Pine Marten

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 animals.

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.

After a while, the road curved into a hairpin switchback and the rear view mirror went dark. We were out of the line of sight of any car that was behind us, and we’d be that way for a bit.

I sped up, as I reached behind me for a beer.

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

“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.

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 rounded the hairpin curve, and saw the car coming at a good clip. Its two headlights heading up the road. Our two going down it now. 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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4 Responses to “Pine Marten”

  1. Thanks for another great story. It’s part of the fun for me, taking off deep into the woods, never knowing what we might see. Once it was a huge Black bear that we surprised with the wind in our favor. He was only7 or 8 feet away when we rounded the rocky bend in the path, and I smelled him just as I saw him. He stood up to full intimidating height, waved his paws and said howdy “bear Howdy” is a snuffly “Hmmfffff”, then wandered past us within several feet and head down the trail, back down the mountain path we had traveled up. Birds were everywhere, Nuthatches cracking nuts and circling the trees, White tails looking pretty, the boys still in velvet. It was a magical morning, misty, crisp and full of life. Made me feel alive and thankful too… I enjoy those walks, and not knowing what we might see. You never know.. maybe I’ll see a pine Marten one day too.

  2. Mike S. says:

    Nice “Deliverence” type story. But you guys know it’s “NOT” legal to drink and drive!! For shame, for shame!! You could have gotten yourselves killed or worse yet arrested and thrown in a local yokel jail. Don’t drink and drive again!

  3. Great story. It’s fun to be so deep into the woods. I just experienced the same thing upon entering a wildlife reserve in South Dakota. My Colorado plates always give me away.

  4. Marc says:

    Sounds like a true story — urban paranoia in a rural setting. Actually, Chicago streets may be far more dangerous than some backwoods bar.
    An enjoyable read. Marc