West Lebanon, Maine is close to the New Hampshire border and deep in the woods. US Highway 202 runs through it with a gas station, general country store, post office and not much else strung along its length. That’s all there was when I lived there back when my children were small. It’s possible I wouldn’t recognize the place if I were to return today, but according to Google maps not much has changed. Most of the town is populated by tall spruce trees, dense forest and the occasional open fields of farmland. Houses are set far apart, for the most part out of sight of neighbors. Street lights were rare and on my street non-existant.
My nearest neighbor and only friend in the area owned three horses and she taught me to ride. My son loved the sandpile left behind by the pouring of my foundation and my daughters were happy to have each other for company. Our four-footed, furry family member was a Newfoundland named Bosun. Otherwise we were quite alone, but very much enjoyed our little haven in the woods.
But that's where the scariest adventure of my life happened on a moonless night in the late fall. I was already in bed, but as usual, had a great book to read. Bosun, who was curled up on the rug beside my bed, suddenly began to bark. The next thing I heard was the patter of stones hitting the side of my house. I should probably mention here that I had yet to landscape the yard and most of it was nothing but dirt and rocks. I dashed to the window and threw up the shade, but even with my flashlight I could see nothing in the shadowed yard beyond its feeble beam.
With my heart racing, I put on my coat, snapped Bosun’s leash on him and we ventured out to see what had made disturbance that woke Bosun from his sleep and scared the bejeezes out of me. We circled the house together and while I prodded the darkness with my flashlight hunting for anything out of place, Bosun put his nose to the ground and sniffed carefully. When we came round to our starting point, we came inside, none the wiser. I climbed back into bed and tried to get immersed in my book again, while Bosun promptly fell back to sleep.
My ears were on high alert and I confess I did not remember a single word of the book I was trying to read. About forty-five minutes into my vigil, I heard gunshots. A hunter I tried to assure myself. But hunters don’t usually empty a clip. Nor do they hunt at midnight. Not legally anyway. Bosun lifted his head, but seemed sublimely uninterested. He went back to sleep, or at least his eyes were shut. Another fifteen minutes crept by while I tried to find sensible reasons why anyone would be in the woods somewhere within hearing range, shooting in the dead dark of night.
Suddenly Bosun growled low in his throat, but before he could start barking and scare off what or whoever it was, I clamped my hand around his muzzle. This was in the days long before 911 and besides we lived a long way from any reasonable police presence. Then I heard it. Something was walking around in my back yard. Hard to tell given the stony surface. Could have been a man. Could have been an animal. But do deer make that much noise? I slipped from my bed and lifted the shade once again.
And there, big as life, was a horse’s back end mere inches from my bedroom window.
The rest was rather anticlimactic. After my heart stopped pounding I called my neighbor to report that her horse was AWOL, then got dressed and went out to secure the rascal. By now the batteries in my flashlight were totally dead, but I found her by the light from my bedroom window munching on a few hardy bits of grass that had managed to thrive in my barren yard. The harder part was leading her back around the house to the street. It was as dark as the inside of a black velvet bag outside and once beyond the light from my garage, I had to walk down the middle of the street to keep from falling off the pavement. My neighbor met me about half way to take her escapee into custody and I went back to bed. I never did find out who was shooting a gun in the middle of the night. One other neighbor also heard it so the sound was not the product of my overwrought imagination. But whoever it was never confessed being out there. Possibly someone who’d had too much to drink or thought jacking a deer would be good sport. That part of my scary night will forever remain a mystery. One thing I am sure of, having a dog with a major sized bark is more reassuring than any burgler alarm.
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Heidi M. http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
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Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/
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