Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What Happened to the, "Peaceful Walk in the Woods" ?

I read this morning, on the FlyFish@ (FF@) newsgroup list, a comment about, Women and their safety in the out of doors.

The author of the comments, Kim McDonald, an FF@ list member, pointed to the murders of a friend and her daughter in the area of Pinnacle Lake Trail near Mount Pilchuck in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, about 20 miles east of Granite Falls, Washington.

This senseless double homicide took place over a year ago and still no answers have surfaced as to the identity of the killer(s) or any indication as to motive - other than random mayhem. This is the most fearful part of this incident:
Who did it and Why? Because whomever is responsible is still out there.

Anyone who maintains a regular, active schedule in the woods and on the trails around the country - or at least keeps tabs on those who do - is painfully aware that a '
...peaceful walk in the woods' is becoming a very rare item.

  • It's not only Bambi who needs to fear 'man in the woods', but we ourselves.

It's not bedlam out there, at least not yet; at least not everywhere.

I can name a couple of dozen national and state forests, within close proximity to large urban areas; including most urban parks; that I would be _extremely_ hesitant about walking alone in without '
protection' of some kind. And, contrary to some thinking, the _last_ thing we need is an 'armed populace' walking the woods, forests, trails and parks !!!

Anyone who hunts east of the Big Muddy knows what it's like, even in a legally supported time frame, to be in the 'woods' with the average less-than-prepared possessor of a license and weapon during hunting season! There are entire areas of states - in the mid-west - where
I REFUSE to hunt because of the density of imbecilic purchasers of hunting licenses and weaponry.

  • Note, I DID NOT refer to these persons as, Hunters... they're NOT!!!

This group of 'Yayhoos' - the group I've referred to as
"K-Mart Killers" for a number of years - don't hunt .. they only want to '...kill something!'.

These are the folks who go to K-Mart (or insert your own favorite Department store or Sporting Goods Store) and buy a gun, the week before the 'kill' (in some places the night before a 'kill' - yes, amazingly, there are still places you can do this!), and a box (or 10!) of shells to go 'kill' what they have no knowledge of except they want to,
"...kill something!". And that 'something' may or may not be on the license they purchased.

Thus in both cases: whether, the
Urban Danger Zone and the Mid-West Killing Fields, I choose not to enter. I chose to stay away for two reasons:

  1. I don't really have a 'death wish'
  2. I don't want to go to prison!

However, there is a huge flaw in my choice of action (no-action); and I know this. Therefore, I am as guilty as anyone else of fanning the underground-infero that continues to burn our eyes with its regular release of putrid, acrid smoke of the social fires they ignite and let smolder.

That 'flaw' is this...

  • The more the 'healthy' elements of a populace withdraw, the more the 'unhealthy' elements will expand.

This action, understandably done in an act of 'self-preservation', is actually

When a populace refrains from, refuses or is afraid-to speak out _against_ something that runs contrary to healthy citizenship and society, then that action is, by default, given
carte blanche approval to those committing the unhealthy actions, to continue on, unabated.

  • Silence is golden; in a number of ways. It is also a double-edged sword.

If our society wants something to fear, then we should be 'very afraid' to not become imbalanced in our observance of _silence_
--- for whatever reason. Feel free to insert one or several of the other, often overused and little understood, words flaunted so easily on social conversations today, such as: tolerance, acceptance, open-mindedness, indulgence, lenience ... to name a few.. No, I don't prescribe we return to society run by bigotry, hatred and ignorance. That would be going backwards into the 'other ditch'! But, at the same time we don't need to jump clear across the 'line of social balance' and into the opposite ditch, either. There is a healthy social balance. Be we seem - dare I say - Doomed! - to repeat the mistakes of preceeding history. We just do not seem to grasp the concept that, behavior modification is not the same thing as behavior legislation.

Above all -
the reason to keep silent, MUST NEVER BE OUT OF FEAR. For when fear becomes society's driving force, that which is needed to reverse such a trend, is often far more frightening and destructive than the original cause of the fear itself.

A 'fear', which in many - if not most - cases is only a 'perceived thing' that is feared. Not a real entity to fear, but only an imagined entity.

Kim McDonalds's comments were made in response to a thread of discussions, stemming from an earlier post on the FF@ list. Long-time list member Dave Lewis posted a story of a recent, 'less-than-pleasant', encounter he had with two large dogs, near his home in West Yellowstone, MT. Dave also said the 'encounter' with the dogs' owners didn't offer much in the way of 'comfort', either.

Most of the ensuing comments were related to encounters with 'wild animals', but Kim addresses a very important and serious topic of having dogs on trails in the outdoors.

I can understand how Kim and other women - and quite frankly many men - would feel more 'comfortable' venturing into the outdoors with their canine companions. But, ONLY IF those canines are well-trained, under competent voice and hand command, and either
on-leash or within range and able to respond to command, allowing them to be 'put on leash' - if, and when, a human-encounter occurs.

This brings up the question, "What constitutes being 'armed' in the outdoors?" Is it only relegated to those who carry weapons that shoot bullets or buckshot? Or maybe to include the newer technolgies of pepper-spray cannisters or Taser-type stun-guns? Is it unrealistic to look at canine companions as 'armament' when walking the trails? I don't think so. Because, most people - and I would think the female population would be the highest percentage here - would have their canine companion, on a trail, as much for 'protection' as 'companionship'.

I submit that being 'armed on the trail' can be defined as possessing anything - on your 'person' or within quick access as needed - that could serve as an item of protection (aka, weapon) in the event you find yourself being physically threatened. Am I against this? My answer is a qualified, "No, not necessarily. But I believe we should be very careful in our mental attitude toward 'protection' as much. We need to limit the 'types of protection' we are willing to employ."

I have no objection whatsoever to a person taking whatever means necessary to defend themselves against physical harm. Be it a pop-cicle stick or a .44Magnum. BUT ... and this is a BIG BUT!!! ... every person who ventures into areas of questionable safety - or areas with such potential: and frankly folks, because of the variables in life, that's about anyplace on this orbiting blue ball!: should be well versed in how to protect themselves by doing the LEAST AMOUNT OF DAMAGE NECESSARY. Deadly action is NOT LEAST AMOUNT! A .44Mag is NOT LEAST AMOUNT!

But in the case of the two women tragically murdered - a canine companion - may or may not have prevented their deaths.. or even limited their injury. Dogs are susceptible to high-speed lead projectiles, too. Both women were shot. A dog could well have been shot as well.

It is terribly unfortunate, that our society has become such a 'clouded quagmire' of unknowns. The resultant dilemma, is a populace left wondering what they can do and at the same time falling under the paralyzing grip of fear; immobilizing most of us into doing nothing.

Discussions like this run the familiar path as Kim says in this part of her comment,

  • "Sorry, it [this] is one of those disputes on this list, like many others, where there are different opinions. There are certainly isolated cases of bad behavior of dogs and dog owners, just as there are isolated cases of bad behavior of just about everyone."

The most unfortunate thing is that humanity has left the trail of self-control. Getting back on the trail requires a serious change of mind. And Change is the most feared element on the human stage of life. Yet, it's only through Change that humans will ever realize the benefits of self-control, and all that we seek. Thus, we are living in the grip of a raging Catch-22.

So... what will be the generator of our necessary, 'Escape Velocity' ? Doubtless it will be a '...peaceful walk in the woods' .


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