An eerie after-dark encounter.
“The night was clear, and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down.” That, purloined from the 1958 Lloyd Price song “Stagger Lee,” sets the scene for the night of my encounter with a wild animal in the Bridger foothills.
By the time I returned home with the two dogs from our nightly walk, a yellow moon shone through the trees. We angled across the north field to the closest gate into the backyard, which was enclosed by a tall wire fence. The dogs ran in and as I latched the gate behind me, we heard a loud crashing sound, like an ape bouncing on a rusty spring mattress. The dogs—which I should note are afraid of any sudden movement, including Frisbees—looked at me as if to say, “You’re up, boss. Don’t expect us to take care of this.”
Using the power of deductive reasoning, I figured the sound of the crashing must’ve been caused by a large land animal (brilliant, eh?). In these parts, that might mean a black bear or possibly a griz; an elk, of which we have seen a number on our property; a wolf, which some neighbors swear are in the ’hood, but have never verified; coyote, often heard but seldom seen; a mountain lion, too talented and sublime to throw itself at anything; a deer, which in my observations find it easier to limbo under the gates; or a Peeping Tom, who would make the evening much more interesting.
Entreated by the dogs, I reached for my two-inch pocket flashlight, powered by those pill-sized, short-life batteries. Holding it before me as if it offered some sort of protection, like a ray-gun perhaps, I hunched forward and stealthily stepped between the spruce trees, then toward the row of Russian olives. The animal continued to throw itself against the wire fence, hidden by the dense wind brake of caragana nearest the fence. Did I falter? Did I contemplate backing out? No! Into the breach rode I!
The last thing I remember were two white eyes lit in the blackness of night, glaring evilly like the hounds of hell. Next thing I knew, I saw a rather large forehead emerging from the darkness about to make contact with my forehead. Bang! I was on the ground, on my ass. KO’d. Sucker-punched by a doe. Well, conscious, but rocked good. The deer sprang away in that peculiar fuck-you way that they do, as if each of its four legs were a powerful spring simultaneously uncoiled.
I yelled “I’ve been hit!” No one answered. Eventually I gathered myself. The ninnies cowered by the back door.
Inside, I asked my wife to check for a wound on my head, certain she’d find one. “I don’t see anything,” she said after careful examination. “You say you were knocked out by a what?”