I’ve been enjoying the clean forest air, sleeping in a tent behind my cabin on Heathcote Community’s 110 acre wooded land trust. I’m tenting behind my house because, again this year, large black rat snakes have found access into my living space. This time, the story begins with the end of the world:
Remember Harold Camping’s predictions that the world would come to an end last May 21, 2011, at 6pm? Well, around 5pm, I strutted upstairs to where my partner C.T. was napping, to ask him how he wanted to spend the last hour of life. Since we’d just made love about an hour before, I didn’t want to assume he’d choose that. So we sat listing our options when something came crashing down in the kitchen.
“I didn’t like the sound of that,” I said.
“Is the end starting early?” C.T. wondered.
I tip toed about half way down the stairs and hugged the railing as I got confirmation of my fear: There was a four and a half foot black rat snake making its way from a shelf to the top of my refrigerator.
For those of you who don’t follow my website regularly, I don’t own any pet snakes.
“This means I’m not sleeping in this house tonight,” I told C.T. He kept an eye on our intruder’s movements while I gathered up my tent and assorted supplies. We ended up spending a few hours scooping out a level platform for the tent, since the woods is on a slope here. Last year the most level spot we could find still had us inching downhill all night long in our sleep. Now, level and happy, we sleep in a spacious tent while we seek and patch access holes. We have an extension cord and power strip going out to the tent so we have a lovely night stand with a lamp. We can recharge our cellphones and use them for alarm clocks. And we power a fan when needed.
But even though I’m enjoying the hell out of my tent, someone in the woods is taking exception to my new construction. About a week ago, the assault came from above. With lights out, several times over one night, it sounded almost like someone was dropping a whole bucket of water from above. But it wasn’t raining. The next morning we discovered our rain fly was decorated with some kind of non-mammal excrement. (For this post, I asked C.T. how you spell excrement. He said, “m-e-s-s-y.”) Looking above the area we found very a cool fork of a branch, with an s-shaped twist in it. If I were a bird or a bunch of mating snakes, that would be a comfy roost.
But the sheer volume of the excrement and the multiple offenses…snakes? Owl?
Every night when we enter the tent to go to bed, our dog Tuatha goes with. But he only lasts a few minutes before nuts from the trees above start falling and hitting the tent. Tuatha goes into panic mode and insists we evacuate. And when we show no interest, he scratches on the door of the tent, every dog for himself.
At this point, C.T. calls him scaredy-cat, to which Tuatha has no objection, as long as he can get back into the cabin to spend the night hiding under large heavy furniture. Tuatha apparently prefers the threat of snakes in the house to bombs from above.
For the past few nights, the bombings have been particularly frequent. As a matter of fact, C.T. and I could swear that the nuts are being thrown, not just dropping. They hit so hard. And, here’s the kicker, they’re coming in sideways!
“Maybe the squirrels are annoyed by our lamp and want us to turn out the light,” C.T. guessed.
“Squirrels are going to stay in their homes at night. They’re not going to risk getting eaten just to throw nuts at us,” I countered. “Although flying squirrels are nocturnal…” We did have a flying squirrel slam into the tent side a couple of nights before.
“Maybe they’re frightened or annoyed or jealous of all the sounds we’re making,” C.T. continued, referring to our tendency to be very vocal during sex.
I tried to imagine a squirrel or raccoon with inadequacy issues. “Frightened, maybe,” I answered. “I guess we’re the noisy neighbors of the woods.”
Still we couldn’t place the source or catch anyone in the act. I started pondering the period of time about three years ago when we had other odd occurrences at Heathcote.
I recalled walking in the woods with the Open Classroom kids when we came upon a mass of some almost alien looking substance on the ground, a few feet from the entrance to a small cave. The stuff was greenish-yellowish, slightly more firm than gelatin and in a pile on the leaf litter. There was about a gallon of it.
Was it some kind of fungus or giant frog egg cluster? We couldn’t find any attributes that identified the mass. We were left with only one conclusion, given it’s proximity to the cave: Dragon snot.
This was the beginning of several months of sightings, almost-sightings, alleged sightings and many clues discovered and debated. At first most of the reports came from kids. But eventually adults also came forward with stories of dragon sightings in the Heathcote forest.
I myself was startled by the dragon up at Bill Anacker’s house once. I ran a twisted course through the swings in Bill’s yard, barely making it to the front door. The dragon was on my heels so near, that I had to dive trough the oversized doggie door. I didn’t even have time to turn a door knob!
Over time, sightings became less frequent. I haven’t heard of any lately. But now, with this anomalous event of nuts, dirt clumps and feces being thrown at our tent, I wonder.
There’s nothing like a tent, made of polyfiber only a couple of millimeters thick, staked under fifty-foot trees in a hundred acre wood, to give one pause about one’s place in nature and the food chain. Turn out the light, listen to the quiet of the night, then have it disturbed by tiny bombs, bombs that have been falling to Earth every year for millenia.
For millenia, animals like me have been discovering dragons.
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