The Skreech!

One of my favorite stories from my childhood involved the most surreal event that ever took place on one of our deer leases.  There deer lease seemed to be a place where lots of strange things happened.  I remember seeing my eight year old cousin try to shoot a sawed-off ten gauge single-shot shotgun (so, so very violent).  I remember seeing the same cousin a couple of years later gut-shoot a jack rabbit with a 308.  I felt bad about that.  It was unfortunate and unnecessary, but I assure you, the rabbit felt no pain.

I also was there to see that another youngster (age eleven) had killed a ten-point doe- no kidding.  The game warden was called out to see what to do about it.  Since, in Texas, deer tags say antlered and antlerless, the warden decided that it had to carry a buck tag because it had antlers.  This made some sort of sense, but it did not make the boy and his father happy that they had to use one of their buck tags.  The game warden did thank them for killing the deer.  He said that management officials were aggressive about weeding-out freaks from the population before they had a chance to reproduce.

I also remember my dad and me climbing a 20 foot wooden ladder to a box-blind on a gun lease only to find out that a family of ring-tailed cats had moved into it during the summer.  I still don’t know how we kept from getting hurt on that day, as we held our rifles while a couple of angry and frightened ring-tailed cats tried to exit the blind on the same ladder that we were climbing up with rifles in our hands.

Note: Ring-tailed cat odor is not pleasant.  Think of cat pee mixed with sweaty feet and feces.

However, the strangest thing that ever happened occurred on the Possum Kingdom bow lease that we hunted until gun season started every year.  We stayed in a popup tent trailer that my dad owned.  It had a bed on both ends, a booth style table that converted into a bed, and a little kitchenette area that never got used because all of the cooking was done in a community fashion outside around a large campfire and with a couple of Coleman stoves (including a Coleman oven).

I was probably about eight at the time, because I fit in the cramped bed that converted into a table just fine.  It must have been early in the season because it was hot enough that we had the canvas flaps on the sides of the tent-portion of the popup trailer down (unzipping these would reveal a mesh screen underneath that would allow a breeze to flow through the entire trailer), and the top half of the door was open.

My dad was on one end of the trailer, there was the kitchenette and door, and I was sleeping on the table-bed.  My uncle and his dog (a small terrier of some sort that looked like a wiener dog with longer legs) were above me on the other end-bed.

We kept no light on, and it must have been overcast, because I remember it being the darkest dark I had ever seen.

For some reason, even though I had a little fear of the dark at home, I never had trouble going to sleep on the deer lease.  I guess all of the activity combined with the fresh air put me to sleep quickly. 

On this particular night we were all sound asleep.  At some point in the night my father felt the dog curl up next to his legs for a while.  He did not mind because the dog was an extra source of warmth, and even though it was still warm in the daytime, October nights would eventually get cold.

Later, I felt the dog lay by me.  I have always liked dogs.  Finally, ‘the dog’ moved up to the bed with my uncle and attempted to lay next to…The Dog!  That is when all hell broke loose.

Have you ever been awakened after you had already gotten into the delta wave portion of your sleep?  It is hard to get your mind to focus, but I find that extreme terror has the ability to bring you back into focus as well as anything.

The animal that crawled up next to my uncle let out an unearthly cry that woke up everyone in the camp, not just our trailer, immediately.  It was a high-pitched wail that seemed to go on for a minute (believe me it seemed like forever at the time).  At once, the real dog began chasing what we thought was ‘the dog’ around the inside of the trailer.  They made two complete circuits of the inside of the trailer rounding both end beds twice and crossing my bed four times.  All the while the creature wailed and the dog barked, and as they went by on their second round, it found the door, and sounded something like a siren as it retreated into the night with the dog close on its tail.

Many theories were developed regarding the creature that visited the trailer that evening.  Some creatures were dismissed.  It was too big for squirrel.  An armadillo or a rabbit could not have made it over the half-door, and it was probably not a skunk, or it would have left more evidence.  We were pretty sure it was not a bobcat or a coyote because there would probably have been more damage.  This still left a host of possible candidates including:  an opossum, a raccoon, a ring-tailed cat, a weasel, a marten, or a fox.  I have since added a few other possibilities including a Jaguarundi, an Ocelot, a Swift (also know as a Kit Fox), or a black-footed ferret.  We will never know for sure what creature visited us and frightened the hell out of us that night.  It has since become part of the hunting lore of my family, and forever will be known as the Skreech.

For some reason, the door was shut completely when we went to bed after that.

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TGA, we hardly knew ya!

I write a lot of opinions on this blog, but every now and then, I write a little about myself.  This weekend was my daughter’s second birthday party.  It was great.   Immediate family and friends attended.  There was a bounce house and a blow-up pool which the girls loved.  We made a cake that looked surprisingly like Rocket from the Little Einsteins cartoon, and I was quite proud of it.  Nothing was forced, we just let the kids play, and enjoy themselves, and everything seemed to be going well.

I was exhausted, after spending the better part of the last three days preparing for the party, and at 4:30 with the guests and family on their way their respective houses, I was surprised that my wife and I took the time to quickly clean up the party mess and rest a few minutes before dinner.

About 6:45 I pulled up the Joe’s Crabshack website on the computer and talked my wife into letting us call in dinner and picking it up for us.  By 7:00, we had both made our dinner choices, and she was about to call it in when we received and phone call from my sister.  She sounded scared, and proceeded to tell me that she thought something was wrong with my mom.  She had called mom to ask her if we had enjoyed the party, and mom told her that she had not been to a party that day.  This was a problem because mom had stayed with me for the previous two days helping to keep the baby occupied while assisting me with various cleaning projects.  She was the last one leave the house at 4:30.

