May 15, 1994

TRACKING AROUND with my grandfather through the mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California, I listened and learned. In this man-muddled Bosom of Nature, I came to fear only three things: log trucks, bear traps and scorpions.

Log trucks are usually driven by men who own their own rigs. This means that they hump themselves to carry as many loads as they can. They have two-way radios, and all know where each other are. You don't. They drive 50, 60 miles an hour on those one lane tote roads, and there's no hope in hell of them stopping even if they did see you, which they probably wouldn't. Whenever we came to a blind turn, of which there were many, we'd slow way down, listen carefully, and sound the horn and be prepared to bail out.

All through the hills, but especially near old logging or mining camps, there is a danger of bear traps. A bear trap, even if fifty or a hundred years old, can still shut like the crack of doom and take your leg off at the knee. And, lurking there in open spaces or what used to be open spaces now grown up with trees, you can't see it. Grandpa told us that he had set one off near where we were, and to walk through high grass, not blindly crashing around, but with a long stick, and slowly.

Always shake out your boots in the morning for scorpions. They like to get in there in the night, and there's not enough room in one shoe for your foot and a scorpion both. Obediently, one morning I shook my boot and a nasty little black scorpion did fall out, enraged to stinging itself to death. Sometimes even in my own bedroom I shake out my boots. It only takes once, and then you're a believer for life.


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