This public service message is brought to you today in part by your friendly outdoor writer and comes as a result of long and painful experience. Here it is: Participation in such pastimes as hunting, fishing and camping, can be hazardous to your health and well-being. Heck, in my case I’m not even safe doing farm work, yard chores or just driving around. My outdoor career has been sprinkled liberally with more than a few accidents, mishaps, minor disasters and full blown catastrophes. Some were self-inflicted wounds and others were kind of like secondhand smoke - just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time and sucked in a lung full of calamity. Turns out I have a talent for putting myself in unfortunate situations.
Let me give you a sampling of just a few of my many misfortunes, and by the way I ain’t making this stuff up.
n While stalking white tailed deer one beautiful fall afternoon I got stampeded by a demented buck in full rut that was obviously looking for love in all the wrong places. Not really my fault. If you’ve never been assaulted in this manner it is a unique feeling that I would not recommend.
n One exceedingly cold morning on a duck hunt I couldn’t get my aiming point on a particularly swift woody, and by the time I did the bird was straight over my head. The ensuing shotgun blast toppled me over backward into the swamp and promptly filled my waders with freezing water. Didn’t know if that incident was going to cause my death by drowning, freezing or just plain old embarrassment when my buddies found out. Wish I’d have drowned rather than put up with their mocking laughter and comments.
n Flipped over the john boat while pond fishing with a girlfriend who later became my wife. Don’t really want to talk about that one. My navigational skills have been under severe scrutiny since then and she swore an oath to get revenge.
n Made the mistake of taking two novice fishermen with me in a small craft. The ultimate scoring results of that sporting event were seven expensive lures lost in the upper echelons of the tree line, two near dunking following over-exuberant casts, one new rod and reel gone overboard, and a hook in my ear lobe. I spent most of that day dodging overhead missiles and attempting to stay afloat.
n Then there are snake adventures by land and sea. In one case I nearly stepped on the biggest rattler I have seen outside the Guinness Book of Records, which of course, was a near death experience. In another situation I was fortunate enough to have a snake fall into my boat while floating down a river. That reptile species was never precisely identified because I went swimming immediately following his entry. If you have never had that happen I can tell you that it is a real blessing. Best way I know of to get rid of an old river boat.
n There are plenty of others. Went camping at Clarks Hill Lake and after carefully and expertly setting up the camper to get the best view of the water, it nearly rolled off in the reservoir. To add insult to injury I made the mistake of placing the camper in a spot where tree limbs could touch it and was invaded by 5 billion ants. Also forgot the ant spray.
n I can’t even stay out of harm’s way on the tractor. On various occasions while running the bush hog I’ve run the back tire into an old well, toppled the tractor off in a pond, and run over some of the most ornery black bees nature has produced. An encounter with those bees will certainly bless you.
Of course like any good hunter I’ve been lost in the woods after dark, and that’s a scary experience. Your steps keep getting faster and faster as you get further and further from your truck and eventually in a panic stricken state you are bouncing off trees like a pinball machine in an effort to find home.
However, the most chilling outdoor experience of my life happened while riding in a car. Unfortunately I was the passenger, the lady driving was the same one I’d dumped in the pond years ago out of that john boat, and we were cruising along the Continental Divide in the high Rocky Mountains. My cowardice concerning high places having long been established, I did the only sensible thing. I closed my eyes and prayed hoping she could navigate the car better than I did the john boat. She saw my raw fear, laughed maniacally, stomped on the gas and got her revenge.
I’m probably going to have to try the priesthood to stay out of harm’s way.
Alvin Richardson can be reached at email@example.com