The Buzz.

In an Illinois field, I saw a Dickcissel. A pretty damn bland thing to say. Two thousand miles away, a guy was killed by a grizzly in Yellowstone. That, I saw on CNN.

Got me thinking about the whole predator-prey relationship. And the buzz you feel when you’re the prey.

As it happens, my wife and I had hiked through that same part of Yellowstone, near Wapiti Lake trail. We disregarded “bear alert” warnings posted in red letters on trees.

I’d brought an air horn on the advice of those who said grizzlies wouldn’t attack if they hear you coming. Felt damn stupid tooting that horn.

But we felt the buzz. I wondered if you always feel it when you know you’re not on top of the food chain.

Once, while wading through tall prairie grass around here I stepped on a Red-tailed Hawk that was killing a pheasant. I didn’t see them until they flushed, flapping wildly in my face, then going their separate ways. There was blood on the ground. Hell, I’d saved a pheasant’s life, and pissed off a hawk.

I wondered if pheasants and other prey spend their lives feeling the buzz, knowing there could be a predator dropping in at any time.

In high school, I went to my car after a ball game, and a big kid was sitting on the hood.  Without looking, I said “Off.” Then I saw who the guy was.

He had a reputation; top of our South Chicago food chain. Police record, switchblades. He was a tattooed, scar-faced badass, older and twice my size.

I got the buzz then, and always remembered it. But the guy said, “Okay, okay…” and left. No problem.

I thought about all this while staring through binoculars at a drab Dickcissel. Screw the Dickcissel and his stupid name. My thoughts weren’t on that bird.

They were on Yellowstone, the buzz, and a line from an old movie called “The Big Lebowski.” It goes: “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.”

3 Responses to “The Buzz.”

  1. Marc D. says:

     That buzz of which you wrote, as you know, is sought after the world over by adrenaline junkies.  Nascar drivers, World Series of Poker players, sky divers, and other varieties of those who dare the devil and get their kicks from risk.

  2. Abraham Zion says:

    Two guys hiking on the John Muir Trail in Yosemite topped a crest and saw a massive grizzly; the bear saw them and began an uphill charge. Larry dropped to the ground, removed his hiking boots and began donning his running shoes.
    “Are you crazy?” cried his brother who is also named Larry. You can never outrun that bear; he is running uphill!”
    Larry calmly replied, I don’t have to outrun the grizzly, Larry, I just have to outrun you.
    Larry felt the buzz.
    a. zion

  3. Linda says:

    Interesting line of thought, that – about feeling the buzz:

    Living in rural Northern CA, and posting a letter around midnight one night, I felt a definite wariness sneaking up on me as I made my way back across the rutted country road from the mailbox.

    Feeling vulnernable on that moonless night, that protective process we all have kicked in and the feeling of foolishness about that reaction quickly disappeared. I ran up the long gravel driveway in a zigzag pattern, reached the door, rushed in, and slammed it shut behind me.

    The foolish feeling returned, but in a little part of me, the buzz I felt earlier remained.

    Small town, almost no neighbors – when the paper came out two days later a story caught my eye: there had been a mountain lion sighting on my road on the same night.

    I will continue to follow my instincts –