Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Silent lucidity

The baboons wander through here most every afternoon just before sunset. I never see them on windy days. Probably because the trees aren't close enough together and they have to travel part of the way on the ground. My theory is that they don't feel comfortable with terrestrial movement when they can't hear things that may want to eat them so they stay in the canopy.

The baboons climb up the date palms around the camp manager's cottage as the sun sets. They spend the night at the tippy tops where the leopard can't get them. Most of our other primate cousins also seek sanctuary before darkness falls because we just don't see as well at night as other creatures do.

One time-honored tradition where I grew up was lifting a couple of Old Styles from the pantry, finding a pick-up truck and shining fields for deer. If they looked into the light, the mesmerized deer had no chance of running while buzzed up high schoolers loosed arrow after unsuccessful arrow.

A man I worked with in Yakutat shot deer for Cook County, Illinois. The animals thrived on gardens, flower boxes, and parks in the Chicago area. Steve and his crew drove around the city with a silenced .223. His partner would hold the light and Steve would shoot the deer right between the yellow glowing orbs. By the time he retired, upon shooting his 1000th deer inside the city limits of one of America's largest population centers, the deer had learned to look away when they saw the light coming. Most of later his kills were between the ears at the back of the head.

Humans don't have a tapetum lucidum layer in the eye, but many creatures do. What the layer of cells does is reflect light back into the eye after it's bounced off the retina to increase low level light viewing.

Myth surrounds the color given off by the layer but the fact is we don't yet know why some cats eyeshine is blue while others give a green or yellow glow. I learned last week that hippos eyes appear red in the beam of one's torch.

I walked home after dinner, scanning both sides of the trail for elephants and hippos. I also shot my beam up in the likely leopard perching trees. Just as I reached the turnoff for my trail, I saw a gray form in a small clearing. At the far end was one red dot. The hippo was bedded down and facing away from me.

It started to swing around and rise in a blur. I let out a little yelp, dropped my water bottle and beat feet for the safety of Guest Cottage #10. Another ten feet and it may have had me. Luckily those fat fuckers with their stubby legs can't climb stairs. It snorted at me and continued toward the water.

I stayed on the porch for a while, letting the adrenaline leave my bloodstream, the folks from Australia inside Ibis Cottage none the wiser as to how close I came to ruining their vacation.

1 comment:

Aunt Patty said...

Ever consider just staying in the heli? Patty