When we last saw our hero he was tucking away his trusty bi-focals and preparing for immediate nastiness. Let us join him and see what happens next.
As the tent and I rolled down the steep slope, coincidentally, there was a long haired hippie freak on a motorbike similarly falling down the mountain. His was a sad tale; driving along a mountain road when his guitar string broke and wrapped itself around a sign. Fortunately it did not send him into the mountain – it sent him over the side of the mountain. We parted ways soon afterward and I would like to think that I did give him some solace about the situation when I assured him that at that very moment I did not have any hankering for a pickle either.
What seemed like an eternity though I imagine was only a few seconds the tent and I came to a sudden stop. From the shapes and outlines against the tent fabric I could see that the mass of bushes on a small rock outcropping that had whipped my legs and chest on the way up had now become the brakes for my mostly nylon train. I could hear the fabric ripping and thought to myself that perhaps this would be an opportune time to exit the tent as the next part of the trail down was far steeper in nature compared to the bit that I had just come down. I grabbed my buck knife and slit through the side of the tent as I was uncertain exactly where in the mass was the actual door. I put the knife back in its sheath, attaching that to my belt buckle and slide out of the tent.
My intention was to sit on that outcropping until the wind died down a little to allow me to find the footholds that would take me down the rest of the way. I tenderly slid on my butt out the slit onto the muddy outcropping. I congratulated myself on a job well done. It turned out that this was a little premature on my part. My back, feeling spurned as I had said, “Job well done” to my butt cheeks, arms and my legs, decided to give a little spasm to let me know that it was dissatisfied with being left out. It had forgotten that a little movement on a slippery surface usually ends up on a lot of forward movement.
As I fell I guesstimated a further twenty meter drop before I would experience a very painful velocity/mass energy exchange with the ground. My sum of my brilliance was to position myself so that my right shoulder would be the first body part to hit, the dislocation of that shoulder acting as a shock absorber that would allow the rest of my body to roll to a lesser stop. I reasoned that the most damage that could happen from this action would be a broken collar bone and the least was a dislocated shoulder if I didn’t twist my body forward fast enough at impact; a dislocated shoulder was enough to ram back into place against a tree and a broken collar bone was minimal compared to my legs being shattered. The mountain, however, did not approve of my jovial plan – it decided to give me a nudge with a stony finger just below my rib cage readjusting my angle to the point where I landed feet first.
The good news for me was that the area, during the dry spell, was loose dirt and rock which meant it had a little give and my feet did not have a third of the power of the impact than it would have had a day before. The bad news was that I was now stuck in a concoction of mud and water that had swallowed my lower appendages to just below the knee caps. The displacement of the mud and water had created a vacuum suction around my legs – I couldn’t wiggle myself out. I quickly thought of my way out; let the water begin to pool around my body for a while then start rotating my legs to let the water seep downwards loosening my legs so that I could pull my self out – providing that the mud beneath my feet was stable. With the decision made, I promptly fell asleep.
I wasn’t out long; the pain in my right side and the difficulty in catching my breath jolted me awake. I did a quick verification on my side, it was blue-ish and swollen. I gave my side a couple of solid jabs to ascertain that blood vessels had broken under the skin there were no organs that had been turned to Jell-O. What I did next is probably a big no-no in the emergency medical treatments and I certainly do not recommend following my actions; I have no basis of fact for it but suspect it has to do more with the psychological ramifications of the action. The action is similar to the suspension of belief one has when they see a blonde in the bar; the likelihood of her being an actual blonde are slim but you hope to hell that she has taken the position to view herself in the blonde stereotype and swoon as you look into her eyes and say breathlessly, “Are your feet tired? ‘cuz you’ve been running through my mind all night.” Whether or not my logic for my action actually relieves pressure or not is a mystery to me, which I prefer, as something’s that one does has to have founded on faith rather actual fact.
I took out my buck knife and quickly made an inch and a half slit just under my rib cage to release some of the pressure. The trick is that you never stick the knife straight in – you tend to puncture something that you really shouldn’t be poking in the first place, which some mornings I think to myself I should have made a mantra to myself the night before. You create a slit in the first couple of skin layers only. This allows the blood to seep out to relieve the pressure without any gushing or sudden blood loss that would cause dizziness or unconsciousness. It has been my experience that the time it takes to heat up the blade of your knife with a lighter to a temperature that can be utilized to cauterize the gash and the time it takes for a generous amount of blood to vacate your body are very uneven in length; you’ll end up waking up several hours later with two wounds because you end up passing out on the tip of your knife. With the pressure that was on my rib cage trickling out the side of my body I began to breathe easier. I thought that now I could think of instituting my plan of action, however I heard the crackling of branches above me, the bushes were getting tired of holding my stuff and like an ex girlfriend was getting ready to toss it away. I decided that the best course of action would be to put my arms over my head to protect it. Thanks to the wind the tent and the remaining contents within did not land on my head but ended landing loudly five meters to my right.
