After 35 years of hiking, I thought I was aware of its inherent hazards. I’d never considered the possibility that I may step on an unspent mortar shell and blow my leg off. There’s an area in West Virginia called Dolly Sods Wilderness. Over 70 years ago, as part of a training exercise, Army units bombarded the area with mortar rounds and howitzer shells. Campers and hikers occassionally fell victim to the devices, many of which were scattered in the underbrush or lying just beneath the surface of the ground. I believe those have been cleared up by now, but woods and mountains are still fraught with danger.

On a trip to the mountains, a hiker new to my group said, “I’ve got an ice pick in case we run into a bear.”

“An ice pick? Were you planning to mix him a drink? Does red wine or white wine go with bear meat?”

“No, but if one attacks, I’ll stab him with it.”

“Stabbing a bear with an ice pick would just dull the ice pick and annoy the bear.”

I had also brought my mother, another novice hiker, and we were about to head for the trail head when she said, “Wait! I have to reglue my dentures. If we get lost in the woods and run out of food, I may have to gnaw on a rabbit.”

“Mom, I don’t know who you think is going to kill, skin, gut, and cook a rabbit if that should happen. It won’t be me. I’ve got protein bars and mixed nuts in my pack. There’s also a few mixed nuts in this group,” I muttered.

The worst thing that’s happened to me while hiking (other than a couple of falls which resulted in a broken rib and a torn rotator cuff) was an encounter with a skunk who was foraging along the side of the trail. After several hours of hiking on a hot, humid summer day, I smelled about as bad as he did. All I had to do if he’d backed up and raised his tail, was raise my arms and it would be a toss-up which of us would need a bath in tomato juice when we got back to our homes.

I often see signs in parks which feature the silhouette of a man tumbling head over heels and the words, “Dangerous Cliff.” Who is Cliff? A homicidal gymnast? Whoever Cliff is, he sure gets around. I’ve been warned about him in several states.

Instead of me worrying about the dangers in scenic wonderlands, perhaps the scenic wonderlands should be worried about me. I have a tendency to compusively tidy up. If I were to visit the ruins of the city of Pompeii, I’d probably wear out dozens of vacuum cleaners sucking up all that volcanic ash.

I’d likely get thrown out of Stonehenge for lining up all the stones in rows according to height.

I wonder how long it’d take me to fill in the Grand Canyon one bucketfull at a time.

Last summers’ vacation to South Dakota was a fiasco. There I was, hanging from a scaffold, in spite of my fear of heights, performing a little grooming at Mount Rushmore. I removed several nasal polyps from George Washington and trimmed Teddy Roosevelt’s mustache. Just as I was clipping some shrubbery which protruded from Jefferson and Lincoln like nose hair, I saw an irate ranger edging toward me.

Hmm, who does that guy remind me of? I could just make out the name stitched across the pocket of his shirt. Cliff. Eek! It’s dangerous Cliff, the homicidal gymnast! Like I said before, that guy really gets around!


3 thoughts on “Never Stab a Bear With an Ice Pick

  1. Are the you the one they arrested for trying to scrub off the cave paintings??? Very funny piece as always! P.S. I think I’d like your mom!

    Liked by 1 person

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