Just Another Day

Okay, I run this route several times a week.  I get to a certain point and I feel I am being watched; maybe I am.  I call the dogs closer and they run, one on either side of me.  Down through an arroyo, over a boulder, along a dry stream bed.  No trails through this part of the run, I just float along the pinyon juniper woodlands feeling like a deer.  Light and leaping, over a downed tree, ducking under overhanging branches.  I pick my way along in the shadow of Juniper Mesa.  I feel I am being watched; always in this part, eyes watching me.

I can make an educated guess; the only thing that would watch me run through this land is a mountain lion. They are so hunted here (by dogs) that they will flee or hide in trees at the sound or smell of a dog.  The fear has been passed down from generation to generation; they associate dogs with death by gun or arrow.  Sad, but for me running alone it is what keeps me alive.  I am running after all, looking like a brown deer in their hunting grounds.  They're not  just sitting around waiting to prey on people.  They are extremely shy creatures.  They just want their deer meat so they can get on with what they do best: sleep, mate and raise babies.  But... if  all the humans have shot their deer and moved into their territory, and they are really hungry, a human might look pretty tasty (especially a small brown one leaping through the forest feeling like a deer.)

And then I see it.  Not the lion, but the deer (carcass) tucked up under a juniper.  Not 15 feet from where I am running in the dry creek bed.  It looks like it has been there maybe two weeks or less.  Legs, spine and pelvis are strewn in a 10 foot diameter.  Barely attached to the spine is a skull with a gorgeous set of antlers.  There is debris covering some parts, but the majority has been devoured already.  I look around, call the dogs closer, and attempt to pull the skull free.  I see that the attack must have come from the back of the skull; it pulls free easily.

So, perhaps I have been being watched.  O well, I run with possible watchers every day out here; it's part of the package.  This is where I fit in; the wild landscape and its great curving embrace.

I run home with the skull and my family thinks I am crazy.  The antlers make great beads and buttons, but for now the skull hangs on my garden fence.  I see it every day and it serves as a reminder of the wildness of this land.