Ever wonder if any us us bloggers communicate? Sometimes we do. Karen Stevens who writes for Monstersandcritics added a man-size cocktail I invented just for the really hairy of hairiest guys, the Ass Blaster, to her article on man cave cocktails. Check it out on:
FROM HAPPY HIKER TO HEARTBREAK IN TEN EASY LESSONS
- Guess or Assume – That applies to anything; weather conditions, terrain stability, animal habits, water availability, general safety, etc.
Many years ago two young men who were long distance runners decided to take on the Grand Tetons for a hearty day-run. Without checking weather conditions, carrying sufficient water and any foul weather gear they ran up the trail like the very wind that followed them. They did not come back down. When you are in the wilds it is what you do not know that will hurt you.
- After reading a book or two on edible plants profess to be an expert and eat something you have either misidentified or simply because it looks okay by normal standards or is part of a known edible.
An easily identified and widely used wild plant is the chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). Hikers commonly snack on the ripe fruit, which is actually a bit sour for my taste. What many do not know is that the leaves contain hydrocyanic acid like the poisonous arrowgrass plant. Add a few to your wild salad along with some dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) and mustard greens (Brassica nigra) and voila, you have been poisoned! Just because the fruit is edible does not mean the rest of the plant is.
- Pay no attention to seasons, elevation or latitude change. Start up a mountain unprepared and await the surprises Mother Nature has in store.
One year I took a friend up into the Cascades for a 4-day backpacking trip. It was early autumn; we travelled 10 degrees north and climbed a little over two thousand feet. He was very surprised when rain turned to sleet and then snow. Had he been prepared, he would not have been surprised, nor miserably cold and wet.
- When overlooking a beautiful lake, valley or desert scene from a high ridge stand as close to the edge as possible to exert your prowess as a real toughie, unafraid of anything.
Sandstone is one of the favored rock types of rock climbers. It has good grip and is usually quite sturdy, but even sandstone has the unpleasant ability to be friable, i.e. crumbly. All rock types have forms that are unstable and a ridge of softer material is even more unpredictable. Stand in the wrong spot and you might get a much better view of that lake, while you are in it. That is, of course, if you miss all the obstacles on the way down. Where I lived in southern California there is an ocean overlook where the surf crashes against hard rock walls some eighty feet below. Many signs warn that the edge is soft and unstable, but every year people slam into the crushing surf. Some brag about surviving such a harrowing adventure; some are never recovered.
- Run or bicycle alone on a trail known to be home to large predators.
Once as I camped in the Colorado Rockies by a wilderness stream I noticed fresh Mountain lion tracks very close to camp every morning. A couple hundred yards away an avid jogger left her group in camp to go for her daily jog alone, which she refused to miss. The cat did not miss her. When a large predator sees a swiftly moving animal its natural instinct is to attack. This is not the same type of attack that might occur by meeting an animal on the trail. This is an attack of stealth; one you will never see coming.
- Just for chuckles relieve yourself on a wire fence thinking it could not possibly be electrified that far from civilization.
Obviously, this pertains to guys. Personally, I never knew anyone to get ‘lit up’ that way, but was told of someone who did. Maybe; maybe not. I seriously hope it was just a tall tale rather than the tale of a truly torched tail.
- If you are in the mountains in winter and see a thin wisp of snow swirling in the air enjoy watching the beautiful effect as it moves toward you. That is called ‘spindrift’ and if breathed into the lungs can kill you.
I have seen spindrift on several occasions and knowing what it is have always avoided it. An indication of high wind on a mountain summit is a lenticular cloud overhead. If you see one, look for spindrift and do not hike through it.
- In desert areas walk straight through the brush without a care in the world.
You just guessed snakes, spiders and scorpions, right? They are definitely on the list, but this time it is hitchhikers. The photo shows burrs that are very common and very prickly. If one works its way down into your shoe, which is a frequent complaint, it might cause more than discomfort in the form of infection, depending upon what nasty little microbes might be clinging to the burr. There is also a notorious cactus commonly called the Teddy bear or jumping cactus. It does not jump. The spines are so thin and translucent that they are hard to see, especially in the right light. Without realizing it people get too close and the spines attach to clothing or skin via their surgically sharp points that are barbed. Oh what a thrill it is pulling those little buggers out by the dozens. A young lady once asked what I recommended for relieving the pain while removing the spines from her arm, which was covered from wrist to elbow. I answered, “Jack Daniel.” She questioned, ‘Oh, you mean pour it on my arm for the alcohol to kill germs?’ ‘No,’ shaking my head, ‘not on you; in you.’
