Keeping educated in the school of life

My recent travels to remote communities have brought such interesting experiences with animals, all sorts of animals.

My recent travels to remote communities have brought such interesting experiences with animals, all sorts of animals.

There was learning to be had from these encounters!

Dogs are the most apparent animal in the villages and, in one small community, two of the oldest dogs acted as sentinels when wolves approached too close.

Whenever the two dogs hear or smell wolves approaching, they quickly run around that end of the community, barking loudly, so people bring children and pets inside right away.

Then, as quick as it starts, the barking stops and that means the wolves are very close, right on the edge of the town.

Wolves are part of the environment around remote communities and the Elders say we must have a mutual respect for each other.

There was one small, scruffy dog that the wolves were afraid of and wouldn’t approach.

The story is she fought them off and bit them enough they now give her a wide berth.

My first “animal” experience, however, was the most unforgettable, unfortunately.

The first time I came back to the community after a few weeks’ break, I needed to settle in again.

I put everything away, put some coffee on and undressed for a shower. I pulled the shower curtain back and stepped in, toes first.

As I put my heel down, there was a distinct feeling of something under it that was crushing easily, something with a thin, brittle outer layer.

I jumped back and looked down into an insect-o-phobe’s nightmare. I assure you that insect-o-phobes know their spiders and there, against the bottom of the tub, was a Brown Recluse spider!

OK, I won’t go on and on about what happened next but I imagine you understand now why this was an unforgettable experience and why I was glad I was in the tub so I could get the horrid thing down the drain and scald my foot getting the goo off. I haven’t seen one since, thankfully.

On a more positive note (sort of), I have watched a couple of bird funerals — yes, funerals or, maybe, wakes.

When either an eagle or a raven dies suddenly (usually because of an accidental landing on a transformer), there is an immediate gathering of the same type of bird — I’ve only seen this with eagles and ravens.

They fly into the area silently and sit in the trees and bushes, just sit there, without any vocalizations.

After about 20 minutes, they quietly fly away. In one case, an eagle zapped itself on a transformer on the main street. Instantly, there were 40 or more eagles sitting all around on the house roofs, quietly.

It is not hard to believe they are there to show their awareness of death and maybe respect, as we do in our own funerals.

I find it all like more and more continuing education opportunities in a life already full of vibrant memories.

Keep ‘em comin’ is all I can say to that.

Colleen Crossley is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Advisor.