فصل 02

کتاب: قدم زدن در جنگل / فصل 2

فصل 02

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 31 دقیقه
  • سطح سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

فایل صوتی

دانلود فایل صوتی

متن انگلیسی فصل

On the afternoon of July 5, 1983, three adult supervisors and a group of youngsters set up camp at a popular spot beside Lake Canimina in the fragrant pine forests of western Quebec, about eighty miles north of Ottawa, in a park called La Verendrye Provincial Reserve. They cooked dinner and, afterwards, in the correct fashion, secured their food in a bag and carried it a hundred or so feet into the woods, where they suspended it above the ground between two trees, out of the reach of bears.

About midnight, a black bear came prowling around the margins of the camp, spied the bag, and brought it down by climbing one of the trees and breaking a branch. He plundered the food and departed, but an hour later he was back, this time entering the camp itself, drawn by the lingering smell of cooked meat in the campers’ clothes and hair, in their sleeping bags and tent fabric. It was to be a long night for the Canimina party.

Three times between midnight and 3:30 A.M. the bear came to the camp.

Imagine, if you will, lying in the dark alone in a little tent, nothing but a few microns of trembling nylon between you and the chill night air, listening to a 400-pound bear moving around your campsite. Imagine its quiet grunts and mysterious snufflings, the clatter of upended cookware and sounds of moist gnawings, the pad of its feet and the heavinessof its breath, the singing brush of its haunch along your tent side. Imagine the hot flood of adrenaline, that unwelcome tingling in the back of your arms, at the sudden rough bump of its snout against the foot of your tent, the alarming wild wobble of your frail shell as it roots through the backpack that you left casually propped by the entrance–with, you suddenly recall, a Snickers in the pouch. Bears adore Snickers, you’ve heard.

And then the dull thought–oh, God–that perhaps you brought the Snickers in here with you, that it’s somewhere in here, down by your feet or underneath you or–oh, shit, here it is. Another bump of grunting head against the tent, this time near your shoulders. More crazy wobble. Then silence, a very long silence, and–wait, shhhhh . . . yes!–the unutterable relief of realizing that the bear has withdrawn to the other side of the camp or shambled back into the woods. I tell you right now, I couldn’t stand it.

So imagine then what it must have been like for poor little David Anderson, aged twelve, when at 3:30 A.M., on the third foray, his tent was abruptly rent with a swipe of claw and the bear, driven to distraction by the rich, unfixable, everywhere aroma of hamburger, bit hard into a flinching limb and dragged him shouting and flailing through the camp and into the woods. In the few moments it took the boy’s fellow campers to unzip themselves from their accoutrements–and imagine, if you will, trying to swim out of suddenly voluminous sleeping bags, take up flashlights and makeshift cudgels, undo tent zips with helplessly fumbling fingers, and give chase–in those few moments, poor little David Anderson was dead.

Now imagine reading a nonfiction book packed with stories such as this–true tales soberly related–just before setting off alone on a camping trip of your own into the North American wilderness. The book to which I refer is Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, by a Canadian academic named Stephen Herrero. If it is not the last word on the subject, then I really, really, really do not wish to hear the last word. Through long winter nights in New Hampshire, while snow piled up outdoors and my wife slumbered peacefully beside me, I lay saucer-eyed in bed reading clinically precise accounts of people gnawed pulpy in their sleeping bags, plucked whimpering from trees, even noiselessly stalked (I didn’t know this happened!) as they sauntered unawares down leafy paths or cooled their feet in mountain streams. People whose one fatal mistake was to smooth their hair with a dab of aromatic gel, or eat juicy meat, or tuck a Snickers in their shirt pocket for later, or have sex, or even, possibly, menstruate, or in some small, inadvertent way pique the olfactory properties of the hungry bear. Or, come to that, whose fatal failing was simply to be very, very unfortunate–to round a bend and find a moody male blocking the path, head rocking appraisingly, or wander unwittingly into the territory of a bear too slowed by age or idleness to chase down fleeter prey.