- When you come upon an inviting looking natural hot spring, jump right in.
This is iffy. If you are one of the lucky thousands who enjoy natural hot springs every year with no ill affect you will emerge soothed and happy. Oh yes, and wet. If you are immeasurably unlucky enough to absorb a single drop of water containing the Naegleria fowleri amoeba (through the nose), which is natural to natural hot springs, you might emerge feeling a little light-headed because this tiny critter devours the brain. There is no cure and the case fatality rate is greater than 95%. The good news is that it is extremely rare. Since first being described in 1965 there have been 144 cases. Do not ignore it. Be cognizant of this nasty little critter and keep your head above water, and do not splash.
- Look where you are not walking.
This is probably the easiest and most common way to meet an unwanted tree limb, clump of thorny brambles or field of poison oak. It may sound almost childish, but look at what is ahead of you. A friend and I were hiking on the John Muir Trail watching for wildlife, especially the American dipper, Muir’s favorite bird. In a moment of distraction I stepped into a tiny stream without noticing that the smooth, glacial polished rocks where covered with algae. A short bit of skating, a sudden stop and a new circus act was born right there on the mountain. My friend doubled over in laughter. Not to be trounced by my own tripping I looked up from the stream in which I was lying and said, ‘I’m testing my new Mag-light to see if it’s really waterproof.’ And we both laughed.
WE HAVE A RIGHT TO LAUGH
When the pretentious PC Police invaded planet Earth from the far reaches of planet insanity it seemed that comics and comedy writer’s were doomed, unless they wanted to entertain five year olds with rousing stories about the infamous chicken crossing the road. Some did take the hit and fall out of favor like Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, but on the whole it seems that our funny friends feigned partial agreement convincingly enough and fared pretty well in the s__t storm of slapstick assassination. I have much more sarcastic alliteration at my touch, but will refrain in order to be serious for one short moment. The pathetic, humorless, teeth grinding, hand wringing wretches (oops) who set out to undermine our Constitution and destroy our individual rights to decide what we find funny and laugh at it have failed. Comedy is still alive and well and living in America despite the efforts of a few control crazed cranks who are still trying to dominate and reprogram society to fit their visions of ‘pseudo-decency.’ If they are confused about what is decent I offer this: our Constitution is decent and our right to choose is decent. Demagoguery and authoritarian rule are not part of a democratic republic. Otherwise, life is just peachy.
WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE WON’T HURT YOU
This was a glorious morning of early sun in a crisp blue sky and a gentle breeze to make the desert willows dance. My windows were open early. Coyotes acted as an alarm clock and then a dog some distance away joined in. Birds awakened to begin their many choruses and a covey of quail scurried about the desert from the safety of one creosote bush to another. A Marsh hawk soared low by the lake shore while his mate sat calmly on a juniper branch, as if to keep her snowy white feathers from being ruffled or soiled by the hunt. This is a typical desert morning away from the niche civilization where there is too much noise and too many things happening. The modernization of humankind has barely reached these parts. I like it that way.
However, on this particular morning my RV is plugged into an electric post at one of the lakeshore campgrounds. For me this is all the civilization I need, and more than I usually have. My RV is very completely self-contained with fresh water storage, propane (refrigerator, stove/oven, water heater and heater) and a six-panel four-battery solar system (12v DC and 110v AC current). Away from all aspects of civilization, in the outback, most of the trappings of a mechanized society are still available to me, like television, stereo, computer, a small vacuum, lights and fans. But even my well-equipped solar system is not capable of operating kitchen appliances without depleting far too much power. The energy drained by a toaster, coffee maker, food processor or blender is critical. Running the refrigerator, electric heater, microwave or air condition is totally out of the question.
Think about it this way. Suppose you are in the mood for a smoothie. You simply go to the kitchen, put the ingredients in the blender and ‘smoo-ooth’ away. Now, what if that meant you had to turn off the television, stereo and, God forbid, THE COMPUTER! Would you be devastated? Probably.
