Scream in the Night

We forgot that it would be dark early that night as fall was approaching with a cool breeze. The meadow grasses were golden, and a few aspens in the distance flashed the yellow colors of autumn. We walked on a well-worn trail near Lake Dillon, then followed a bridge over the lake’s outlet, a favorite fishing spot for parents and their children. We stopped to take pictures on the horizon of the full moon reflecting in the pond beavers had created. If we remained still long enough, we thought we might get a glimpse of one of the two beavers that had worked hard all summer creating their dam of mud, sticks, and even human detritus such as a cast-off glove and an empty plastic bag of Cheetos. Beavers are the ultimate recyclers when it comes to dam building, and the pond they created was certainly a marvel of engineering.

Suddenly, concentric ripples appeared and then, barely visible, the head of a beaver emerged swimming towards us. Whispering quietly, we guessed its weight at about 40 pounds, a big one. The pair would spend the night repairing their dam, making it higher and longer as they had done all summer. 

It was hard to pull ourselves away from this idyllic sight of the moon on the water with beaver as a splendid extra attraction to the scene. My husband quietly reminded me that we were on a walk for exercise too.  

 Old Folks Reunion: Shirts for the Genetically Related

Old Folks Reunion: Shirts for the Genetically Related

We held hands as we reminisced about the “Old Folks Reunion” we had just hosted—how much fun it was to see relatives from Florida, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. See the photos of the genetically related ones all in t-shirts with logos that were a perfect match to their personalities—way back when…  We wondered who would host the group the next year, if there would be new ailments and remedies to discuss, even more memories to recall with laughter, what new accomplishments by our grandchildren, and our own exciting travels and activities? Where would we be next year? How would our lives change?  

A squirrel, a resident of the same tree we passed each evening, scolded us with loud chattering for invading its space. At the top of a nearby evergreen a raven, glossy black in the moonlight, raised and lowered its wings several times and rasped a loud screech. Enchanted by the stillness of the evening, with ghost evergreens outlined in black against the glow of moonlight on the lake, we finally realized it was time to turn back. Not wanting to break the spell of the beauty before us, but drawing on my practical side, I whispered to my husband, “Dusk is when mountain lions prowl for dinner.”

And then I heard it, a scream piercing our quiet bubble of peace. In an instant, I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck as my scalp crawled with fear. I gripped Rich’s hand, “What do you think that is?”

“Maybe elk bugling—it’s the season for it.” And there it was again: A scream of pain? Claiming territory? Before the kill?”

“Too low and not musical enough. I wonder if a mountain lion is stalking us. But they usually attack prey that are alone, not a pair,” I said trying to stay calm and walking a little faster.

“I’m sure we’ll be okay. We’re not that far away from home. I think we’re safe,” said Rich, always the optimist. He held my hand tighter to speed up our pace.

“Mountain lions automatically pursue anything moving fast.”

“We aren’t moving that fast, and besides, I could go on ahead, and then I would be safe for sure,” he jokes. The scream drilled through the air again, this time with some lower growling at the end. I tried to keep my wits about me, using strategies learned in years of therapy.  darkness enveloped us as a shadow crossed in front of the moon. We had to concentrate on staying on the path, but lights from buildings, not far away, let us know we didn’t have far to go.

Yikes! We made it back. After breathing a sigh of relief, I googled “Animal Noises at Night” and found the attached YouTube video: The third animal sound on the video is exactly what we heard: a fox! They eat only small critters such as mice, voles, and rabbits, not people out for a walk in the moonlight. Whew! 

Linda Lundgren