Now it is important to establish right away that the possibility of a serious bear attack on the Appalachian Trail is remote. To begin with, the really terrifying American bear, the grizzly–Ursus horribilis, as it is so vividly and correctly labeled–doesn’t range east of the Mississippi, which is good news because grizzlies are large, powerful, and ferociously bad tempered. When Lewis and Clark went into the wilderness, they found that nothing unnerved the native Indians more than the grizzly, and not surprisingly since you could riddle a grizzly with arrows–positively porcupine it– and it would still keep coming. Even Lewis and Clark with their big guns were astounded and unsettled by the ability of the grizzly to absorb volleys of lead with barely a wobble.Herrero recounts an incident that nicely conveys the near indestructibility of the grizzly.

It concerns a professional hunter in Alaska named Alexei Pitka, who stalked a large male through snow and finally felled it with a well-aimed shot to the heart from a large-bore rifle. Pitka should probably have carried a card with him that said: “First make sure bear is dead. Then put gun down.” He advanced cautiously and spent a minute or two watching the bear for movement, but when there was none he set the gun against a tree (big mistake!) and strode forward to claim his prize. Just as he reached it, the bear sprang up, clapped its expansive jaws around the front of Pitka’s head, as if giving him a big kiss, and with a single jerk tore off his face.

Miraculously, Pitka survived. “I don’t know why I set that durn gun against the tree,”

he said later. (Actually, what he said was, “Mrffff mmmpg nnnmmm mffffffn,” on account of having no lips, teeth, nose, tongue, or other vocal apparatus.)

If I were to be pawed and chewed–and this seemed to me entirely possible, the more I read–it would be by a black bear, Ursus americanus. There are at least 500,000 black bears in North America, possibly as many as 700,000. They are notably common in the hills along the Appalachian Trail (indeed, they often use the trail, for convenience), and their numbers are growing. Grizzlies, by contrast, number no more than 35,000 in the whole of North America, and just 1,000 in the mainland United States, principally in and around Yellowstone National Park. Of the two species, black bears are generally smaller (though this is a decidedly relative condition; a male black bear can still weigh up to 650 pounds) and unquestionably more retiring.

Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning, and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, butand here is the absolutely salient point–once would be enough. Herrero is at pains to stress that black bear attacks are infrequent, relative to their numbers. For 1900 to 1980, he found just twenty-three confirmed black bear killings of humans (about half the number of killings by grizzlies), and most of these were out West or in Canada. In New Hampshire there has not been an unprovoked fatal attack on a human by a bear since 1784. In Vermont, there has never been one.

I wanted very much to be calmed by these assurances but could never quite manage the necessary leap of faith. After noting that just 500 people were attacked and hurt by black bears between 1960 and 1980–twenty-five attacks a year from a resident population of at least half a million bears–Herrero adds that most of these injuries were not severe. “The typical black bear-inflicted injury,” he writes blandly, “is minor and usually involves only a few scratches or light bites.” Pardon me, but what exactly is a light bite? Are we talking a playful wrestle and gummy nips? I think not. And is 500 certified attacks really such a modest number, considering how few people go into the North American woods? And how foolish must one be to be reassured by the information that no bear has killed a human in Vermont or New Hampshire in 200 years? That’s not because the bears have signed a treaty, you know. There’s nothing to say that they won’t start a modest rampage tomorrow.

So let us imagine that a bear does go for us out in the wilds. What are we to do?

Interestingly, the advised stratagems are exactly opposite for grizzly and black bear. With a grizzly, you should make for a tall tree, since grizzlies aren’t much for climbing. If a treeis not available, then you should back off slowly, avoiding direct eye contact. All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on no account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard when he gives it. Take it from me, if you are in an open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life. However, when the grizzly overtakes you, as it most assuredly will, you should fall to the ground and play dead. A grizzly may chew on a limp form for a minute or two but generally will lose interest and shuffle off. With black bears, however, playing dead is futile, since they will continue chewing on you until you are considerably past caring. It is also foolish to climb a tree because black bears are adroit climbers and, as Herrero dryly notes, you will simply end up fighting the bear in a tree.

