DANGER WALKS HERE!

It happened in a small farming community in the northwestern part of Connecticut that also included a large forest preserve, a once glacial river, now a bubbling brook, a lake, and a spring-fed pond. The community’s roots began in 1680, as The Salmon Brook Settlement that was also home to Native Americans like the Tunix, the Massaco, and the Mohegan.

It was a perfect summer day. The morning was cool and the sky was a brilliant Periwinkle blue. The deep, dense forest was a monolith of wonder for elementary school age kids.  The ancient woods that the Salmon Brook flowed through provided the Native Americans with all kinds of fish, fowl, and river animals, like beavers.

Evidence of their inhabitation lingers still in the form of arrowheads, pathways, in meadows that were once crop producing fields, where they once grew tobacco, beans, squash, and corn, as well as middens of shells like clams, mussels and turtles were eagerly searched for in the forest.  There were plenty of bones to find too, mostly animal, but sometimes, human bones that would be exposed as they washed up on the rocky river banks.

On this beautiful summer morning, a small band of kids, having traversed deeply into the forest, smelled smoke and considered it to be a fisherman on the river or the nearby lake.  At first, nothing much was thought about it. The smoke seemed to be coming from some distance away.

Taken aback by what she was seeing, one of the older members of the group of five children, yelled out, “FIRE!”  All heads turned to the leader of the group, who stood mesmerized by the yellow-orange fingers of flame surrounding a giant oak tree, that appeared to touch the sky it was so tall. The forest fire was closing in around them, silently sneaking up on them, until it roared like a lion.  The fire then leapt among the tree tops, high into the sky, turning the blue sky into a purple twilight, billowing with fire.

Like deer, caught in the headlights of an on-coming car, they froze in fear.  Suddenly, they ran, following their leader to an old wagon wheel road where giant, thick oaks lined the road, that was little more, now, than a pathway.  They ran and out of the corner of their eyes the watched the fire explode into the giant oaks behind them. As they ran, animals of all kinds joined in their fierce desire to escape the flames that were now, 40, 50, 60, 100 feet high in the air, and animals ran alongside the five children. The leader was shocked to find a black bear keeping pace at her side and deer leaping everywhere. Wild Turkeys, Foxes, Porcupines, Skunks, Woodchucks, all, ran with the humans, side by side on the narrow path, until the path widened as they reached an open field. Ahead of them was Canton road and fire trucks with long hoses and a helicopter overhead. The parents of the children were kept back by officers and firemen.

The children emerged, blackened with smoke, wild-eyed with fear, and the animals took off in different directions, some crossing the road to the other side where safety could be found, unmindful of the crowd gathered on Canton Road. The children, now at the point of exhaustion, collapsed into their parent’s arms as the firefighters dosed them with cool, clear water.

This was a day the five children would never forget. I will always remember the black bear running by my side. I remember how we looked at each other, the black bear and I—with a look that was “will we get out of this alive?”  It was as if we saved each other and we were a team. It was amazing. I will always remember the look he gave me as he turned to run into the safety of the tall bushes and another part of the forest, he turned and stopped for a moment, like he was saying, thank you and nodded his head.

By K. D. Dowdall

***I wrote this sometime ago and I had not proofread it before publishing. I have now made grammatical changes. A mistake, hopefully, I will not make again.

33 thoughts on “DANGER WALKS HERE!

    • Yes, it was amazing, but for some reason I wasn’t really afraid, I even thought the black bear was nice. He or she was frightened and kept looking at me for reassurance. I remained calm. I was only 12, but my 9 year sister’s blue eyes were like saucers. I will never for that that experience. Incredible. I was concerned about out running the fire. Fire is very scary!!

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  1. Too bad it takes something as terrifying as a fire for most of us to learn the lesson that in the end, we need each other and have more in common that we have differences — whether we are a competitive nation, a flock of turkeys, a young kid or a black bear. An awesome tale, nonetheless!

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    • KC, you are so right, we do all need each other and so it is so hard to believe we are where we are. I just don’t understand. It was an amazing event and I will never forget it. I was 12 years old, my younger sister was 9 and my cousins were 11, 8, and 6. The bear was more scared than me and kept looking up at me for reassurance, I think. I had to be calm, I was in charge. It was a wonderful experience – the bear and me. I am so glad you liked it. Karen 🙂

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  2. Wow! How old were you, Karen? Elementary age, but do you remember specifically? You will never forget that bear. Nor he you. I had a flash, remembering the chapter “Prairie Fire” in Little House on the Prairie. The animals all ran by the people, too. This story is fantastic!

