What Would Hopalong Do?

The sun was starting to rise brightly above the Catalina Mountains. To the west, a nearly full moon was slowly calling it quits for the day.My dog Roy and I left for our walk a bit earlier than usual. It was a chilling thirty-five degrees. Not so cold to our friends back in the Midwest; but here in the Sonoran Desert, it brings out the long underwear and warmest gloves. Roy and I decided, instead of going down the sidewalk past house after house, we’d trek down the straight, extra wide expanse of gravel Long-Shadowscalled Camino del Norte (Road of the North.) There was a sense of timelessness. No traffic, no noise, no breeze. The majestic saguaro cactus seemed to be stilled by the cold, standing nervously, needles chattering. Roy, in his jacket, didn’t seem to mind the cold. He was doing his normal routine; sniffing every rock, and spraying the smaller desert weeds. I was enjoying the fresh, brisk air; dressed for it with leather coat, wool scarf, and stocking cap. Coyotes LookingUp ahead, we spotted movement. A pack of coyotes, four maybe five, in the middle of the road. They looked larger than usual, fur fluffed up against the cold. Then I noticed another, much closer to us, we could see his steely eyes looking our way. A couple of scenes from old western movies I had watched as a kid flashed through my mind. “What would Hopalong Cassidy do?” I thought, “That lone critter must be a scout.” Then I remembered what Hopalong would have done. I pretended to draw a six-shooter from an imaginary holster, raised it in the air, spun it twice, and shouted “Pow! Pow!” really loud. Hopalong CassidyThe scout jumped back, turned and looked at me like I was a nut case, and meandered back toward the pack. As I blew the imaginary smoke from the imaginary pistol, and put it back in the imaginary holster, I noticed the pack was slowly returning to the underbrush at the edge of the road. Just to be safe, we turned and walked toward home. In order to demonstrate our bravery to other creatures who might be watching, we walked at a normal pace, showing no fear, glancing back only twelve or thirteen times. I knew we were just playing a mind game with ourselves. From experience, Roy and I well knew that coyotes are really pussycats in canine garb. They are more afraid of us than we of them. Like a fish story, this tale has the potential to grow with age. In a few years it could become an amazing account of being chased home by a pack of thirty enraged wolves, or was it mountain lions?

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