Outdoors with John Perkovich

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Being in the woods has always been an adventure for me, even as a small child. Growing up in Wisconsin there were always plenty of woods to run around in and a new adventure every day. Unlike Alaska we never had to deal with any bears in west central Wisconsin in the 60’s and 70’s. The bear population at that time was predominantly in the northern third of the state. So it was pretty safe to be out stomping the brush even at an early age.

At the ripe old age of five, my 6-year-old sister and I left our farmhouse and headed for the wooded hill about a mile away. We quickly hiked across the farmland and started our adventure exploring the woods. We only made one mistake that day and it caused quite a ruckus for us once we returned home later that day. We never told mom we were leaving and once she realized we were gone she started calling several of the neighbors and they were in the plan of putting together a search party to start looking for us.

Neighbors were arriving one after another when someone spotted us walking on the edge of the woods nearly a half mile away! Then came that almost blood curdling scream from mom that pierced the air like a siren clearly warning us we were in trouble for something. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at home with mom hollering and all the cars in the yard but I really did not want to give up my exploring and go home. I tried unsuccessfully to convince my sister to run home and see just what it was mom wanted. Then I said you could run back and tell me what it is she wanted. But my sister refused to go so together we trudged on home after our first ever adventure exploring in the woods.

Mom was as mad as an ol’ grizzly and not even our great pinecone collection or a few shiny rocks could calm her down. She might have skinned us both alive had not all the neighbors stayed there till she was calmed down. After they left she let us both have it for not telling her we were leaving but also for making her look like a irresponsible parent in front of all the neighbors.

I have never forgotten that day and all the trouble we got into and still to this day I think we all need to tell someone where we are going each time we set out on an adventure of any kind. But on the other hand maybe just maybe that whole ordeal might have been part of my subconscious thoughts to move 4000 miles away from that spot I got into so much trouble for simply walking in the woods.

As we got a little older mom no longer cared if we headed for the woods as long as we told her, besides the dangers in that part of Wisconsin were minimal. About the worst thing that could happen to you was tumbling and rolling down the hill but we could even fall off our bike or get scrapes in the yard. So by the time I was 8 I was already a veteran in the woods and spent a lot of my time there. My Uncle Jim used to always take us on hikes and sometimes he would even build us a brush fort in the woods. That way we could sit in the shade and let the bugs bite us instead of being a moving target. Each night we would check ourselves for wood ticks and bear ticks before going to bed. I can remember once finding 30 ticks on me after one adventure in the woods picking blue berries in the blue swamp.

On a bright sunny afternoon my Uncle Jim took us for a hike in the woods near my grandfathers farm. We took Red the collie farm dog with us as we set out for an adventure up the steep hillside. Once we arrived at the top we decided to stop, rest and enjoy the scenery.

As we sat around visiting, the dog was sniffing the ground and started digging at a hole in the sandy soil. He never dug very far when suddenly a very mad mama raccoon came out of that hole with four of her babies. The hair stood up on that animal and to a young boy she looked huge and also like she was part grizzly! My Uncle hollered for us to climb a tree so I ran to find one I could climb to safety.

I soon realized I was the worst tree climber of the group and maybe even the slowest one too. Just my luck as guess who the mad mama raccoon chose to eat first? I grabbed a low hanging branch and kicked wildly to get up that tree as the raccoon bore down on me. I must have looked like a cartoon character with my feet spinning like tires almost smoking to propel myself up the tree. I could see the others were already up trees and I was barely a foot off the ground and struggling to get a foothold so I could climb further up the tree..

Just as that animal was preparing to sink it’s teeth into my leg I shut my eyes and prepared for the worst..... I then heard the most awful growling and snarling I ever heard in my life. Red the collie dog lit into that coon and fought it till the coon decided it might be wiser to take her young and make a run for it herself. I watched proudly as the five raccoon headed over the hill and they were not taking part of me with them!

Red the old collie farm dog was a hero that day especially to me! I might have been the last one to find a tree and also the one who climbed the least distance up that tree but I was also the first one down so that should account for something. If you don’t have a dog like Red to take with you it might be wise to carry a gun. If you have neither of the above always take along someone who is slower then you and also isn’t very good at climbing trees. I wonder why my phone keeps ringing today..... See you next week!

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