Challenge/Discovery sent someone to review our progress with the program. The guy had a shaved head revealing three deep indentations equally spaced around his crown. When he saw me notice them, he said, “Weird right? But not as weird as how I got them. I was hiking in the Flat Irons outside Boulder, Colorado, on a beautiful moonlit night. All of a sudden I heard a whoosh and felt myself being lifted up off the ground. An enormous owl must have mistaken my shiny head for a rabbit. It swooped down and locked onto me and tried to pull me off the ground.”
Before he left, he showed us a little wooden rifle stock that contained a pop-out pistol. He could add a stored barrel to it and it became a pretty good rifle. He said, “I always camp with this because the only animal I fear in the wilderness is man.” With this, he tapped my latent dread.
Upon returning from my stint in Peace Corps, I got a call from another member of our wilderness group. He told me that one of our close friends and co-instructors, Sue-Sue Ramsey, she was dead. Here is Wikipedia’s description of the tragic events:
Randall Lee Smith (1954 – 10 May 2008) was a convicted murderer from Pearisburg, Virginia. He pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Robert Mountford Jr. and Laura Susan Ramsay, who were killed while hiking the Appalachian Trail, in May 1981. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1996 on mandatory parole after serving only 15 years…
On May 6, 2008, Smith attempted to kill two fishermen less than two miles from the site of the 1981 murders. He befriended the two fishermen, who shared their dinner with Smith, before opening fire on them without warning. Both men were shot twice, but survived. Smith was arrested that day after attempting to escape in one of the victim’s trucks and subsequently crashing. He died in jail four days later as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
Twinkie that I am, with my worst fears realized in too personal a way, I stopped wilderness camping. Without being too intentional about it, my love of the outdoors and I simply parted ways.