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Sunday, February 8, 2009

One time I was out in the woods, and I got caught in a time warp.

I've always been an outdoorsy, woodsy kind of person. It's not a spiritual place for me or anything like that. I just feel very at home in the middle of nowhere with a pocket knife and a hatchet. I like exploring deep, dark, loamy places, and watching squirrels and deer and foxes, and building shelters and making little fires with sticks. It's just who I am.

My parents split up when I was really young, around age three, and even though I lived with my mom, most of my childhood memories are with my dad, because my mom lived in a little house in the city, and my dad lived (and still lives) on several hundred heavily wooded acres, all of which was once Ojibwe summer camp, and part of which we call Granny's Woods. No matter what season it was, I'd spend all day, from morning till night, out in the woods. In the summer I'd suit up in jeans and hiking boots and a t-shirt, and in the winter I'd wear Carhartt coveralls and Mickeys, but either way, I'd be out in the woods every day, every chance I got. Sometimes I went out before dawn and would spend a night or two, and my dad and stepmom didn't care. I don't know if they were really cool or totally neglectful, but I'm going with cool.

So one time I was out in the woods, and it was summer time, and I had been out wandering around all day. I had found a baby possum that was all pink and hairless, and I was coming home early because I wanted to bring it in and maybe raise it up and keep it for a pet. My dad's property is bordered on the east by the Muskegon River, and no more than a hundred yards past the river is a pretty big highway. Not like an interstate or freeway, but like your typical beat up Michigan country road. The traffic isn't super frequent, but it's very fast.

I never, ever crossed the river or the highway, because I just never wanted to. Sometimes I'd go down to the river and throw stuff in it, but it was so far from the house and Granny's Woods that I just never went down there very much. I stayed to the north and west, where there were streams and swamps and hardwoods. The east side of the property is just strange, and you get a really uncomfortable feeling when you're there, like the trees and ferns are watching you. It's weird.

I'd been up in Granny's Woods, and I made my way toward home, picking my way around rocks and mossy fallen trees, when suddenly I started to feel really uneasy. I had never felt this way before - I'd grown up on this property and knew every inch of it. There was no way I could get lost. I could lose my way in these woods as easily as you could lose your way in your back yard - yet all of a sudden, I didn't recognize my surroundings. I looked around me and felt sick to my stomach. This wasn't my property. This was some place else entirely. I was lost. I looked up at the sky through the trees, and it felt like the world spun around me. I couldn't watch. It was too nauseating. So I sat down by a big boulder and closed my eyes and listened. To the west I could hear the sound of water, but it was louder than Laughing Man's Spring. The birds were quiet, but now and then a jay would call from somewhere up in the trees, and then I heard something I had never heard in these woods before. A car.

I heard a car, and it was coming at me fast. It was so close I thought it would hit me, and I jumped up and opened my eyes, and stuck my hand in my shirt pocket for the baby possum, but there was nothing coming. Nothing at all. I was still alone in this bizarre place, with water running nearby and a jay screaming at me, and an eerie alone-but-not-alone feeling. I figured I'd make a little fire and find me something to eat in the meantime, because I knew better than to wander too far about in a strange place.

I moved toward the west, looking for a sheltered place nearby where I could spend the night. I had only gone maybe twenty feet before I heard it again - a vehicle, louder this time. As I listened to it grow closer I could distinctly hear grinding gears and chugging air - it had to be a semi-truck. I had to be near a highway. But I couldn't be. It was impossible. It was at least a four hour walk from where I had been, up in Granny's Woods, to the river and the highway. I had just been in Granny's Woods forty minutes ago. It didn't make any sense.

I kept walking west, toward the sound of the highway. It was only a few hundred yards before I could see it, and then suddenly I was on it. I looked all around me and realized I was on the east side of the north/south road, and my dad's house was another two hours' walk west of here.

It might not sound all that strange to you, except for the fact that in order to get to where I had just come from, I would have had to cross the river and the highway. And I had not stepped foot in a river or on a highway.

I ran across the highway and waded across the river, and got myself home as fast as I could. The whole way, I felt like I was being followed. I'd hear twigs and sticks snapping behind me, and when I turned around, there was nothing. Several times I backtracked and made wide circles to throw off whatever was following me - I was that certain there was someone back there. I kept thinking of all the scary stories we'd tell around the campfire - stories about the Luther Dog Man, and the guy who supposedly got attacked by cougars in these very woods. I thought about all the Native American artifacts we'd found, and the burial sites, and wondered if there was something we hadn't given back to the tribe. I thought about Bigfoot, and then I ran.

It was nearly night when I got back to the house, and my little naked possum was close to dead. I got inside as fast as I could, and my stepmom was sitting at the kitchen table. She looked at me over her mug. "Been out to the spring?" she asked, and I nodded, breathless.
"Found you somethin,'" I told her, and I took out the little possum. "Found him in the woods."

My stepmom got out an orange crate and a heating pad, while I poured myself some apple juice. "I got lost today," I told her presently, and she looked at me hard. "Ended up on the other side of the highway."

She didn't say anything. I think she thought I was kidding, so I didn't elaborate. In fact, I never told anyone, till now, because it's just too bizarre. It's physically impossible - there is no place to get across the river or the highway without knowing it. There just isn't. Later I went back and walked the whole length of the river, where it touches our property, and I didn't find anywhere that you could get over it, other than wading or swimming, or across the two logs Grandpa put there many years ago. It's just not possible. But it happened. It was the strangest thing that's ever happened to me, and to this day, I'm very cautious out in those woods. You just never know.

PS The possum grew up and attacked our German Shepherd, so I let him go.


Anonymous said...

That is pretty crazy!

Zeemaid said...

Wow. That's pretty creepy. you tell it very well. drew me right in.

Jenni said...

that is creepy, ninja.

an possums are mean SOBs, aren't they?

Lisa said...

Whoa, that is bizarre!

Ann-Marie Dewhurst said...

Wierd. You brought back some memories from my childhood of the woods in the Lake District, UK. We used to spend hours out there building huts and stuff. Woods can be strange. There's lots of folklore about the woods, and I reckon for good reason! Great post, thanks for sharing that memory. xx