To ward off an aggressive black bear, Herrero suggests making a lot of noise, banging pots and pans together, throwing sticks and rocks, and “running at the bear.” (Yeah, right. You first, Professor.) On the other hand, he then adds judiciously, these tactics could “merely provoke the bear.” Well, thanks. Elsewhere he suggests that hikers should consider making noises from time to time– singing a song, say–to alert bears of their presence, since a startled bear is more likely to be an angry bear, but then a few pages later he cautions that “there may be danger in making noise,” since that can attract a hungry bear that might otherwise overlook you.

The fact is, no one can tell you what to do. Bears are unpredictable, and what works in one circumstance may not work in another. In 1973, two teenagers, Mark Seeley and Michael Whitten, were out for a hike in Yellowstone when they inadvertently crossed between a female black bear and her cubs. Nothing worries and antagonizes a female bear more than to have people between her and her brood. Furious, she turned and gave chase–despite the bear’s lolloping gait, it can move at up to thirty-five miles an hour–and the two boys scrambled up trees. The bear followed Whitten up his tree, clamped her mouth around his right foot, and slowly and patiently tugged him from his perch. (Is it me, or can you feel your fingernails scraping through the bark?) On the ground, she began mauling him extensively. In an attempt to distract the bear from his friend, Seeley shouted at it, whereupon the bear came and pulled him out of his tree, too. Both young men played dead–precisely the wrong thing to do, according to all the instruction manuals–and the bear left.

I won’t say I became obsessed by all this, but it did occupy my thoughts a great deal in the months while I waited for spring to come. My particular dread–the vivid possibility that left me staring at tree shadows on the bedroom ceiling night after night–was having to lie in a small tent, alone in an inky wilderness, listening to a foraging bear outside and wondering what its intentions were. I was especially riveted by an amateur photograph in Herrero’s book, taken late at night by a camper with a flash at a campground out West.

The photograph caught four black bears as they puzzled over a suspended food bag. The bears were clearly startled but not remotely alarmed by the flash. It was not the size or demeanor of the bears that troubled me–they looked almost comically unaggressive, like four guys who had gotten a Frisbee caught up a tree–but their numbers. Up to that moment it had not occurred to me that bears might prowl in parties. What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paperstreamers you get at children’s parties–I daresay it would even give a merry toot–and bleed to a messy death in my sleeping bag.

Herrero’s book was written in 1985. Since that time, according to an article in the New York Times, bear attacks in North America have increased by 25 percent. The Times article also noted that bears are far more likely to attack humans in the spring following a bad berry year. The previous year had been a very bad berry year. I didn’t like the feel of any of this.

Then there were all the problems and particular dangers of solitude. I still have my appendix, and any number of other organs that might burst or sputter in the empty wilds.

What would I do then? What if I fell from a ledge and broke my back? What if I lost the trail in blizzard or fog, or was nipped by a venomous snake, or lost my footing on mossslickened rocks crossing a stream and cracked my head a concussive blow? You could drown in three inches of water on your own. You could die from a twisted ankle. No, I didn’t like the feel of this at all.

At Christmas, I put notes in lots of cards inviting people to come with me on the trail, if only part of the way. Nobody responded, of course. Then one day in late February, with departure nigh, I got a call. It was from an old school friend named Stephen Katz. Katz and I had grown up together in Iowa, but I had pretty well lost touch with him. Those of you–the six of you–who have read Neither Here nor There will recall Katz as my traveling companion around Europe in that tale of youthful adventure. In the twenty-five years since, I had run into him three or four times on visits home but hadn’t seen him otherwise. We had remained friends in a kind of theoretical sense, but our paths had diverged wildly.