We have become so accustom to having every single modern convenience at our fingertips that a microwave meltdown would be taken harder than Chernobyl by some people. After all, Chernobyl did not happen in your kitchen. Without the microwave cooking is now a daunting task, so you must either return to cooking like a cave person on an all-electric, self-cleaning, electronically controlled, ceramic top stove or face starvation or become a raw vegan. Oops, I forgot about take-out and pizza delivery. Whew! You could survive for a short period of time.
In my world things are a bit different and priorities are a matter of pragmatism rather than what’s newest and shiniest.
Take this morning, for instance. It was not Georgia, but ham salad on my mind. Normally this would require the tedious task of finely dicing ham and onions (sweet red Bermudas, by the way) by hand. If one requires the smoothest of ham salad spread it then must be finished off with an appliance not generally found in kitchens today, a hammer. Do not titter at me; it works. But on this glorious morning my RV was charged with enough fast moving electrons to power even the most serious personal appliance, whatever that might be. From under the counter I retrieved exactly the right tool for the job of ham salad. It was not my chef’s knife (which is an assault weapon, being over six inches, in California) and not a hammer; it was my gleaming white food processor. I sat it on the kitchen counter with a sort of reverence, having not seen it in six months, and stepped back for a few seconds of admiration. The locking lid fit securely and the lustrous stainless steel blades were magnificent; a manly tool, to be sure. It would turn a pig, an onion, a cucumber and all the necessary seasonings into a velvety mixture of delectability. Add a beer and it’s like manna from heaven.
Five days from now I will head back to rougher country. The toaster, coffee maker and food processor will once again be stored under the counter; maybe for another six months. Will I miss them? Only a little. You see, it is all about priorities. The solitude of nature is mine. To paraphrase a quote from the poet Charles Bukowski, ‘I don’t dislike people, I’m just better when they’re not around all the time.’ So, to have what I really want means there are some modern conveniences I must do without. Does that hurt me? No. Is it worth it? Let’s see, Hell yes.
Desert Hiking Gear: 101
I received a request to address this subject, so I will.
First off let us assume you are hiking in any season other than summer. If you are about to hike in the desert in summer there is a good chance you cannot read, so this does not apply to you.
There are a couple things to know about desert hiking before you dress for it. High temperatures and low humidity equals easy dehydration. However, do not worry about dying quickly from dehydration. It takes quite some time and is not only slow but terribly painful, so it is a good idea to learn how to recognize dehydration. Pinch up some skin on the back of your hand and observe how it snaps back into place. Slow means dehydration. Cotton mouth, difficulty speaking, headache, pallid skin and disorientation also mean dehydration. And then there is my favorite, thirst. Drink BEFORE you get dehydrated. People are affected differently by dehydration depending upon adaptive features, like thick lips, which help retain moisture. No, not the ones filled with collagen. Fat storage is important in both plants and animals as a safeguard. Thermal migration is a major safety measure and simply means moving to a shaded, cooler area, perhaps a wet area when daytime heat is too high. Animal tissue can only survive in a narrow temperature range called the range of thermoneutrality. For about four months out of the year desert temperatures are above this range for animals. The moral of the story; hike when cool temperatures exist, or you could use the urohydrosis method of vultures and urinate on your legs to cool and hydrate them. A bit more pleasant method is to keep your mouth closed. An open mouth allows for much evaporation of moisture and, in some cases, for ill-conceived thoughts to escape.
Now for clothing, finally. Starting with socks and undies it is important that they breathe, and since they will be soaked with sweat they must also wick moisture away from the skin. That might sound counterproductive, but it allows for evaporative cooling, reducing sweat and averts a possible ailment known only too well to military veterans, ‘jungle rot.’ It not only occurs in the jungle, but in any hot place were the skin is allowed to stay moist for too long. It makes the flesh actually rot away. This is rather unpleasant. Wool is excellent to this purpose, as well as the new microfibers. Cotton is only good as long as it is dry. On an overnight backpacking trip the remedy for this is to remove socks and undies once in camp and hang them out to dry.
As for boots, they must be sturdy and again, breathable. Leather is my first choice, with rough outers to take the punishment of the rocky desert terrain. I do not advise hiking in sandals as I most often do unless your feet are conditioned to it. Even with good leather sandals the desert will give your feet a beating, as well as a sticking or two.