My sister said that she was going to mom’s house to check on her.  I called mom and kept her on the phone until someone arrived.

My sister had also called mom’s best friend, and she was heading to see about her too.  I called mom, and it was clear quickly that she had no memory of recent events going back at least weeks, though she had no idea that she even had an issue.

She informed me that there was someone at the door.  It was her friend, and I asked to speak to her.  I brought her up to speed, and told her that my wife and I would be on our way to meet them at the hospital.  We got things together, and by the time we left the house, my sister called to inform me that she and my mother’s friend had decided to call for an ambulance.

My sister graciously offered to call her mother-in-law, who had come to her house to keep my niece, and see if we could leave my daughter in her care also.  My sister’s mother-in-law (also graciously) was pleased to keep her, and we were extremely thankful for that.  After seeing that my daughter was going to be OK, we made our way to the emergency room in a town 45 minutes away.

When we arrived, there were five other people in the small curtained ER stall (it was more of a stall than a room).  I was afraid of getting bad service.  It was getting to be late in the evening on Saturday.  Obviously the hospital would not have a full staff on the weekend, and I’ve heard that Saturday night is the worst for ERs.

The most frightening thing was my mother’s condition.  Her personality was there, and she was even bubbly and joking, but it was readily apparent that nothing that was going into her brain was staying there.  Thus began one of the most tiring and scary situations of my life.  She would ask questions.  “Am I in the hospital?”  “How did I get here?”  “Who figured out there was problem?”  “How did she know there was a problem?”  “What time did she call?”  There were other questions, and different forms of these questions.  These seem logical, but the scary part was the fact that she seemed to reset every couple of minutes (when I say couple of minutes, that is exactly what I mean.  It was incessant.), and ask the same questions again as if she had never asked them before or heard the answers.  A friend named Tom was in the room.  Every few minutes, she would look up and see him and say, “Hi, Tom!  How are you doing?” as if he had just walked in the room.

She remembered everything from her life up until the last few months, but recent events up to the last couple of months were completely gone.  The weird thing was that she could respond in the very short term, and would say things like, “I guess I must have gone off the deep end.” or “I must have had a stroke,” but she would forget again in the next minute or so.

I kept thinking about the movie Memento, and this did not help my spirits one bit.

We stayed there for quite a while, and with the events of the day, I began to crash.  I want to thank the two nice ER nurses who provided me with coffee, or I would never have made it.  Near midnight, one of the ER nurses informed us that they would not have a room to admit her to in the hospital until perhaps the next day.  I asked (honestly) to her and my sister and brother-in-law if we needed to go to another hospital.  The nurse left, and we continued to talk.  She came back (in less than five minutes) and informed us that they were indeed preparing a room for my mother, but it could still be a few hours.  I call sorriness on the room situation, since I find it hard to believe that one simply materialized in a few minutes time in the middle of the night.  They just did not want to go through the effort to get her one ready.

At this point, we realized that we needed to come up with a plan, and that it would not be practical for all of us to stay there all of the time.  I offered to stay the night, and my sister and my mom’s friend would come back in the morning.  My wife went to my sister’s house to spend the night, and I settled in for what I knew would be and extremely long night.  I had lost my relief pitchers, and now I was left to answer all the questions on my own for the next several hours.

At one o’clock, the first positive sign came when she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “’A’(my sister) is pregnant, isn’t she.”  She had not remembered this earlier, so I saw this as a positive sign, but then she was right back to the mantra of questions.  Later she asked how long I had been thee, and I told her.  She then asked me if my brother-in-law, my sister, my wife and her friend had been their earlier.  I saw this as more significant, because it had been and hour since they had gone home, and she was retaining nothing that long.  She followed that up by returning to the mantra, but she made the same statement two or three more times in the next hour.

Another encouraging turn was that when she would ask a question, she could often see the look on my face, and say, “I’ve asked that before haven’t I.”  I saw this as progress, because up till now, it seemed every thought was an original one.

At 2:30, they finally moved her to a room in the ER.  They asked me to leave the room for a few minutes in order to get her ready for it.  I returned at 3:00, and they got me a pillow and a blanket.  Mom started in on the mantra again as if I had not been gone.  I looked at her and said, “Mom, I could answer your questions, but you are going to forget what I say in two minutes and then ask me again.  What I would really like is for you to try and get some sleep so that you can start to heal.”  She looked at me, and said, “I understand what you are saying, but could you humor me and tell me one more time.”  I had heard this before in the evening, but I said, “OK, but I want you to try to get some sleep after I tell you.”

She asked the same things as before, and I answered them, but then she said, “So, did I seem out of it at the party?”  I thought, “Bingo!”  Things began to flood back, and we spent the next hour and a half talking about the previous day’s events, and helping her to rebuild things.  She would still ask questions repeatedly but she was a thousand times better than she had been the night before.  We got a couple of hours sleep before we woke up at 7:00, and her friend arrived.

The next day she continued to get better, but she could not remember anything during the time she was messed up, and oddly she still repeatedly asked about the things that happened during this time, as if she could not retain and organize the facts that we supplied, but she could remember everything after she started getting better.

My sister relieved me, and I went home for a couple of hour sleep.  We all gathered in her new room at the hospital that evening, and she was demonstrably better.  The best news of all was that the CAT scan and MRI showed no damage.  She stayed through Sunday, and was diagnosed by two separate neurologists with TGA, Transient Global Amnesia.  I looked it up, and it is a trip.  It also describes what occurred to a T.

We were told that there is a 50% chance that it could happen again in her lifetime, but it has never happened to anyone more than twice.  Of all of the possibilities, this rare event was actually the best one, and I am thankful, but I will never be able to think fondly of TGA, our mysterious visitor that showed up for a short while and scared the crap out of me.