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    • Jennie, thank you so much. I remember this event vividly. And the bear was more afraid then me. He or she, kept looking at me for reassurance and I was calm. I had to be. I was in charge. My sister, was on the other side of the bear and her blue eyes were like saucers. What really surprised me was how the bear stopped before he too off the the safe side of the forest, and looked at me and sort of nodded his head. Like he was saying thank you. It was amazing. I will never forget it.

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      • Do you have any idea what a terrific children’s book this story is? Both your post and your words here to me are filled to the brim. This is good!! Thank you so much for telling me even more. ❤️

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      • Jennie, thank you! I never thought of that before! I will definitely start working on it. I am in the midst of writing another book right now. My White Witch Chronicles that are good witches, they do good and save people, but it is for adults, but clean of course. I do love doing children’s books, like Delphi Altair, Strange Beginnings. for middle graders and everyone else. It is historical too with lots of colonial history. Thank you so much and you are right, it would be a great children’s story and wouldn’t take long to write. Actually, I love doing multiply stories at a time. Thus, I never have writer’s Block!
        What about your book? I know you said you were beginning the writing process. I am sure is will be great! Karen 🙂

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      • This one of yours needs no fairies or magic. The story itself has everything, so stick to what you told me. It will be great. I can tell these things, you know. Wouldn’t take much time? Well, maybe and maybe not. One of the reasons children’s books are more difficult to write is that every word is key. I have finally finished mine, after so many revisions I stopped counting. Months and months. My editor was tough! That’s why I like her. Best to you, Karen!

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      • Jennie, I am thrilled that your children’s book will be published soon! I am sure it will be great! I can’t wait to read it! I definitely plan on no fairies or magic, because Danger Walks Here is real, no magic needed. Karen:)

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      • I have a dear friend who worked for Harper Collins who has been helping me with my query letter. So, I’m a long way from publishing. The story is good (understatement) and I’ve had authors read it. My editor is the writer for BookPage. I’m getting up the courage to send it to Jim Trelease. His opinion would be the Holy Grail. Send me your email address and I’d be happy to send it to you and have you read it! If and when you write your children’s story, please send it to me. This is my thing, and I’ll be happy to help. Mine is a picture book, a bit over the recommended word count. You’ll have to decide what level you want to write for.

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    • Yes, Kim, it was an amazing turn of events and I remember it vividly. My younger sister was on the other side of the bear and her blue eyes were as big as saucers. For some odd reason I was not afraid at all. It was the way he looked at me, like he or she, was terrified. Perhaps my calm reassured this bear. The fire was terrifying, but we all made it out with no harm done to anyone. I just feel for the little creatures that didn’t make it out in time. I was 12 years old with my sister and 3 younger cousins. We were very lucky, I think. Thank you for your insight, and yes running for one’s life is an experience, I will never forget.

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      • I’m still thinking about your beautiful, intense encounter…I will never forget passing by a coyote on the same path I was walking on, both of us going in opposite directions…the look we shared was priceless, time seemed to stand still and he or she yielded slightly so I could pass by more easily! This event occurred just minutes from my urban street as I took a walk in the park…I believe these gifts from nature are more precious than gold!

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      • Kim, Wow. Coyote’s can be very dangerous too, but he or she moved over to let you pass? That must have been incredible and so wonderful an experience! Amazing. Animals really don’t want to hurt us (most of the anyway) they have DNA that remembers how some human beings just like to kill- for fun or profit, rarely, if at all for food these days. And, as you so perfectly said, “a gift from nature”. Thank you, Karen

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  3. Wow, Karen. That was an intense story, and to know it was a real event in your life is amazing. I completely understand the experience with the bear and how you connected. In essence, we are all creatures of this planet with more in common than uncommon. My experience with bears is that they are as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. ❤

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    • Hi D. Yes, they are afraid of us, for good reason, I think, and we are afraid of them, so true. I wish it wasn’t so. As you say, we are all creatures of this planet. My experience was intense, but I wasn’t afraid at all. The bear and I bonded. He kept looking up at me for reassurance – like I could save him or her. I was only 12 years old and at 12 I wasn’t afraid of forest animals at all. But, I was afraid of strangers. Many human beings are far more dangerous. I loved the forest and spent most of my time there. I am so glad you like my story about my experience. Thank you, D. and by the way, I am still reading Catling (Rose) between writing on my next book. It is a wonderful story. Karen 🙂

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