Boots versus snakes is always on a person’s mind. Here is the straight skinny on that, take it or leave it. A rattlesnake’s fangs are so sharp and strong that they can penetrate heavy leather as easily as tissue paper. Unless you wear snake gaiters or snake boots you might as well be wearing ballet slippers. Your best defense is awareness. Look and listen.
How about pants? If you are over 50 years old do us all a favor and wear them, please. Loose fitting cotton or jeans will protect your legs from cactus needle and rock scrapes, plus allow for good air circulation. A loose fit can also catch a pair of fangs. I have known of that to happen on several occasions.
Most of this snake talk is just precautionary. In reality, there are very few bites every year. One reason is because most snakes hunt at dawn and dusk. The middle of the day is too hot for them.
When it comes to shirts, cotton is just fine for outerwear.
A hat is something I consider essential. Wide brims are best. The tops of ears are very easily sunburned. Hats are also very important for bald spot coverage.
Here is something that has lost favor in the last few decades, bandanas. A bandana is as normal to me as clean socks. It can serve so many purposes this is not the time to go into them all. From covering the mouth/nose for blocking blowing dust/sand, being tied as a tourniquet or sopping dew off of boulders for a morning drink, the bandana is indispensable.
There is a modern form of the bandana that is a round, tube-like thing containing ‘Magic Beads.’ When soaked in cold water the bandana swells and holds the cold for a very long time. Wrapped around one’s neck it keeps the body temperature comfortable for a pretty long hike, lasting most of the day.
The last thing I might suggest is a sign that reads, “Only two things hike the desert during the day, wild jackasses and me.”
DESERT DAVE SHOOTS A MOON IN JUXTAPOSITION WITH URANUS
I wrote the following before sitting here for three hours watching a blank sky. The photos are from several hours before the lunar eclipse. Am I disappointed? Not really, I spent the time listening to some excellent Brahms.
If you watched the lunar eclipse you saw wonderful things like, a rare “selenelion” event, the moon entering penumbra and the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, the moon reappearing in the “Japanese Lantern Effect” leading to the finale (the moon completely reappearing). If there has been a major volcanic eruption in the last couple years ejecting particles into the stratosphere, and there have been three, the eclipse will be darkened a bit. For all you “Flat-Earthers” out there the curved shadow on the moon is visual proof that the Earth is a sphere. Even Aristotle concluded that by watching an eclipse in the 4th century BC.
Okay, we all know that stuff, but there is another aspect to the event you might not know, but you will. My Aunt Genevieve, a fine Astrologer and world-class shopper, impressed upon me the importance and quite often accuracy of stellar alignments. Do not scoff, in my family one can read Tarot cards before they can read Animal Crackers.
It seems that this Lunar Eclipse will be at 150 of Aries. Oh sure, now you are impressed. That means that it will fall on Alpheratz in Andromeda. The moon is also in juxtaposition with Uranus. Oh boy, now you are getting excited. But wait, there’s more. The angles of the Cardinal Grand Cross will be reactivated and Venus and the sun are …, well here is the bad news. It all relates to lovers who have been forced into hiding by domineering parents, the social ideology of by-gone days and certain activities better done in the dark anyway. But – there is always a ‘but,’ isn’t there – the Alpheratz/Uranian moon will liberate these secreted lovers and allow them to be accepted by those who suppressed them. This is an event of love and liberation. In the end someone will live happily ever after.
This being said, perhaps someone will be inspired by these events to tender forgiveness, hold out a loving hand, offer a kind word, search their heart for love instead of hate; and for heaven’s sake get teen boys to pull up their pants.
Five Ways to Keep Your Pants up
(For teen boys, or mothers with no sense of humor and a stick)
- Staple them to your navel. That is if you can find room amongst all the other junk you have pierced and pinned there.
- Buy a belt. It’s a short strip of leather (you like that part, don’t you?) with holes and a buckle. It will be about 22 inches long if you are a typical, modern, emaciated youth and a black one will be a good contrast to your pasty white skin. If you do not know about belts, it will be just like your father’s, only his will be about 46 inches long and have a huge silver buckle with something ridiculous on it.
- Stick them up with duct tape. If you are not familiar with duct tape, check with your uncle who drives an old pick-up, is missing a front tooth, spits through that gap, dates a waitress named Wanda and can’t keep his pants up either.
- Let ‘em drop just one time in front of that aunt who is obsessed with pinching your cheeks.
