Vantage Point

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Danger lurks

If I prop a small mirror on the side of the sink countertop and use it to look at my reflection in the main bathroom mirror, I can still make out the small scar in the middle of my back where I was gouged during deer season several years ago.

No, the deer didn't gore me with its antlers, but it was directly involved in my injury. In fact, it was a doe, and it was docile enough that I was trying to hang it from a tree limb in the yard to butcher it.

The rope gave way, and I lurched backward into the winch on my boat trailer. I don't blame the deer at all, but I'll never forgive that trailer.

I have a jagged little scar below my left knee and another one left of my navel that I acquired when I ran into a barbed-wired fence while teaching a Brittany pup the "Fetch" command.

Almost 20 years after it happened, I can still make out a series of indentations along my right index finger where a muskrat bit me repeatedly. In this case, I'll never forgive the outdoor writer whose article suggested that the most efficient and humane way to dispatch a trapped muskrat was to firmly squeeze its ribcage below its shoulders.

I don't have to look hard to find other mementos of outdoor experiences. A campfire ember left a pretty good one when it fell into my shoe. One fingernail remains mangled from being pinched between a boat gunwale and a dock piling. My shins still bear a lacework of scars from walking in the woods before light, and I haven't even begun to catalog the line cuts and fish hook puncture wounds.

This short tally of past trauma substantiates that it's much more dangerous outdoors than indoors. And I believe I've come through relatively unscathed. Things easily could have been much worse!

For example, I didn't have to land on a clump of soft moss when I fell off a horse while trail riding. I feel fortunate that no trees or rocks ripped me apart during a lifetime of bobsled-like rides down steep hills in fishing waders. I was lucky, too, that limbs broke my fall from a treestand-both times!

I probably wouldn't be around today if I hadn't happened to pop up in the same hole after I'd dropped like a stone through the river ice, or if my thumb hadn't been just the right size to plug the hole in the boat I made when I accidentally kicked the bilge-pump connector loose.

Little wonder I urge caution outdoors. I warn people to dress for the worst possible weather, to wear hunter orange, to keep their lifejackets on, to make sure someone knows where they are and to bring lots and lots of bandages.

I won't tell you to stay home, though. As dangerous as it is outdoors, far more serious threats await those who spend too much time indoors. I believe it's perilous for people not to wonder at the stars in the heavens, not to marvel at spring's effusive growth and not to ponder the justice of baby animals orphaned by a predator's relentless attack.

When people wall nature out of their lives, they risk the loss of important lessons in humility, optimism and fatality. Compared to this threat, the few scrapes, bumps, stings and bruises that we may acquire outdoors don't seem so bad.

Tom Cwynar, Editor

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