Outdoors Column

Unknown can put the fear in us all

By Bill Howard | Jun 05, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

The unknown can put the fear in us all. Coming out of Monster Week and Monster Weekend on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel respectively, I thought to myself that nearly all has to do with what lurks in the outdoors or under the water.
As a child, my friends and I would often spend night after night outside in our tents. Fascinated by the lightning bugs gathering on the outside of the tent, the loud beckoning croaks of the bullfrogs and the way our eyes would adjust to the dim light of the moon, we felt secure and in awe of the things around us. Usually several hours into our sleep, we seemed to all adjust to the hard ground and the moisture of our breathing gathering on the inside of the tent and dripping on us at the same time.
During this brief time of being half awake, there would almost always be a sound of crunching leaves or a high pitched squeal. We were all certain Bigfoot was just feet from our tent and we would hide ourselves in our sleeping bags. After all, we knew Bigfoot was real. We had seen the photo and the Six Million Dollar Man just had a Bigfoot cameo on the weekly television staple.
In hindsight, we now realize it was likely an opossum or raccoon, or even a housecat that stayed outdoors, but at that particular time, Bigfoot was a much more realistic scenario.
We would also head out to the lake and swim from the shoreline when we were not fishing to combat the unmerciful summer sun. We were always on the lookout for snakes and chose wisely where to go in. But there were small creatures we could see swimming along certain areas. I remember catching one in a cup and studying the shape really closely. Somehow, something as small as the eraser on a pencil turned into a baby water scorpion in our imaginations. We could not verify anything in any encyclopedia we searched, but we knew they were deadly and they were everywhere in our lake.
Of course, they were larvae for any variety of insect, some of which may bite us when they turn into mosquitoes, but our imagination made the experience and fear real.
When I began hunting, I heard the most demonic noises and calls from the woods prior to sunlight. Actually I should say I still hear them when I hunt.  In the beginning though, I had no idea what they were nor could I see where they were coming from. I only knew they sounded close and seemed like they were coming from the most horrifying monsters ever imagined. What in Mother Nature could make such noises? Loud wails, evil snorts, and quaking stomps were frequent in my early hunting experiences. Now I know it was usually the game I was hunting noticing me first. A doe warning the other deer, or a mad feisty buck trying to let me know I better not test him were the most likely causes.
So while I enjoy wondering what may lie in the dark, under the water, or just behind the tall grass, I know whatever my fears try to persuade me it is, most likely it is something completely explainable and even expected. The loud splash in the river may sound like Nessie’s daughter finding a home nearby, but the beaver that actually made the splash probably scared off any monster’s trying to take up a new residence as well.

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