- Show up looking all ‘Street’ on Sunday morning for services at the Church of Christ. Oh Lord, I do not have to say any more about that.
(The real story of Red Riding Hood, who was not so little, and not so innocent)
This is not a fuzzy fairy tale and not appropriate for young children
This is what really happened. It was a very long time ago, as you probably suspected. It all took place in the forest of Northern Wales, close to the countryside town of Denbigh, and my grandfather swore that every word is true.
Red, whose real name was Gwynlyn, was a young woman of stunning beauty. Gwynlyn was magnificent, with shimmering hair the color of a raven’s breast, crystal blue eyes and skin that would make fresh cream jealous. Every man in the village sought after her, to woo her, to love her, to claim her as his bride. But it would take a very special kind of man to win her heart and gentle words of poetry or love songs strummed on a lute would not be enough. You see, Gwynlyn’s mother and father were both brave Celtic warriors. She knew the sword and bow as well as she knew the loom and kettle. Gwynlyn was not dainty or faint of heart; well, unless it suited her.
One night a man came riding fast into the village with news of a terrible tragedy. An old woman, one of the Cunning Women of the forest, had been found slain in a particularly vicious manner. This news was of great importance and distress to the villagers because it was the Cunning Women who brewed elixirs and potions to cure everything from a simple headache to serious infections and afflictions. This news was even more sorrowful to Gwynlyn. The Cunning Woman who had been slain was her beloved Nain, her grandmother.
It was with Grandmother that young Gwynlyn walked in the forest learning to appreciate the colors, smells and sights around her. She learned to brew tea from the bark of a tree that would relieve pain, make a thick heavily odored brew from a root that would relieve cramps when the time in her life came that she would need such a medicine and to harness the power of a delicate white flower that could put a suffering person to sleep for an hour, a day, or forever. She learned that her hands could be hard, grinding roots for a potion and the next moment be gentle enough to cradle a butterfly like a new mother cradles her fresh, pink infant. It was with Grandmother that Gwynlyn learned how precious a life is, no matter how small. It was with her parents that Gwynlyn learned how precious the power to end a life is when the time comes.
So it was not long before Gwynlyn decided what she must do. Such a terrible wrong against her family could not simply be forgotten and brushed aside. This creature of the forest night could not be allowed to claim more victims. And the young girl felt it was up to her to set the balance of good and evil right. Gwynlyn’s anger and anguish was at a peak. Her grandmother would be avenged and the village would be rid of this terrible creature.
The next morning a gypsy woman came to call on Gwynlyn. “I have seen the creature you seek,” she said. “It is neither all man nor all beast, but much of both. In Ireland it was called Laignach Faeled. The French call it Bzou. We have our own name for it, Blaidd-ddyn. It is very strong and has killed many, and yet it can be quite charming to a young lass, for which it has a compelling hunger. You should not challenge this abomination of nature, but if you do, remember that it was once a man, and when the time comes to strike, hesitation means certain death. ” Having said her piece the old woman vanished back into the forest.
Now Gwynlyn knew for sure. It was the beast her father had suspected, Blaidd-ddyn, the Werewolf, and her heart beat a little faster.
Talk of the beast had filtered through pubs and places where people meet to discuss things better not spoken of at home, in front of children or in the open air. It was a hushed topic. No one wanted to say it aloud, but everyone knew that this was no ordinary wolf.
Gwynlyn sat in their living room watching the flames in the fireplace, her father in his chair smoking his pipe, her mother gliding about keeping herself busy with trivial chores.
“It’s not a mere wolf, ya know?” It was her father who spoke. “It has killed many a strong man. Do ya hear me, girl?” His tone swelled.
Gwynlyn looked up to meet her father’s eyes and spoke calmly, yet with spirit, “I may still be a girl, but am I not my mother’s daughter?”
“Aye, that ye be, and as such I know ye won’t be stopped once set upon somethin’. But take care, and take this.” He tossed an old leather pouch to Gwynlyn’s quick hand. She opened it. “That’s the only thing that will kill the beast,” he continued.
From the long, leather pouch she drew out a double edged dagger of the brightest, shiniest silver she had ever seen. The edge was keen and thin as a baby’s fine hair; the grip was rough leather, lest it slip from the hand at an inopportune moment.
