This morning, I woke up fairly early because I had planned to take my dog hiking. My dog, sensing that I had something planned, followed me around the house, tail whipping back and forth at a slick 100 miles per hour, as if she thought continuous wagging would somehow propel me through my morning routine just a little bit faster. Finally, with a belly full of yogurt and running shoes on my feet, I was ready for a few fun filled hours of tromping through the woods. I clipped my dog’s leash into place and we were off.
The two of us spent the next hour or so exploring a state park a few miles from home. My dog pressed her little nose firmly to the ground as she followed all sorts of delightful smells around while I enjoyed the scenery and fantasized that I was a primitive cave woman tracking my dinner through the thicket. As we took full advantage of the vigorous exercise and the crisp fresh air…both set against the beautiful backdrop Mother Nature designed, my dog and I were truly in our element.
All of the sudden, we heard a loud crash in the forest. My dog stopped short and I peered into the woodland expecting to see a falling tree. Instead, I saw a large, muscled, brown body flying through the thicket at top speed. Whatever it was, it was a hell of a lot bigger than I was and it was coming straight towards me. Startled, I shrieked. For some reason, the sound of my scream seemed to rattle the creature and it leapt into the air in response. It landed on the path in front of me, less than 3 feet away. Had my dog and I not heard the initial crash and paused when we did, it likely would have trampled us.
It was the largest deer I had ever seen in my life. But then again, I have never been close enough to a deer to touch it, so take that statement for what you will. Still, the thing was a good foot taller than I was and that wasn’t taking into consideration the massive pair of antlers that sat on top of his head. Staring at those antlers, I was no longer thinking about Mother Nature and this perfect world she had created for us. Instead, I was imagining my gored guts splayed out on the path like some sort of grotesque speed bump.
Time seemed to stand still for me and the deer; we both froze in place. My dog, on the other hand, was not hypnotized by mental images of antlers ripping and tearing at her soft underbelly, so she turned tail and ran.
I was completely unsure of how to handle the situation. Vaguely, I thought about my dog and remembered that looking directly into her eyes could, in dog language, be viewed as threat. I didn’t know if this little factoid held true for deer as well, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to break eye contact. Slowly, I glanced over my shoulder to see where my dog went. She had paused on the path about 15 feet away when she realized I wasn’t following her. Reluctantly, she was heading back in my direction with a rumbling growl lodged in her throat.
Now I know my dog, so I could tell she was feeling her unsure of herself. Her growling wasn’t a sign of aggression towards the deer so much as she was saying to me, “Uh, you know I can’t kill that thing, right? So…uh…I was thinking….shouldn’t we be…uh… running away?”
For some strange reason, the buck remained on the path in front of me even after my dog returned to my side, growled, and bared her teeth at it. I was considering making some sort of noise in the hopes that the sound would scare it, but my dog beat me to the punch. She mustered up all of her doggy courage and let out a mighty bark. The deer swiveled on his hooves and galloped back into the underbrush as if the hounds of hell were following.
Relieved, I laughed and said to my dog, “Holy shit! Wasn’t that exciting?”
She ignored me completely, though. She was standing, body stiff and alert, facing the direction the deer had come instead of gone. I squinted, curiously, trying to figure out what she was staring at. Shocked, I realized her eyes were following what appeared to be a ridiculously large wolf. It was moving at brisk trot, nose pressed towards the ground, as if were hot on the trail of something large, brown, and possibly delicious.
Two thoughts entered my brain almost simultaneously:
1. Holy shit, what is with all the monster sized animals today?
2. Oh God, that deer may not have attacked us, but that thing probably will.
However, before I could panic, I spotted a bright, red collar on the neck of the ‘wolf.’ OK, OK, so it obviously wasn’t some wild beast after all. Upon closer inspection, I thought it might be a German Shepherd mixed with some other massive breed of dog.
