I saw a Pine Marten. Mac thought I was talking about a bird. He’s no birder. It’s not a bird, but a big weasel. You don’t see it most places. It made my day.
We were a thousand miles from a city, a hundred miles from a real town. Every once in a while you’ve got to get into the backwoods. For the birds, and for other reasons.
We’d seen Pileated Woodpeckers and Bald Eagles. There were porcupines and coyotes. I’d been hoping for a bear. Mac wasn’t hoping for anything except time away from his job and his wife.
After dark, we went into a roadhouse. It had beer signs and a stuffed bear over the bar, posed to look fierce, but looking instead like a young bear shot for no reason.
We had a few beers. We didn’t look different from the locals, but we stood out. Here, everyone knows everyone. They know if they don’t know you.
A pale, plump girl tended bar. She asked if “you boys was up here fishin’.”
Mac said we were watching birds. He’s feisty Irish. Even though it was true, what he said, he knew it didn’t fit here. I guess I mumbled something about looking for bears, if there were any that hadn’t been shot young.
We drank and thought about burgers, but no menu was offered. A table of four guys might’ve been staring. Big guys, with sawdust on their jeans.
Mac and I grew up in Chicago. We knew when the air had a charge we didn’t like. We paid the pale bartender.
As we drove out of the gravel parking lot, those four guys came through the door. They went to a car. Could’ve been they were just calling it a night.
Mac and I said nothing. I drove up the 2-lane. The forest was heavy on both sides. In my rear-view, headlights shone. They’d come out of the roadhouse lot, heading toward us.
I got it up to about fifty, and was interested in what might appear in our lights. Sometimes we’d see a coyote on the road this time of night. Might be a wolf, but wolves don’t travel alone.
I’d been hoping to see a real bear on this trip. Not a stuffed one. That would’ve been a jackpot, even topping the Pine Marten.
Mac popped a beer from the cooler we kept in the back and relaxed. No radio up here, or we’d have tuned in some rock.
Two headlights, like eyes in the distance, hung behind us. The road curved, and we were temporarily out of their line of sight, the road back there going dark. I sped up, as I reached behind me for a beer.
“Pine Marten,” I said. “That was a first.”
“Kinda bird, right?” Mac tipped his beer and smiled. A guy who cares nothing for bird names or rare weasels.
A logging road appeared on the left and I cut the wheel, getting onto it fast, popping open my beer with one hand.
I made a 3-point turn in there, then headed back to the 2-lane and went in the opposite direction from where we’d come.
Mac sipped his beer and looked tired. It had been a long day. We were ready to get back to the fish camp where we’d rented a couple of cabins.
I had ticks to peel off my ankles. I had to phone my wife in the city and tell her all was cool, I’d seen Pileated Woodpeckers and a Pine Marten. She’d think the marten was a bird, but I was too tired to care.
We took the curve and saw the car coming at a good clip. Its two headlights heading up the road. Our two going down it. Just cars driving in opposite directions.
They sped past. Maybe they were looking for red taillights up ahead. Maybe not. Mac and I drank our beers, and didn’t give a shit.
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