“It’s quite beautiful, Father.”
“It’s deadly, as you must be.”
“Do not fear for me, Father. I have more than the courage and skill you taught me, I have mother’s charm.” She rose with a mischievous wink and retired to her bedroom.
For eight nights Gwynlyn waited with the patience of a saint until the phase of the full moon.
“Father,” she asked, “How is it possible for such a beast to exist?”
“It’s a curse, darlin’, a vicious curse with no cure. I will tell ye somethin’ an old gypsy woman told to me. It’s sort of a poem, I guess. Goes like this,” and his voice softened, “Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night, can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”
“I’m ready for you dear,” her mother called from the kitchen.
“Back in a toot,” Gwynlyn said as she went to answer the call.
The girl is too young and hasn’t the experience, her father thought. She takes this with much too light a heart. Slaying a Blaidd-ddyn is something for a man to do. Then, with a chuckle he said quietly aloud, “Best not mention that to the Mrs., a-ay.”
In the kitchen Mother stood with arms spread wide holding open a hooded cape woven from the finest wool of Eglwysilan Mountain sheep. It was magnificent. But it was the color alone that caused Gwynlyn to cover her mouth and gasp. It was no tartan or tweed, nor any of the usual forest colors. This cape, this very special cape was dyed from the deepest, richest red berries in existence. Her mother turned it out to expose the lining, sleek and shiny as satin, fitted with one long, slender pouch of black leather the exact length of the dagger. On the top of the pouch was embroidered a single word “Rhyfelwr,” warrior. This would be Gwynlyn’s test, as every young man and woman would meet one day to become a Celtic warrior. To wear the emblem of Rhyfelwr one had to prove worthy.
Gwynlyn swirled the magnificent cape around and over her shoulders with such grace that one would suspect she’d owned it all her life. A last look at the dagger and it was then slipped effortlessly into the leather sheath, concealing it along with her intentions and slyness.
Without a word Gwynlyn made for the door. There would be no emotional good-byes, which would be too final; no tears, no hugs and no regrets. That was not their way. As she hesitated before the door her father handed her something in a small pouch and spoke with solid determination, “Come back to us, Daughter, but if you must die, die well.” He would restrain the tear forcing its way from the corner of his eye until she was gone.
“Mother,” Gwynlyn called out, “if it’s not too much trouble might I have some tea and biscuits with honey in the morning?” And without waiting for an answer she was out the door.
Their fastest horse with the bravest heart had been readied and awaited her. Gwynlyn slipped onto its back and with a single, almost imperceptible command the large animal obeyed instantly, digging hooves into Earth and the speeding off into the deep blue night of the forest.
As she rode off into the countryside the full moon rose before her, first cresting the mountain ridge, glaring off the low clouds until it was in full view, large, bright and fully rounded. Now, at the edge of the north wood where the beast had been hunting Gwynlyn pulled her horse to a stop. He stomped impatiently and snorted streams of hot mist into the cool evening air from his flaring nostrils. He had taken Gwynlyn’s mother into many battles and was enlivened for the fight. But not this time. Gwynlyn calmed him with a stroke and soothing words. “You must stay here, old friend,” she whispered. “I will be back. I promise.”
How many times, she tried to remember, had her mother and father said those very words to her? They had always kept their promise. Gwynlyn intended to do the same.
The area of tall trees was full of deep shadows and the ground covered with a thick layer of forest duff. Gwynlyn did not stick to the shadows nor step carefully to avoid snapping a twig or rustling some brush. In fact she walked along carelessly humming a tune as if she had not a thought of any evil. With the moon lighting a well-used path Gwynlyn strolled on, occasionally stopping to view, and even greet, an owl. As carefree as she may have seemed the girl’s senses were not lacking. She took long, deep breaths to fill her nose with every familiar scent. Any small sound was registered. Even the breeze was suspect.
“Good evening young miss,” came a voice from behind a large tree. She stopped abruptly. The voice was deep and melodic; almost soothing.
With care that a trembling tone would give her away Gwynlyn answered, “Oh my, you startled me good sir. And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
A tall, thin man, finely dressed, stepped from behind the tree, but remained within its long shadow. “I am Dargryn, a simple traveler, perhaps like yourself.”
“I am called Lili, and it is my pleasure, sir.” Gwynlyn gave a slight curtsy and nod. She thought; does he know who I am? Are we playing a game?
