Vagrant Story Episode 1: Wanna play with a Mountain Lion?

In the words of Cowboy Beebop…

“I think it’s time to blow this scene.

Get everybody and the stuff together…

OK. 3. 2. 1. Let’s Jam.”

Ladies and Germs… it begins. (And is written in the narrative third person for fun.)

After being dropped off at a truck stop in Mortons Gap KY, our dashing hero finds himself back in his element, in the words of Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again.” Spending the next hour eating a Subway sandwich and making adjustments to his gear, Bryan looks at a map and plans his next move… 20 seconds into that whole mess and he packs his shit, picks a road and starts walking.

It wasn’t long till Bryan got his ‘inaugural ride,’ an older couple headed home; they could took our beloved vagabonder a mere 3 miles before they had to turn off to go north. This was not the direction Bryan wanted so he asked to be dropped off in the middle of I-24. Knowing that hitchhiking on the freeway was illegal, Bryan beat feet to another road that he hoped was a highway, 41 alternate to be specific.

He tried his luck there, resting his heavy pack on a guard rail and practiced playing his Ocarina in between thumbing attempts. 20 minutes went by… nothing. 40 minutes went by… nothing. Finally, after an hour of no rides and his inability to remember to play a certain F flat in Chrono Trigger’s Peaceful Days, our hero soldiers on down a road he hoped was south… it was not.

It turns out his compass said he was walking west, which confused the fuck outta him because he map said something different. But at this point he just didn’t care. Making his way down the road he continued to play his Ocarina, occasionally making futile attempts to hitch. It wasn’t long before he came upon a group of 3 travelers with two cars who were waiting for a tow truck to come and pick up one of the down vehicles.

Bryan stopped to ask them what road he was on, which way it was going, and just where the hell he was. The trio didn’t know being from Paris TN. They asked Bryan questions about who he was, what he was doing, and if he was insane. His name is Bryan, he’s hitchhiking, and yes, he’s stark raving mad… he’s a loon. The four of them engaged in small talk for a while, when suddenly they offered to give him a lift as they were going to Hopkinsville following the tow truck.

Bryan quickly agreed and moments later the tow truck showed up, with a driver that had a pony tail way longer than any man should. The awesome foursome drove off towards Hopkinsville KY. On the way, it was mentioned that they were actually going to Clarksville TN, and wouldn’t mind dropping him off there if Bryan didn’t mind. Bryan didn’t mind at all and did his part to entertain his generous hosts as they sped down I-24 E and told them the Legend of His Heroic Tale; it began in the 12th Century… You see that was a very long time ago…

Arriving at the mechanic shop in Hopkinsville, Bryan, Jake, and Devin idled around while Aaron attended to his busted car and dealt with the mechanics. After deciding on a massive fee to fix the vehicle they were off to Clarksville TN and along the way they discussed politics, religion, philosophy; ya know all the juicy stuff you’re supposed to avoid.

Reaching the outskirts of Clarksville, Aaron pulled the vehicle over at a gas station and Bryan got out. He had traveled a great distance by car and didn’t want his hosts to go too far out of their way or burn up all their gas on his account. Aaron set Bryan up with a Gatorade and a bit of cash and Jake insisted on a picture with the first hitchhiker he’s ever picked up.

After taking the picture

Clarksville hitchhiking Jake on the left, Devin on the right.

and bidding his new friends farewell, our hero readies himself for the road ahead. On his way out of the gas station parking lot a kind older woman expresses genuine concern for Bryan’s safety from the drive thru window. After assuring the woman that he’d be fine Bryan heads off on yet another unknown road.

It didn’t take long till Bryan came across a carwash which had a faint, yet curious trail leading up into the woods. Being ‘that kind of guy,’ Bryan follows the trail into the woods for about 100 yards before finding an open area to set up camp. The site was perfect; hidden enough in the woods by the dense(ish) foliage, but close enough to the main street if he needed anything and it meant a relatively short walk tomorrow to get to civilization.

Bryan set up camp and stowed his gear and then decided to do a little self-education on survival skills and learning to forage. Bryan had brought an old army survival guide with him and used the guide to aid his investigation of the surrounding area. Bryan canvased the area and identified wild growing onions, various site of insects, bird nests, rocks; and tree branches of different woods that may be used to make a variety of field expedient weapons. He found evidence of small edible creatures like squirrels and snakes and observed the hunting patterns of a very large and potentially very filling bird of prey as it circled in the air in search of food. Watching the way the various birds moved and perched on branches, Bryan got ideas of different snares that could be set on the branches to trap small birds.

Wild Onions Growing EVERYWHERE around here.

All in all it was a good experience and Bryan’s confidence rose as he became more familiar with different ways of taking care of himself without all the heavy gear he was carrying. There was a certain peace of mind that came from knowing that even if he lost his pack, he’d be OK. While eating a dinner of carrots, peanut butter and almonds, Bryan secretly wondered if he’d become so self-sufficient that he’d forego the pack altogether. He laughed at the idea. Bryan couldn’t imagine being without a tent, a sleeping bag, and a bedroll. At the very least he wanted that.

The sun began to set on the woodsy wanderer and he turned in for the night at about 7 PM. Finding that he couldn’t sleep, he pulled out his laptop and began typing this very article. Lost in a flurry of sentences, metaphors, and entertaining anecdotes Bryan didn’t hear the movement before it was close to his camp. Upon hearing the crunch of leaves and the snapping of what sounded like good sized sticks, Bryan stopped mid-sentence… Something or someone was out there.