Just then, our friend with the bright red collar spotted us and came running over with a big, goofy dog grin on his face, as if to say, “Hey! You guys didn’t see a deer run through here, did you?”
Now normally, my dog would have pissed herself at the opportunity to play with another friendly dog, but she was still jazzed up after her confrontation with Mr. Deer. She growled threateningly at the other dog. I chastised her a little and tried to get the dog to come to me so I could take a peek at the information on his collar. He ducked his head and took a few tentative steps in my direction. My dog growled again and he backed up. Frustrated, I groaned. For the third time in the past 5 minutes, I was unsure of what to do.
Finally, off in the distance, I heard someone calling. The strange dog’s ears perked up and with a short goodbye bark, he bounded off in the direction of the voice. Thoroughly relieved by our thwarted untimely deaths, I sighed, scratched my dog’s chest, and continued with my hike.
But, you see, the whole situation got me thinking. And the more I thought about it, the more I became amazed at all the things I still do not know. Will a buck even attack a human? If it did, what could I have done to protect myself? What if my dog had gotten trampled? What would have been the best way to carry her injured body back to safety? What if I had gotten trampled? How would I have explained my exact location to a 911 operator?
The more questions I mulled over in my mind, the more disgusted I became with myself. There is absolutely, positively no excuse for me to not know this stuff. I live my life surrounded by information. I have libraries, book stores, educational programming and the Internet at my disposal. So why, pray tell, do I not yet know basic survival skills? Am I no better than every other stupid, lazy American in this country who would rather piss their life away acquiring piles of shiny junk rather than evolve into something faster, smarter, and stronger? Have I, too, become addicted to my cell phone and my Ipod and the various screens I use in order to access even more forms of entertainment?
We currently live in a country that is, at best, despised by other cultures and, at worst, actively being conspired against by others with the express goal of exterminating us completely from the planet. Is it so far-fetched to consider the possibility that we may experience war on American soil in our lifetimes?
What if it did happen? What if someone came along and turned the lights out, cut the plumbing, and bombed the grocery stores? How many average citizens know how to set a broken leg? Build a shelter? Forage for food? Dig a latrine? We spend our days working 50/60/70 hours a week in boring middle management jobs and our nights entranced by yet another episode of American Idol. When do we have time to learn how to suck the venom from a snake bite or disembowel a rabbit to fill our hungry stomachs?
Our President is an ignorant, egotistical jackass and our country is in shambles. Sometimes, as we sit in cozy coffee shops sipping on our lattes, we rail against this fact. We consider things like the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq and we wonder how those things came to be. We wrinkle our brows and ask ourselves if the basic premise of democracy is that majority rules, how is it possible that Bush is still in office even though almost every single person in this country hates his guts? Then we shrug our shoulders, pay our bills, and continue to live our lives under the guise of supposed ‘freedom’ while our sons and daughters die in a war that none of us (You know, the majority) want to be fighting.
Standing before that deer this morning, I think I figured out exactly how all of this happened. Americans have gone soft. We have become completely and totally dependent on our government. We don’t know how to take care of ourselves. We’re whining, puling, stupid, weak willed little children wearing big kid clothes. We don’t understand real hardship because our big, strong government has shielded from it. And while this might sound like a good thing at first glance, we need to consider that our government is corrupt. What they give with one hand, they take away with another. So as our basic rights are slowly being whittled away, we remain complacent because deep down, we know we lack the basic survival skills that would enable us to hack it on our own. Hell, James Kim is proof of that.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am ashamed of myself. If I can’t handle a fucking deer without dumb luck on my side, then how the hell will I be able handle the threat of total tyranny that lurks on the horizon? If I can’t stand up to my government now while they are still granting me the illusion that they’re willing to play nice, then how will I stand up to them after they abolish the 2nd Amendment and become my captors?
As long as we remain unwilling to grow the fuck up, as a country, then the American ideal as previously envisioned by our ancestors is doomed to fail. Furthermore, we will have brought it all on ourselves.
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