A low, threatening growl emanated from the underbrush, halting my trek through the woods. Not sure if the sound was real or imagined, I drew my pistol from the holster and moved one foot through the dry, crunchy leaves.
Grrrrrr. Definitely real; most definitely close enough to make me break out in a sweat. Now I stood motionless in a shooter’s crouch, my feet too far apart to feel comfortable on the rocky forest floor, my gun pointed at a clump of greenery. Each time I tried to move my feet, I was threatened by another deep growl from the bush.
Though I stared long and hard, I could discern no movement and no variance in color to give me a clue as to what was hiding less than three feet away.
My body was frozen in place; my mind was going ninety miles an hour. I thought about just firing into the bushes but then I thought if it was a bear this would only provoke it. I imagined being mauled by an angry bear with a .38 slug in its foot.
The growl sounded like a dog to me, so maybe it was a coyote. Only bigger. Maybe it was a wolf. Were there wolves around here?
Why would a wolf hide in the bush? Maybe it was injured. Perhaps it had just given birth. I didn’t want to kill a mother!
What if it was the neighbor’s dog, a huge half-Saint Bernard mongrel who ran loose and enjoyed being a territorial bully. What if he was rabid?
What if it was my husband, pulling a prank? I didn’t want to shoot my husband!
I decided to warn the growler. “I have a gun and I will shoot you!” That didn’t send anyone scrambling from the undergrowth. It didn’t even elicit a growl. I decided to talk some more.
“What’s wrong? Why are you hiding? Are you hurt? I won’t hurt you. I just want to go on my way…” I don’t remember all the nonsense out of my adrenaline-crazed brain but I think my tone got softer.
I survived. But to this day I remain a little surprised at my reluctance to pull the trigger on the unknown menace in the bush.
Our reactions to new, foreign, scary and unfamiliar things can vary widely. Some of us react without thinking things through. Some of us (like me) think so long the opportunity to react (good or bad) passes us by. Some people run; some pull the trigger and run; some talk sweet through their sweat and fear.
Usually the thing we fear is just as afraid of us as we are of it. The people who intimidate are terrified and their false front is to make sure we stay three feet away.
My walk in the woods turned out okay except I’ll never know what growled at me. I will probably continue to talk sweet to growly bushes. Hey, it works!