I had friends that set up camps high in the mountains during elk season. Some of them slept in tents, with their rifles or large handguns right at their heads. Others built beds high up in the trees to avoid any grizzlies wandering through camp at night. They would take hammers and nails, cut sapplings, and nail them to branches high up in the trees. That would be there bed, no kidding. That would protect you from the grizzlies, but what if you wake up and there is a large mountain lion on the branch next to you, just watching you and licking his chops? You’d roll out of your bed, fall out of the tree, break both your legs, and the grizzly would get you anyway.
But there is a part of nature that puts me on edge even more than the deep mountains. It is the swamps. I wouldn’t make it in the bayou of Louisiana. We lived in north Florida for 8 ½ years. It is beautiful country. But, the rivers and swampy regions offer some hair-tingling moments at times. The Florida rivers and swamps have several kinds of poisonous snakes, the most fearsome being the cotton mouth. They also have wild hogs and alligators, pretty nasty critters in their own right.
Cheryl has a cousin that owns some property on a lake. Every year or so the extended family has a little reunion out there for a day. The folks bring tables, lawn chairs, food and have a great time. You can stand on the bank and fish. But, be careful: the family has lost several dogs at the lake. No, they didn’t run away. As they were walking along the edge of the water a gator leaped out and grabbed them. Umm.
I was fishing on a river with a guy who insisted on fishing downstream late in the afternoon. There are two things about that I didn’t like about that. One, you normally run your boat upstream. That way, if something goes wrong with your engine, you can at least float back to your spot to get out. Secondly, it was late in the afternoon, meaning it would be getting dark in a few hours. Well, this guy goes downstream, the wrong direction. And even with all my prodding to leave, he wouldn’t. “Come on, David,” I said. It’s getting late. Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to spend the night in this little boat. But he was an avid fisherman, and stubborn, so he waited until there was just enough light to head back. But we were farther down stream than he thought, and it turned dark on us, and we had to creep our way through the river and swamp to get back to our spot to get out. I was angry. I usually had a .22 with me to pop a gator or snake if one came toward the boat, but that wouldn’t help us in the pitch black. Fortunately, we got out, but I don’t think I ever went on the river with him again. I rode instead with George. He went upstream.
Man can do all kinds of things to protect ourselves from nature. Our houses are built to withstand much of the force of nature, but living where we do, we know it doesn’t always work. We build better and better vehicles, but they still slide off an icy road. We have the best and safest equipment to venture into the swamps or wilderness with. But we can’t always protect ourselves. Darkness falls and our eyesight fails. Nature is mysterious, dangerous and powerful. And nature is the product of God’s creative genius. A marvel beyond our best descriptions. That’s why I love it, even with it’s challenges.
John Winslett, a long time north Florida boy who loved the outdoors, too, told me of the time his boat engine failed and the current was pushing his boat along, at night. Toward a rapids. He got out of his boat, swam to the bank, and walked, in the dark, through a swamp, in a direction he hoped would get him to a road. Years later he reflected on that and said, “I was never more scared in all my life. At night, through a swamp, fearing cotton mouths and gators with every step I took.” Such an experience will create an intense sense of reverence for the Almighty, you might even call it fear, at the wonder of his creative talent, and his power for today.
Note: We've had a change in computer service, and I think it has disconnected my blog from other blogs. I'm not getting updates in my feed. Out of curiosity, are any of you getting updates in your feed of my new posts? WB