“I’ve been hesitating to call,” he said slowly. He seemed to be searching for words.

“But this Appalachian Trail deal–do you think maybe I could come with you?”

I couldn’t believe it. “You want to come with me?”

“If it’s a problem, I understand.”

“No,” I said. “No, no, no. You’re very welcome. You are extremely welcome.”

“Really?” He seemed to brighten.

“Of course.” I really could not believe it. I wasn’t going to have to walk alone. I did a little jig. I wasn’t going to have to wall{ alone. “I can’t tell you how welcome you would be.”

“Oh, great,” he said in a flood of relief, then added in a confessional tone, “I thought maybe you might not want me along.”

“Why ever not?”

“Because, you know, I still owe you $600 from Europe.”

“Hey, jeez, certainly not. . . . You owe me $600?”

“I still intend to pay you back.”

“Hey,” I said. “Hey.” I couldn’t remember any $600. I had never released anyone from a debt of this magnitude before, and it took me a moment to get the words out. “Listen, it’s not a problem. Just come hiking with me. Are you sure you’re up for this?”

“Absolutely.”

“What kind of shape are you in?”

“Real good. I walk everywhere these days.” •

“Really?” This is most unusual in America.”Well, they repossessed my car, you see.”

“Ah.”

We talked a little more about this and that–his mother, my mother, Des Moines. I told him what little I knew about the trail and the wilderness life that awaited us. We settled that he would fly to New Hampshire the next Wednesday, we would spend two days making preparations, and then we’d hit the trail. For the first time in months I felt positively positive about this enterprise. Katz seemed remarkably upbeat, too, for someone who didn’t have to do this at all.

My last words to him were, “So, how are you with bears?”

“Hey, they haven’t got me yet!”

That’s the spirit, I thought. Good old Katz. Good old anyone with a pulse and a willingness to go walking with me. After he hung up, it occurred to me I hadn’t asked him why he wanted to come. Katz was the one person I knew on earth who might be on the run from guys with names like Julio and Mr. Big. Anyway, I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to have to walk alone.

I found my wife at the kitchen sink and told her the good news. She was more reserved in her enthusiasm than I had hoped.

“You’re going into the woods for weeks and weeks with a person you have barely seen for twenty-five years. Have you really thought this through?” (As if I have ever thought anything through.) “I thought you two ended up getting on each other’s nerves in Europe.”

“No.” This was not quite correct. “We started off on each other’s nerves. We ended up despising each other. But that was a long time ago.”

She gave me a look of some dubiety. “You have nothing in common.”

“We have everything in common. We’re forty-four years old. We’ll talk about hemorrhoids and lower back pain and how we can’t remember where we put anything, and the next night I’ll say, ‘Hey, did I tell you about my back problems?’ and he’ll say, ‘No, I don’t think so,’ and we’ll do it all over again. It’ll be great.”

“It’ll be hell.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said.

And so I found myself, six days later, standing at our local airport watching a tin commuter plane containing Katz touch down and taxi to a halt on the tarmac twenty yards from the terminal. The hum of the propellers intensified for a moment then gradually stuttered to a halt, and the plane’s door-cum-stairway fell open. I tried to remember the last time I had seen him. After our summer in Europe, Katz had gone back to Des Moines and had become, in effect, Iowa’s drug culture. He had partied for years, until there was no one left to party with, then he had partied with himself, alone in small apartments, in T-shirt and boxer shorts, with a bottle and a Baggie of pot and a TV with rabbit ears. I remembered now that the last time I had seen him was about five years earlier in a Denny’s restaurant where I was taking my mother for breakfast. He was sitting in a booth with a haggard fellow who looked like his name would be Virgil Starkweather, tucking into pancakes and taking occasional illicit nips from a bottle in a paper bag. It was eight in the morning and Katz looked very happy. He was always happy when he was drunk, and he was always drunk.Two weeks after that, I later heard, police found him in an upended car in a field outside the little town of Mingo, hanging upside down by his seatbelt, still clutching the steering wheel and saying, “Well, what seems to be the problem, officers?” There was a small quantity of cocaine in the glove box and he was dispatched to a minimum security prison for eighteen months. While there, he started attending AA meetings. To everyone’s surprise, not least his own, he had not touched alcohol or an illegal substance since.