I was about to count my lucky stars when underneath the nylon ball there was a large squeal. This was not a squeal of a happy surprise, it was a squeal of intense anger – something that one just doesn’t want to hear when you are in the womb of Mother Nature as the one making noise usually has fangs and claws. The only unknown factor was what those fangs and claws were attached to. In my heart I was hoping it was a hare; a disorientated hare that would hop close enough to me that I could snap its neck and eat the little darling once I had my legs free again – what can I say, tumbling down a mountain makes a guy really hungry. It was not a hare but a porcupine. I recall saying “Shit”, though I am not certain whether I was vocalizing my dismay or instructing my body on its next action. A pissed off bear or mountain lion is one thing but a porcupine that’s miffed is an entirely different matter.
A lot of people think of creatures such as the raccoon and porcupine as rather laid back creatures. I blame the Disneyfication of animals for this; the cartoon portrayals of these beasts put people at ease when in the midst of an encounter. One should have to be doubly careful around a porcupine at the best of times because you don’t know what type of movement will cause it to strike its tail at you to bury those quills into your flesh. The direction the porcupine was taking towards me gave me a fairly clear indication that it had decided that its little dry spot had been destroyed because of me, which it was, but only indirectly and without a direct influence on my part, but you just can’t reason with a porcupine. With my legs stuck I did the only thing I could do: I pursed my lips, hunched my upper body slightly to show that I was protecting both my neck and stomach.
For some unimaginable reason people tend to lend human characteristics to animals which is why it should be no surprise that so many people get killed by wild animals. For instance, in human terms, the action of giving a large toothy smile sends the message, “hello, I am friendly, talk to me”. In the animal kingdom, a large toothy smile is sending the animal the message, “hello, I’m here to fuck you up” – the baring of teeth is a challenge. People assume that animals pace in their cages at the zoo because they are confined to an area that is far smaller than their ancestral territory, but that’s not the reason they are pacing. What would you do if you had a mob of rivals challenging you but you couldn’t answer their challenge because of a deterrent that keeps you separate from them? Damn right you’d pace. Next time you’re at the zoo, thinking to yourself, “what a gentle looking lion”, look into his eyes and you’ll see this reflected in them: “If there weren’t all this shit protecting your ass I’d be sipping out your intestines with your esophagus”. On the other side, if you show an animal your neck and stomach it assumes you are being submissive, something that does not work well in your favor when you are attempting to act assertively without showing aggression. The porcupine stopped a few feet from me, planting its front legs in, bristles up and yipped. The great stare down had begun.
In my mind I was prepared; this was a force of wills. I could not move therefore I had to show the porcupine that I was not the intimidatee but the intimidator. It was unfortunate that my mind had failed to notify the rest of my body that it had put itself on battle stations. My stomach rumbled menacingly. I could feel a bubble moving not upwards but more of a downwards direction. Locked in a standoff with an animal that reacts very poorly to being startled, I was about to give birth to an air baby.
You have the leafy vegetable expulsions; the pursed wet lip. You have your broccoli and cauliflower cannon shots that can resound up to a five kilometer radius, which makes me wonder if vegans ingest some of these a few hours before a funeral in order to give their comrade in wheat germ their own version of a ‘twenty one gun salute’. Baked beans, I have now deduced, is similar to the mating call of the common North American porcupine.
The intense look in the porcupine’s eyes left being replaced by the seductive fluttering of its eyelashes. It gave a questioning coo. Not that I am a stranger to bestiality; I am just a back water country hick at the core, I was talking to some American tourists a few years back over a few beers where one let it slip that the best piece of tail he ever had was that of a cougar. I am all about understanding the multi-cultural world we live in and often immerse myself in the native traditions that I hear of as a way of creating an empathetic bond with those people. It would not be until a rather unpleasant experience with a zoo keeper at the San Diego zoo involving a bottle of “Strawberry Angel” and a candela that I would come to understand that the tourist those months ago had been talking about a woman. At the present time though I felt it not in my best interests to lead the porcupine’s emotions on and responded to the coo with a heavy “narf” with an emphasizing high snort. I hoped that my rejection was put tactfully enough that I would not have to deal with a porcupine scorned scenario. The porcupine sniffed slightly at the water then trotted off ignoring me. I imagine it took me a couple hours to wiggle my legs loose, several more hours of laying in the rain and wind until I sort of crawled over to some trees but the only thing that I could say for sure was that I had a mighty fine sleep that night.
When I woke up from my leafy shelter the wind had died down and the rain fell lightly. I was sore with a lot of scratches but for the one, self inflicted wound and the right side of my head being swollen to the point where I was unable to hear, I was whole. I looked at the shredded tent and opted just to take a check around for any garbage that may have been scattered, stuff what remained in my back pack and head for home. The hike back to the truck was a long one, leaving plenty of time to make decisions. The first decision I made was to take along a battery powered radio, my shaky belief in the Weather Station was now as tattered as my tent. The second decision I made was that with me getting up there in age, I should really start camping close to, if not right on solid terra firma. The third decision was that it would be an even better idea to start exclusively doing the quasi-camp thing where the worst thing that could happen is that some bartender destroys my scotch by adding ice to it.