Jon was an interesting blend of Grizzly Adams and Bear Grylls. A collector of weaponry, with an arsenal of guns, bows and arrows, knives and yes, a genuine harpoon. One would not expect a lawyer for a state agency to have such an eclectic hobby. But he did and he was passionate about his collection.
Jon and I had been dating for about two years. I knew he was passionate about hunting and was sometimes, not too rational about it. Still, I wasn’t expecting a lovely October Sunday to become so “surprising.“ On that day, he suggested we drive up to the Adirondacks and go for a hike. I was totally on board and I packed us a hearty lunch and off we went. The foliage was almost at its peak and the day was mild and sunny. Perfect hiking weather.
We arrived at the parking area where I thought we would begin our hike. But instead of parking, he drove through the lot and onto a road, clearly marked, “Maintenance Use Only.” Although he was a lawyer, he was not always a strict follower of the rules. After a few minutes of driving, he pulled his car into a small clearing.
“We’re here,” he announced. I looked around but couldn’t see any trail. It was then he informed me that he’d brought me up there under false pretenses. We weren’t going for a hike, At least I wasn’t, nor was Jon, exactly. He was going hunting. This was made clear when he opened up the trunk and pulled out a rifle. As it wasn’t deer season yet, I knew it could only be one other critter. Bear.
Now I knew why he suggested I bring a book. “So, you brought me up here for exactly what reason?” I asked. “And don’t tell me you simply wanted company on the drive up and back.”
“Well, I figured you’d enjoy the peace and quiet…and the scenery is nice.” He looked sheepish. We both knew the reason I was here.
“I’m here so if you get injured, or attacked by a bear, I can go for help, right?
“Uh huh. And how am I supposed to know that?” I asked, spitting out my words. I could see he was thinking about that scenario.
“Okay, so if I get in trouble, I’ll fire a shot. Then you go get help.”
“And how am I supposed to know if you’re in trouble, or if the poor bear’s in trouble?” At this point, I was almost feeling more sympathetic towards the bear. I like bears. Right now, I wasn’t so sure about my feelings for Jon.
“Okay, I’ll fire two shots. If I’m able to.” Then he handed me the car keys, hoisted the rifle over his shoulder and ambled off into the woods.
I found a stump and sat down to read. Or tried to.
The problem with being in the woods, alone, is that you have time to think. To think that maybe being in the woods inhabited by bears wasn’t such a good thing. What if said bear decided to saunter down to where I sat, with no weapon. As I contemplated this sobering thought, one of my favorite children’s songs popped into my head.
If you go down in the woods today
You better not go alone
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there together because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic
I immediately got up and continued thinking inside the car. I thought what if Jon can only get off one shot? Does that mean he shot a bear, or that he was so badly wounded, he could only get one shot off? And what if he misses and fires a second shot? I remember praying that I would never hear a gun go off.
He was gone several hours. A very long, and thankfully, a quiet several hours. As angry as I was, I admit I was relieved to see him emerge from the dense woods, unscathed and disappointed that he never even saw a bear.
This event happened over forty years ago, and I never went hiking with Jon ever again. And happily, for me, the bears chose not to have their picnic in those woods that day.