“My, what a lovely girl you are. I think this is certainly my pleasure.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind.”
“Why do you walk so late in the forest alone, my dear?”
“I’m out to visit an old woman who has been ill. My mother sent me.” The smile that curved her berry red lips was as devious as it was alluring.
“Have you not heard that there is danger out here?” Dargryn probed.
“If there is danger then perhaps a fine gentleman like yourself might see me safely through the forest. I would be grateful, and feel so much safer in your company,” Gwynlyn almost cooed the last few words. The front of the cape draped partly open revealing a modest hint of her beauty. The tight bodice accentuated her curves and her eyes pooled like liquid mercury.
Dargryn stepped from the shadow. He was in full human form, a feat that only comes with experience and great skill. As Gwynlyn expected he was quite handsome; she could feel his presence. She could also see clearly that she had aroused the human maleness that remained within him.
“I will be pleased to escort you, my dear; very pleased indeed. And I will only ask for one small favor in return.”
“And what favor would you ask?” she replied, coquettishly ending her words with a tempting smile.
“I would ask but one kiss from you precious lips. May I?” Dargryn moved close and offered his hand.
Gwynlyn accepted it. At first his hand was gentle, but then his grip tightened and he pulled her hard against him. His lips came within a breath of hers. It took a second for her to become conscious the pain. A blade had been swiftly thrust into her belly. There was a moment of disbelief as she staggered and fell back onto the forest floor. She lay motionless, unable to speak.
Dargryn stood over her looking down with scorn on his now contorting face. His words were growling and garbled as he spoke through the deforming mass of flesh quickly being covered with hair as it twisted into the form of a half-human, half-wolf. “You thought you could fool me!? They sent you, a mere girl, to conquer one like me? Are they mad!? I will send them back what you will become when you pass through me. I am going to eat you from the toes up, very slowly, enjoying every scream and moan as I did with that pathetic old woman who barely filled me for an hour.
Tears, though not of pain but of sorrow, streamed down Gwynlyn’s cheek. The vile beast was speaking of her grandmother, and now her sorrow turned inward. It became a fire inside of her, a fire that was about to erupt.
As the beast, completely changed into the evil Blaidd-ddyn, bent to take its first bite, the moment of disbelief was now his. Like a cool breeze across his throat Gwynlyn’s dagger moved quickly and precisely in her hand slicing through the Blaidd-ddyn’s neck and all the way through its spine. The severed head fell with a thud.
Gwynlyn kicked the decapitated body away from her, took one brief moment to glare at the head and smile, but time was not on her side. The beast’s blade had gone deep and she was bleeding profusely from the wound. From a small hidden pocket in her bodice Gwynlyn withdrew a tiny pouch. She lay back, exposed the wound, opened the pouch and poured out the contents into the gash in her belly. “Thank you Father,” barely escaped from her lips and her world went black.
How they found her days later no one really knows, but when she came-to, lying safe in her bed at home, everyone stood around awaiting the first words form their returned, triumphant hero. She simply asked, “Tea and biscuits with honey, please?”
DON’T LET THE DIAMONDS FOOL YOU
This is the charming reptile that sent little girls screaming and mothers clinging to their youngsters. It looks suspiciously like a rattlesnake. It fact it is an enemy of rattlesnakes because it eats them. It also eats rodents, which is undoubtedly its best characteristic. This lovely specimen is probably lucky that I herded it away and over the bank toward the lake before someone with a shovel saw him.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the much unheralded and rather unattractively named Gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer). It also comes in six sub-species and a much darker color called the Bull snake. ‘Gopher’ is understandable. It eats them, but I seriously doubt if one could unhinge it’s jaw and swallow a bull. If a person believed that, he would be the one swallowing the ‘bull.’
Aside from being one of the most beautiful snakes, it is also a talented mimic. When threatened a Gopher snake will coil like a rattler, make a rattling sound and flatten it’s head into a triangular shape appearing much like a pit viper.
Learn to identify this and other beneficial species so they are not mistakenly destroyed by someone thinking they are dangerous rattlesnakes. Do not be fooled by the diamonds. If that does not sound like good advice ask most any woman about being fooled by diamonds.
WINNER OF THE STORRIE LAKE ‘BIG COOLER CONTEST’
So what do you think; beer or fish?