After his release, he got a little job, went back to college part-time, and settled down for a while with a hairdresser named Patty. For the past three years he had devoted himself to rectitude and–I instantly saw now as he stooped out the door of the planegrowing a stomach. Katz was arrestingly larger than when I had last seen him. He had always been kind of fleshy, but now he brought to mind Orson Welles after a very bad night. He was limping a little and breathing harder than one ought to after a walk of twenty yards.

“Man, I’m hungry,” he said without preamble, and let me take his carry-on bag, which instantly jerked my arm to the floor.

“What have you got in here?” I gasped.

“Ah, just some tapes and shit for the trail. There a Dunkin Donuts anywhere around here? I haven’t had anything to eat since Boston.”

“Boston? You’ve just come from Boston.”

“Yeah, I gotta eat something every hour or so or I have, whaddayacallit, seizures.”

“Seizures?” This wasn’t quite the reunion scenario I had envisioned. I imagined him bouncing around on the Appalachian Trail like some wind-up toy that had fallen on its back.

“Ever since I took some contaminated phenylthiamines about ten years ago. If I eat a couple of doughnuts or something I’m usually OK.”

“Stephen, we’re going to be in the wilderness in three days. There won’t be doughnut stores.”

He beamed proudly. “I thought of that.” He indicated his bag on the carousel–a green army surplus duffel–and let me pick it up. It weighed at least seventy-five pounds. He saw my look of wonder. “Snickers,” he explained. “Lots and lots of Snickers.”

We drove home by way of Dunkin Donuts. My wife and I sat with him at the kitchen table and watched him eat five Boston cream doughnuts, which he washed down with two glasses of milk. Then he said he wanted to go and lie down a while. It took him whole minutes to get up the stairs.

My wife turned to me with a look of serene blankness.

“Please just don’t say anything,” I said.

In the afternoon, after Katz had rested, he and I visited Dave Mengle and got him fitted with a backpack and a tent and sleeping bag and all the rest of it, and then went to Kmart for a groundsheet and thermal underwear and some other small things. After that he rested some more.

The following day, we went to the supermarket to buy provisions for our first week on the trail. I knew nothing about cooking, but Katz had been looking after himself for years and had a repertoire of dishes (principally involving peanut butter, tuna, and brown sugar stirred together in a pot) that he thought would transfer nicely to a camping milieu, but he also piled lots of other things into the shopping cart–four large pepperoni sausages,five pounds of rice, assorted bags of cookies, oatmeal, raisins, M&Ms, Spam, more Snickers, sunflower seeds, graham crackers, instant mashed potatoes, several sticks of beef jerky, a couple of bricks of cheese, a canned ham, and the full range of gooey and evidently imperishable cakes and doughnuts produced under the Little Debbie label.

“You know, I don’t think we’ll be able to carry all this,” I suggested uneasily as he placed a horse-collar-shaped bologna in the shopping cart.

Katz surveyed the cart grimly. “Yeah, you’re right,” he agreed. “Let’s start again.”

He abandoned the cart there and went off for another one. We went around again, this time trying to be more intelligently selective, but we still ended up with clearly too much.

We took everything home, divvied it up, and went off to pack– Katz to the bedroom where all his other stuff was, I to my basement HQ. I packed for two hours, but I couldn’t begin to get everything in. I put aside books and notebooks and nearly all my spare clothes, and tried lots of different combinations, but every time I finished I would turn to find something large and important left over. Eventually I went upstairs to see how Katz was doing. He was lying on the bed, listening to his Walkman. Stuff was scattered everywhere. His backpack was limp and unattended. Little percussive hisses of music were leaking from his ears.

