Saturday, August 17, 2013

Let the Barking Begin:Part II

If you missed part I, start here!
Part II
After dinner, most of us ventured, one by one, up the tree-bark-filled path to the outhouse, a distant cousin of a restroom.  There, after doing what we all need to do once in a while, we washed our hands by wiping them on the damp grass!  It all seems OK when you are in the woods for some reason, and as outhouses go, it was pretty nice, but I still made a mental note to restrict my fluids!  I suspect I was not alone in that mental note.

There were more than a few stars in the sky and the moon, clearly split in half, reflected its glory in the now still pond.  The promise of "banana boats" and the warm fire enticed me back to the fire. I was already thinking that the dark "path" out of the woods was beyond my grasp as our hosts added lots and lots of oak to the fire and the sparks landed all around us.  The warmth filled every inch of my body in spite of the cold late summer air around us and to be quite honest, whether planned or not, I was compelled to stay!  We filled bananas with tiny chocolate chips and placed them lovingly in the fire. They called the tiny wads covered with foil banana boats and shared tales of campfires, long ago. 

The pull of the evening was strong, so without voicing my decision, I decided to stay knowing that I did not have a bedroll, yet figuring, somehow, it was all going to be all right!  As a person who likes to be in "control" and as someone who "plans" regularly, all this was outside of my usual 'comfort zone' yet, somehow, I knew I needed to be "here" without know what was to happen next!  We devoured those chocolate ensconced bananas and topped them off with charred marshmallow smores, delicacies of the campfire that I was glad I had not missed. 
Then, our quiet banter by the fire suddenly stopped.  We all heard it.  Loud, anxious, incessant barking. Starting suddenly and seemingly not too far away.  It was both painful and determined barking, the kind that sent shivers down your spine.  It sounded like it was getting louder and louder and perhaps moving closer and closer.  It never slowed, not for a moment.  The barking took over the night and each of us began to wonder what it was and what we should do to make it stop.  Some of us, like me, we also wondering about our own safety.  We held just a little tighter to our own dog, glad that he was right next to us and leashed in the darkness of descending nightfall.

"Could it be a coyote?" someone wondered aloud while I was thinking of how I could make a mad dash to the car, if needed. 
"It could," a teenager among us volunteered quickly, "I've seen quite a few around here lately."  I suspected, living up there that she had seen more than one coyote in her lifetime; however, she seemed a little to eager to encourage our city-slicker-level thinking! 
"Sounds like more than one dog," our hosts observed, wiser and calmer than their own teenager.   I was confident they were right but also concerned they knew how we "city folk"  were feeling and were attempting to counteract their teenager!  "It's hard to tell, though," they noted,"as the barking is echoing off the hills right now."
I could feel my own heart beating a little faster and the tension at the fire circle was evident in all of us.  There was at least someone, I am not sure who, breathing very rapidly and more than a little anxiously. 

The dog, hard of hearing himself, sat straight up straining to listen to the sounds of the night.  He too did not know what to make of the noisy barking, but he never joined in, like dogs sometimes do.

Someone else in the group, trying to be brave, was breathing shallowly and the sudden silence among us was deafening in its own right.
Our hosts, however, soon got excited and set off around the dark pond on foot with a tiny flashlight ostensibly in hope that this might be a neighbor's dog, who had run off earlier that morning!  We heard their voices growing softer and softer as they headed around the pond hopefully asking, "Freckles?" again and again and yet again. 

We sat quietly for the most part, listening and hoping that the incessant barking would lead them to a scared, yet safe dog who was panicked by the descending nightfall.  Our talk, at least that engaged in by us city-folk, when it occurred, was mostly to reassure each other that things would be OK. 

Yet, there was at least one teenager among us who kept encouraging those random wild and crazy thoughts in our heads with "coyote" possibilities.  I probably should have discounted his wild and crazy thoughts as a way to consume, without anyone noticing, the rest of the campfire treats!  It was indeed a formidable plan, and while we worried, he effortlessly toasted and consumed more marshmallows than a non-teenager human should eat in a decade! 

Our hearts were heavy yet our minds were filled with hope for a happy outcome.  Frankly, I was not sure what to expect and not even sure what I wanted them to find in the woods!  Then, suddenly, just like when the painful barking had started, it stopped.  The quiet in the ensuing minutes, and it was probably just minutes, was as heavy as the air before a rainstorm. 
The shadows emerging on the other side of the pond were the first indications that our hosts had indeed survived whatever they had encountered in the woods!  While my own heart was beating incessantly, one of the hosts was already talking on her cell phone - it is after all the 21st Century even though we were in the woods!  She was sadly reporting that the noisy barking was not the missing dog after all.  Such as it is in the woods, I guess, neighbors call each other up late at night to share good and not so good news. 
As they settled back to the warm fire, we city-folk were still wondering why the noisy barking had suddenly stopped?  I'm sure you know that my heart and my mind, were both racing even though I did not, at that moment, think there was a story like they would soon share! 

Stay Tuned for Part III


1 comment:

Amy Rudd said...

You have me on the edge of my seat! What was it? Love your description of the outhouse, banana boats and the scene around the campfire-
I would have thought coyote, but that is too obvious...hmm
Can't wait to read part III