Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Mountain Lion Cometh

So, there are very few things to really fear in Boulder, Colorado. This is different than in Brooklyn, New York. In NYC, fear's your life. (To quote RENT, which I do. Perhaps more often than I should.) You fear things like dying alone in your hot, tiny, fifth-floor-walk-up studio and having nobody notice for three weeks. You fear getting your bag caught in the door of the L train and having twelve teeming car-fulls of over-caffeinated hipsters setting upon you like hyenas on a zebra. You fear getting held at gunpoint in your bed by a bunch of guys who are repeatedly asking you "Where's the money? Where's the money?" (M.Sho can tell you the full story if you want to hear it.)

But in Boulder, Colorado? Oh, you've got your anti-Boulder, pro-Denver faction who will insist, as soon as you mention that you've recently moved to Boulder, that you need to beware of the town's transients. The transients. They all use the same word. It must be the word they use on the 5 o'clock news whenever some homeless dude does something notable in Boulder. But frankly, I'm not all that frightened of said "transients." Seven years in the biggest city in the universe will do that to you.

As far as I can tell, there are only two things to be afraid of in Boulder:

1) Death by homogenaity, and
2) Death by mountain lions.

The former is just a theory of mine, which may or may not be proven in time. The latter, not so much. Every time you go hiking--and you do go hiking, because you're in Boulder and that's what you do in Boulder, you go hiking--you are warned about the mountain lions. The sign is posted at nearly every trailhead: YOU ARE ENTERING MOUNTAIN LION HABITAT. You are warned that IF YOU MUST HIKE ALONE, WEAR BELLS! And moreover, IF YOU DO ENCOUNTER A MOUNTAIN LION, MAKE YOURSELF LOOK AS BIG AS POSSIBLE. MAKE LOTS OF NOISE, BUT DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. DO NOT RUN. BACK AWAY SLOWLY. PLACE CHILDREN DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF ADULTS SO THEY LOOK BIGGER.

You catch the drift.

So, as you and your friend, and her husband, and their two dogs (or whoever) pass the warning sign, someone feels compelled to comment. Someone notes how nobody is afraid of bears anymore, even after Grizzly Man. What everyone's afraid of now are mountain lions, after the book The Beast in the Garden, which told the story of why mountain lions are just becoming more and more of a problem in Boulder. (Synopsis: no more hunting deer + Boulder residents wanting to live on the edge of "nature" = more deer in Boulder = more mountain lions in Boulder.)

But then someone else points out that nobody has been killed by a mountain lion in Boulder in, like, years. And that all you have to do is carry pepper spray. Or all you have to do is fight the mountain lion off when it attacks. Or all you have to do is not hike alone. Or all you have to do is . . . .

In other words, the group, together, convinces itself that it's safe. And you know what? It generally is.

Except last Saturday night. When the group was eight people, on the very same, very nearby trail where a friend of mine from the office got engaged not too long ago, and it was a 7-year-old bringing up the rear. And the 7-year-old's father turned around and saw a mountain lion dragging said 7-year-old into the woods by his head.

The good news? It was a group of eight people, and that meant eight people throwing rocks at the animal and beating it with sticks until it let go of the probably-traumatized-for-life, but still very much alive 7-year-old. The bad news? I came home tonight instead of going hiking with the aforementioned engaged (now married and preggers) friend, because we were both too scared to go hiking in the evening, when the mountain lions are out hunting prey. And now I honestly don't know if I'll be comfortable hiking alone anymore, which is something I really enjoy.

Fear pretty much blows.

FREAKY ADDENDUM: My pregnant friend came into my office first thing this morning with a look of fear on her face. "I don't know if I should tell you this," she started. Not a good sign. Turns out this morning's Boulder Daily Camera (yes, I've gone from the Times to the friggin' Daily Camera) there was a report of a mountain lion attacking a dog.....on the exact trail where we were planning to hike last night. Christ on a cracker.


Anonymous Cheeses of Nazareth said...

GREAT STORY! "Christ on a cracker" is pretty good, too. "Christ on a crutch" is another personal favorite. Mr. Fishpatty.

1:46 AM  

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