Monday, August 08, 2005


We were sitting around a campfire in Minnesota this weekend. Sounds very woodsy and outdoorsy, but it wasn't really. No actual camping was involved. No soggy sleeping bags bunched around my feet. No mosquito-infested tents buzzing me awake into the wee hours of the morning. Thank goodness, our Rochester friends (A and P) consider roughing it equivalent to having a remote-less TV.

Nevertheless, we WERE sitting around a campfire. Singing campfire songs. Singing those old classics: something about a big bunchy butt and what's in my purse--certainly appropriate song topics for P, lone male around the fire along with five girls and two moms. P is a seasoned veteran of inappropriate gender topics, tough. Can't imagine much fazes him after he made it through the discussion of perimenopausal flooding . . . .

So, there we were sitting around a campfire. Singing campfire songs. And making the ubiquitous s'mores over said campfire. Did you know that everyone has their own special, possibly patented, method of making the best s'more ever? Usually, this involves the exact placement of the marshmallow in the campfire and the extent to which said marshmallow is warmed, roasted, browned or burned. All possible methods were demonstrated on this particular evening, and all possible tastes were presumably satiated.

And we were still sitting around a campfire. Near the edge of a little woods. A copse, perhaps. A glade. Not a big woods. Certainly not the Big Woods, as those would be in Wisconsin. But some woods. And suddenly, out of the woods, while we were sitting around the campfire, minding our own darn business, came a noise. A loud noise. Which was quite startling to those of us who hadn't heard it before.

Sitting in the dark. With our backs to the woods. City slickers surprised.

So we're sitting around the campfire. And the noise is this short, guttural barky-like sound. But definitely not doggy-like barks. Not woof-woof. Not yip-yip-yip. And certainly not yap. It was, rather, a baritone I'm opening my mouth and throat wide enough to eat you in one swell foop kind of bark.

Possibly, this is a slight exaggeration on my part. A more accurate description would be a blat. A loud Blat.

After various members of the party reacted in stereotypical ways (I'm not clear, but there may have been a shriek or two), and after we ascertained that there was no beast lurking around the fringes of the fire, we fell to pondering what might be producing such a Blat. A, the other mom, had actually seen the beast and felt it was a fox. Can't remember what P thought. I was pushing for coyote, personally. I thought it was a canine-like sound. And, while this clearly wasn't Fifi the Poodle yodeling, it definitely had doggy potential.

Well, we never came to any conclusion. Eventually, we came in and headed off to bed. Some of us went to sleep. Some of us were teenagers and do not seem to know the meaning of the word "sleep". Much later, some of us were awakened from a dead sleep by a repetition of the noise. "Blat." "Blat." "Blat." Perhaps some animal hocking up an enormous furball?

The Blatter seemed quite close to my upstairs window. A cursory glance out the window proved to me that it was not, in fact, climbing the trellis to eat me up. So I hopped out of bed and trotted down to look out the front door. Intrepid IS my middle name.

I wasn't alone in awake department, as the us who were teenagers were giggling in the bedroom next to mine. And A, like me, had been awakened by the obnoxious, sleep-deprived Blatter and was chatting with the us who were teenagers. P slept on, apparently oblivious and derelict in his masculine duty to protect us from scary noises.

Alas, there was nothing to see, once I got to the front door. The Blatter had moved on, trying to expel his furball on another block. So we all went back to bed. And some of us went back to sleep.

In the light of day, I became obsessed (as I have been known to do) with discovering the true identity of the Blatter. P does a very accurate imitation of the Blat, and I wanted him to take his imitation on the road to the local nature center for a diagnosis. He wasn't eager, surprisingly enough. So we persuaded him to google us some jpegs of animal sounds.

Eventually, after an amusing half an hour of various and sundry animal noises, A proved correct in her identification of animal vocalizations: it was, indeed, a fox. Apparently, it was not just any old fox noise. It was a Territorial Vocalization. And A, with her keen ear for nature sounds, honed by years of living in the wilds of Minnesota, knew instinctively just what she had been listening to. While I, small village Michiganian/urban Illinoisan that I am, having never been privileged enough to have this wilderness exposure, misidentified the vulpinian noise.

I was just a bit chagrined by this correct identification. And A was perhaps just a bit overzealous in her celebration of it. She pointed out, oh, maybe 20 times during the next 24 hours that she had correctly identified the Blatter. Not that there's anything wrong with that pride. Oh, no. What Minnesota mama wouldn't want to be known as the correct identifier of a primary vocalization of a fox?

The things that can happen at a campfire . . . .

Until tomorrow,


Blogger Flying Woman said...

Yes, that "primary vocalization" WAS a fox - of this I am sure and quite proud! : )

10:05 AM  
Anonymous P said...

I must come to the defense of my masculine duties. Over thousands of years man has evolved, uhh, I mean was intelligently designed, to be able to hear, process and filter noises during his slumber. Only noises that represent a threat to self or brood would cause him to awaken. The skill of not allowing an urban blatter to interrupt his sleep allows the male to arise well rested for the morning (fox) hunt.

Of course, if you had watched the History channel long enough you would already know this.

On Big Woods. Wisconsin lays claim to the Big Woods of Laura fame, but last weekend's camp fire was not too far from Minnesota's historic and now mostly vanished Big Woods.

Big Booty, Big Booty, Big Booty...

Purse, Purse, in my purse...


11:43 AM  

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