It is August, 2015 and summer is almost over. On Tuesday, I will start teaching my little program of gifted children for the Douglas Unified School District and I cannot believe my summer has passed so quickly. It was a quiet summer for the hubby and I. It started off with two trips, but week by week, it has gotten quieter and quieter. No overseas travel. No house renovation. No family reunions. Q U I E T. Except for the mountain lion and the bear.
During the middle of June, my friend Cynthia asked me to take a little daytrip with her to Sierra Vista. SV is an hour from Douglas and from time to time, we like to explore the treasures of Marshalls and Ross, eat a nice lunch, and maybe check out the sale rack in the Dillards shoe department. This time, she asked me to go with her to Huachuca Canyon to see the Elegant Trogons. [I had seen them earlier in the spring when my friend Judy took me on a lovely morning hike.] I remembered how to get there and I agreed to be her bird guide.
It was a beautiful morning to birdwatch. We drove through Ft. Huachuca, signed in at the base police station, and I directed her to the canyon. Everything looked the same and we were not the only people birdwatching that day. CB parked her car, we tied our cool snakes around our necks, grabbed our binoculars, and set-off in search of bird beauty. It didn't take long to find our feathered friends. We listened for their weird calls, spotted two males and a female, and considered our excursion successful. BRING ON THE SHOPPING! CB and I started down the canyon path, talking about our kids, when about 20 feet of us, in the forest, we heard the loudest and scariest screaming sound coming from the bushes next to the creek. It sounded very cat-like, except a thousand dicebels louder and more angry! The bushes were trashing and there was some type of struggle going on very close to us. CB and I stopped, of course, then started to walk very quickly and very quietly toward the car. I don't know what possessed CB to do what she did next, but she said in her West Texas accent, "Jana, keep walking and don't look back." Huh? I know the look I gave her was that, "Are you crazy?" look. She turned away from me and walked back about 10 steps, popped her binoculars up to her face, whipped around, speed walked back to me, and said, "Do you think you can run a little bit on your bad knee?" This time, I stopped, looked in the direction of the bushes and focused in. I saw some yellowish fur and whipped back around. Bad knee and all, we hoofed it out of the canyon until we could see the car. I asked Cynthia what she saw. She just shook her head. I asked her again and looked a little freaked-out. I told her, "Well, I saw something with yellowish fur!" Then, CB told me she was "pretty sure" she had seen a mountain lion's head. When we got into the car, we started to assess the situation. I told her I had seen deer the last time I had been there. A few minutes later, we saw four deer walking next to the creek. From the sound and the noise, I am sure the Bambis were short one of their friends. And we could have been dessert.
Later that night, I sat talking about the whole encounter with Bosco. Since he is a hunter, I asked him what we could have done if it had tried to attack. Calm as you please, he said:
1. You could run but you shouldn't turn your back on it.
2. You could try to fight it off.
3. You shouldn't play dead, you do that with a bear.
1. Since I have two bad knees and I often limp on uneven surfaces, I would be attacked while Cynthia sprinted to safety.
2. Fight it off? What? Give it some kung fu moves that I use when I'm dancing to "Kung Fu Fighting?" I wasn't packing a machete or numchucks, what did he mean by fighting it off?
3. Don't play dead with a mountain lion? What if I faint?
Thankfully, we were both safe and when we reported it at the police station, the soldier on duty said, "We've seen a few in the area." Hmmm... Do ya think you could post a sign?
Cynthia left for Texas and spent a month away from southern Arizona. When she returned, she received some serious news that her mother needed her in Big Spring, Texas. She asked me to pick her up from the Tucson airport on Saturday, which worked well with my scheduled quilting class.
[See? Quiet activities.]
I picked up CB, we had a nice dinner at Zin Burger in Tucson and started for Douglas around 6:30. We talked all the way to Benson, St. David, and Tombstone. By the time we had driven by the Sierra Vista junction, it was dark.
[For those of you who do not live in southeastern Arizona and have never driven on Highway 80 towards Bisbee, the two lane road becomes a steep climb through hills and mountains. The desert is very dense with foilage, mainly mesquites, cacti, bushes, and trees. In the daylight, it is beautiful. At night, the two lane highway is dark and the driver needs to pay attention. Traveling west, you are next to walls of rock, but traveling east, there are some steep drop-offs past the shoulder of the road.]
I was driving my usual 5 mph past the speed limit when we approached the passing lanes. As I was trying to judge the distance between my car and the car in front of me I saw a large animal moving fast across the west-bound lane. I could see the outline of it from the light from a car heading west. I hit my brakes and swerved a little into the on-coming lane to see a BEAR run past the front of my Honda Accord. I screamed, Cynthia screamed, and we both were shouting, "BEAR! BEAR!" I think we screamed for awhile. When we finally calmed down, I called Bosco. On speaker-phone, he said, "A bear? A bear ran in front of you?" I know I had that "hysterical crazy" sound in my voice. And then he said it, "Wow! If you had hit it, it could have gone through your windshielf and landed in your lap." REALLY? So, for the remaining time in the car and then at home, lying in bed, I had visions of an injured black bear in the front seat with Cynthia and me.
Today at the golf course, Bosco told someone from the Bisbee area about what happened. The man said, "Oh, yeah! They're really active in the area this time of year."
First a lion, then a bear. Now, I'm a little nervous about tigers...