Friday, June 15, 2012

The water marmot

We are slightly uneasy here in utopia about a rabid fox having bit a dog one day and a hiker at Buttermilk Falls State Park the next. (It was then shot dead.) Is this the start of an epidemic??

So at a recent Primitive Pursuits wilderness skills training they put us through our paces with our throwing sticks, to aim at targets in the woods “as though your life depends upon it.” Their serious message was somewhat marred by the nature of the targets – sticks set upright in the ground, each with an Oreo cookie perched on top. Hit the stick, get the Oreo. (Hit the Oreo, obliterate it.) These were Paul Newman brand cookies, highly virtuous in many ways, but not alas gluten free. We did this for about fifteen minutes. I did not bag a cookie.

Then we put our packs on and walked up the trail through the woods. Leader Jed discussed with us the animals that are prone to rabies locally, one of them being the water marmot. No one had heard of a water marmot? He insisted that it was a local, indigenous member of “the marmot family” and that he and co-leader Tim (who had vanished from our group) had often stalked it and the elusive fisher, up the very trail we were headed.* When it contracts rabies, Jed told us, it transforms from being a water animal to a land animal, and takes to the trails.

We continued to trudge up the steep trail, heads down, bunched in a group, thinking over all these worrisome things. Jed spun around and said, “I really think you all had better have your throwing sticks out and ready. And separate – get about ten feet apart – in case you need to throw that stick in a hurry.”

OK! We finally got it! We drew our sticks like lightsabers from our packs, spread out along the trail and began to scrutinize our surroundings. Several people ahead of me topped a little rise and were out of sight. Suddenly screams erupted from up there!! A loud bellowing and banging! People were shouting.

We ran up the hill, to see Tim galloping toward us through the trees, chased by a gallon water jug half filled with water, that he was pulling behind him via a string. “Help! Help!” he was shouting, “Save me from the water marmot!” We all threw our sticks forcefully at the gallon jug as it hurtled past. “Water marmot! Water marmot!” he screamed but then the string broke, and the marmot ground to a halt behind him.

We all ran to grab our sticks as he re-tied the string, and we regrouped to each again savagely attack the water jug as it hurtled back past us, chasing Tim to a big tree where he, it and we all stopped for lunch. Sefra Levin ran around in the woods with the marmot chasing her for another few minutes as she happily screamed “Water marmot!”
* Jed Jordan has corrected the water marmot facts listed above. It is an invasive species.

<<< Group recovers, following ferocious attack.

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