule was simple. I don’t freak until Ridgely freaks. And she freaked a few times.

     She’s 13 now. Too old to hand on the long bike rides and hikes. We still get out, but shorter adventures. Sure wish I had her with me last week.

     I continued my ride, knowing I would have to ride past on the way home. A few hours later I did. On full alert, I felt nothing. Felt safe.

     Of course a half mile later I found myself confronted again with Oregon wildlife. Have I mentioned I hate snakes?

     A rattlesnake sunning itself stretched halfway across the road between me and home. I had about five feet in front of its head and three behind its tail of gravel. Frankly, I didn’t relish either choice.

     I probably should have got video. I screamed at it for a few minutes. Tossed some rocks. Eventually actually hit it. It didn’t even flinch. No doubt saving itself for the lightning quick attack.

      Eventually I opted for the same tactic. I rode back a ways, cranked it up full speed, and charged past its head. Again, it didn’t flinch.

      Suffice to say my heart-rate soared the rest of the way home.

      Oregon, never a dull moment.



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