“Aren’t you packing?” I said.

“Yeah.”

I waited a minute, thinking he would bound up, but he didn’t move. “Forgive me, Stephen, but you give the impression that you are lying down.”

“Yeah.”

“Can you actually hear what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, in a minute.”

I sighed and went back down to the basement.

Katz said little during dinner and afterwards returned to his room. We heard nothing more from him throughout the evening, but about midnight, as we lay in bed, noises began to float to us through the walls–clompings and mutterings, sounds like furniture being dragged across the floor, and brief enraged outbursts, interspersed with long periods of silence. I held my wife’s hand and couldn’t think of anything to say. In the morning, I tapped on Katz’s door and eventually put my head in. He was asleep, fully dressed, on top of a tumult of bedding. The mattress was part way off the bed, as if he had been engaged in the night in some scuffle with intruders. His pack was full but unsecured, and personal effects were still liberally distributed around the room. I told him we had to leave in an hour to catch our plane.

“Yeah,” he said.

Twenty minutes later, he came downstairs, laboriously and with a great deal of soft cursing. Without even looking, you could tell he was coming down sideways and with care, as if the steps were glazed with ice. He was wearing his pack. Things were tied to it all over–a pair of grubby sneakers and what looked like a pair of dress boots, his pots and pans, a Laura Ashley shopping bag evidently appropriated from my wife’s wardrobe and filled now with God knows what. “This is the best I could do,” he said. “I had to leave a few things.”

I nodded. I’d left a few things, too–notably, the oatmeal, which I didn’t like anyway, and the more disgusting looking of the Little Debbie cakes, which is to say all of them.My wife drove us to the airport in Manchester, through blowing snow, in the kind of awkward silence that precedes a long separation. Katz sat in back and ate doughnuts. At the airport, she presented me with a knobbly walking stick the children had bought me. It had a red bow on it. I wanted to burst into tears–or, better still, climb in the car and speed off while Katz was still frowning over his new, unfamiliar straps. She squeezed my arm, gave a weak smile, and left.

I watched her go, then went into the terminal with Katz. The man at the check-in desk looked at our tickets to Atlanta and our packs and said–quite alertly, I thought, for a person wearing a shortsleeve shirt in winter–“You fellows hiking the Appalachian Trail?”

“Sure are,” said Katz proudly.

“Lot of trouble with wolves down in Georgia, you know.”

“Really?” Katz was all ears.

“Oh, yeah. Coupla people been attacked recently. Pretty savagely, too, from what I hear.” He messed around with tickets and luggage tags for a minute. “Hope you brought some long underwear.”

Katz screwed up his face. “For wolves?”

“No, for the weather. There’s gonna be record cold down there over the next four or five days. Gonna be well below zero in Atlanta tonight.”

“Oh, great,” Katz said and gave a ruptured, disconsolate sigh. He looked challengingly at the man. “Any other news for us? Hospital call to say we got cancer or anything?”

The man beamed and slapped the tickets down on the counter. “No, that’s about it, but you have a real good trip. And hey”–he was addressing Katz now, in a lower voice–“you watch out for those wolves, son, because between you and me you look like pretty good eating.” He gave a wink.

“Jesus,” said Katz in a low voice, and he looked deeply, deeply gloomy.

We took the escalator up to our gate. “And they won’t feed us on this plane either, you know,” he announced with a curious, bitter finality.

مشارکت کنندگان در این صفحه

تا کنون فردی در بازسازی این صفحه مشارکت نداشته است.

🖊 شما نیز می‌توانید برای مشارکت در ترجمه‌ی این صفحه یا اصلاح متن انگلیسی، به این لینک مراجعه بفرمایید.