Yogi Bear with "don't feed the bears"...

By Delbert H. Rhodes 

“No! I have never been there, let’s go next weekend!”

Might you be planning a trip to a beach, a state park, or a wooded hideaway? Great! Planning is the best way to prepare for any endeavor, whether work, or play. In planning, attention to every important detail is usually provided. The location, the hotel, the cost, how long, and doubtless, the fun “we are going to have!” Notwithstanding preparation for the ‘normal’ bumps and bruises our families and we sustain, certain other factors are (usually) never a part of the plan.

The waterways, woods, and mountains are wonderful places to recreate, to relax, and to escape the chokehold of everyday stress. These are superb resources for individuals and families, after a long workweek, great meeting places for large numbers of people, regardless the time of year; and especially summers and holidays. Additionally, and curiously, other creatures live there; and for some reason, they are rarely included in the plan.

A trip into the urban centers from quieter safer suburbia most times affords a change in mindset. There is a feeling, which translates into a preparedness of caution. City streets could be dangerous. The tricks and treats waiting there are nothing like the sweet candies given children at Halloween. No, and these are never wrapped in colorful papers and cellophane to produce joyful smiles, but are cloaked in deceit and results are never pleasurable.

Yes! Of course, we all know this! Few people travel into urban centers with aimless attitudes, doing so could be disastrous. The Media provide truckloads of information on crime related incidents; therefore, ignorance to such would be inexcusable. The Media also covers incidents and accidents and tragedies related to vacationing, still, remains the belief that “… it could never happen to me.” Well, unfortunately, it could. Today, and depending on your plan, might be your “unlucky” day.

Sun’s out and Surf’s up! Let’s hit the beaches, water and waves; and please don’t forget the sunscreen! Yes, the beach is a wonderful place to relax, take in some sun, swim, ride the waves, or lazily wade; thus, whether with family and friends, or alone for the fun who could resist such a great time. Remember: the beaches are connected to larger bodies of water, the oceans, seas, and these are habitats of other animals.

Most times, visitations to the beaches occur without incidents, but one tragedy is simply one too many. The misfortunes of such unwanted events take just one time. Here, I relate not to the usual accidents of minor injury, or even the more horrific of drowning, but to the type, we somehow “choose” to disassociate to fun.

Housed and unseen beneath the waters are animals that require food for survival; as do we, they too hunt for prey. The day’s catch depends on the table menu. Yesterday it was fish, today, you? Sharks for example, and man’s greatest animal threat when in the water, can sometimes venture into beaches undetected. Yes, in areas where these predators dwell, most beaches would use nets designed to deter invasion. Let us hope so, also, that these nets are suitable. The unwary swimmer, surfer, or wader, especially, children could fall prey to a ravenous appetite. The shark is a beautiful creature, and mechanically, one of God’s finest creations; still, it is a killing machine.

The woods and mountains are favorite sites of campers, hikers, climbers, and naturally, lovers. The ambience of time passed is hidden in deep splendor, as secrets dance between umbrella trees, and winds whisper old seductions. One thinks of Leprechauns and Trolls and Fairies. These and other childhood fantasies, with some exception, rarely instill untold fear in the human psyche.

Ventures into the woodlands by most are viewed as fun-filled and joyful occasions. The cartoon memories of Yogi, Booboo, and Smokey Bears, come to mind, additionally, Wile E. Coyote, and the many others. Laughter ruled each time Wile E. failed attempts to capture the Road Runner to satisfy his hunger. Notwithstanding her discomforts and fears, learning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears never sent chills down my spine. Alternately, an encounter with old Snagglepus in the woods would end more in giggle than gruesome. Well, unfortunately, folks, to the counterparts and real life cousins to these fun-loving and cantankerous characters, you are food.

The long ivory whites with razor tips threaten every seaman, or bather on the seaways, or local beaches. Sharks and so-called killer whales claim majesty of the deep, sending heart-rending terror into the living rooms of every home tuned to the right channel. In Movie houses young and old, women and children scream with ear-splitting pleasure, as they once more thrill from unyielding trauma on the screens. Men feel the throb in their throats as their hearts race to the next bloody scene. Women weep tears of painless sensationalism, and men nervously laugh…because they are men. Never, of course, would these horrible events ever come to life on any real beaches.

Really, and how many times have swimmers and divers suffered attacks from sharks? How many have lost limbs and lives because of these creatures? Trips into woodlands, mountains and other places where large predators dwell could end in attack and death for vacationers, aimless walkers, runners, hikers or bicyclers. Even the hunter armed with powerful weaponry (sometimes) fall’s victim to claws and jaws of the “prey.”  “Taste like chicken?” Please, permit me to be clear, this is neither a criticism, nor an appeal to have these beautiful creatures targeted, hunted, or destroyed.

No, and if any, this is a call to arms of mindful respect for the dwellers in the domains in which we venture to play. In other words, and as people, we must realize that if our plans take us there, then as such, we are food; it is their table; and guess “who” is on the plate?

Copyright © 2004 Delbert H. Rhodes

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