For a moment Bryan was unsure what to do. If it was a person and his camp had been found, it would do no good to just sit in his tent and ‘hope’ the person went away, maybe they wanted to help, hey it’s happened many times before. If it was a creature it might pass him by… then again, perhaps the distinct odor of sweet smelling body scrub is what led the creature here. If that was the case, the creature would search for the source of the smell and undoubtedly find it inside his tent. From the sound of things whatever was out there sounded heavy. Bryan decided that whether it was creature of human, sitting was stupid and grabbing his knife he decided to meet whatever was out there.

Standing up out of his tent and looking in the direction of the sound, he spied a very large Bobcat, also called a Mountain Lion. Calling it a cat was an insult… that thing was a beast. Upon seeing Bryan’s emergence and size coupled with Bryan’s very aggressive and distinctly human shout (the knife was really secondary), the beastly cat fled into the woods over the hill.

‘Mountain Lions,’ Bryan thought entering his tiny Walmart Junior Dome tent. ‘Fantastic.’ Yeah, Bryan had wanted to learn wilderness survival skills, but he was hoping he could save the encounters with deadly, predatory animals for a later and more evolved time. As he resumed typing on his laptop the confidence boost that naturally comes from scaring off something that may want to eat you started to wane and fear began to creep into Bryan’s mind.

‘What happens if it comes back; supposing it hasn’t given up yet? Maybe it’s not alone. What are the odds that there are more of those things out there? Could they come back in a group? Do Mountain Lions hunt in packs?’ Fear began to turn into paranoia, but Bryan was determined not to run out of the woods and he did what he always does with fearful thoughts: he thought about it logically for a minute.

‘How do you know the Mountain Lion was even after you? It’s just as likely that it was tracking something else and happened to wander into your neck of the woods. There is also evidence abounds of humans working in these woods and heavy traffic is right there; I can’t imagine these things routinely come this close to human settlements. It’s been 30 minutes since he ran off and we haven’t heard anything out there.’ Bryan turned things over in his mind till he became fairly calm about the whole thing and then he went to sleep.

Bryan may have been wrong though, because about 1:30 AM Bryan awoke to the sound crunching leaves and breaking sticks. Fear started and was quickly replaced by annoyance. Bryan had had enough of being antagonized by a large cat, hell the cat he had back at home was a pain in the ass and now here he’s found a bigger version. He decided to do something; the hunted would be the hunter. ‘Well, here we go,’ Bryan thought. So grabbing his knife and lighting up his head lamp, Bryan decided to ‘take this outside,’ and emerged from his tent into the cold forest air ready to clash with this thing.

There was a slight rustling of leaves and then… nothing. Bryan scanned the forest in all directions for his quarry, but found no Mountain Lion. There were raccoons to the East and North; nothing from the West, and small rustling to the south, but he could see the leaves moving from a creature underneath it and it was definitely no Mountain Lion.

Bryan worried that the Mountain Lion was lying in wait, but then thought about it for a minute. How could he be sure that it was the cat that woke him? He hadn’t actually seen it this time and the rustle he heard on his emergence from the tent came from the South behind him, which he’d established was not a Bobcat.

There was nothing to say that the noises he was hearing now weren’t the movement of many a small and relatively harmless nocturnal creature searching for small dinner. Of course, it was equally true that he couldn’t prove that it wasn’t the Mountain Lion, but if he allowed himself the think that way he’d never get back to sleep and it was a good five and a half hours of sleep before his cell phone would go off at 7 AM.

Bryan decided that he would allow his mind to be pacified by his somewhat artificial logic if only in the name of sanity. If it happened again he had a knife and would emerge to face to creature; that alone had scared it off when he actually saw it earlier in the evening. Climbing back into his sleeping bag, Bryan wondered if this was how his primal ancestors had slept; not a solid 8 hours as our oh-so-trustworthy government and medical establishment tells us we should be sleeping. Maybe it is natural for humans to sleep in segments; biologically optimal and historically necessitated by the possibility of nightly attack.

‘Meh,’ Bryan thought and slept surprisingly soundly. At 6:30 AM Bryan awoke naturally to the peaceful sounds of birds and fresh forest air. Despite the fear of the night before, Bryan couldn’t think of a better atmosphere to awaken in than the one he was in now. Curious, Bryan went out into the woods where he had definitely seen the Mountain Lion and observed its tracks. Learning what their tracks look like, he took himself over to where he thought he saw it in the early morning. Searching the area he could find no trace of a Mountain Lion. It is quite possible that the first time he saw the creature was the only time he saw it, but I guess we’ll never know for sure. He is currently kicking himself for not having taken pictures of the tracks.

Breaking camp, Bryan heads out back onto the Road where he walks a short ways up to a Citgo gas station, gets himself a cup of coffee, has a nice breakfast of an Apple and a Banana and abuses their WiFi which is where he finished and posted this blog entry.

Why I Travel

Vagrant Story Eposide 2

Categories: Blogging, Camping, Character Development, Equipment, Fear, Gear, Leadership, Paleo, philosophy, Primal, Self-improvement, Spirituality, Travel, Vagabonding | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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