January 07, 2007
Originally published September 29, 2002
Have you ever seen a real, live porcupine in the woods? I have. I was hiking in the Cahutta Wilderness in North Georgia on a crisp fall day. The trail was fairly steep, overhung with rhododendron, and I was in bulldog-low-gear, holding the straps on my pack and trudging along with my mind engaged in astral projection. I learned to do that a long time ago on steep trails. I keep putting one foot in front of the other, start a song playing in my head, and leave my body to do the grunt-work while my mind soars somewhere far away. The plan was working well that day until I heard a tremedous rustling in the brush on the downhill side of the trail.
I retreived my astral self and stood still, ready to duck and cover, waiting for a wild hog or a rutting deer to come charging out of the woods and run me over. That's when the damned porcupine came waddling out onto the trail right in front of me.
It paid me no attention whatsoever as it waddled and snuffled its way up the trail. I followed for a few yards, then walked right up next to the critter. It still paid me no attention, but I was paying CLOSE attention to it. A porcupine is an amazing construction. It sports several different lengths and shapes of quills all over its body and the bristling array is VERY impressive. No wonder it pays no attention to anything around it.
COP 3 was about 20 yards behind me on the trail, and I yelled for him to come look. He did. "Goddam! That's a porcupine," he said. (Cop 3 is very astute about such things.) We walked alongside the porcupine for about a hundred yards. It stopped occasionally to sniff a particularly interesting scent on the trail, and we stopped, too. It started waddling again, and we followed along. Finally, it made an abrupt left turn off the trail and went crashing through the underbrush down the mountain.
"Reckon you could eat one of those things?" I asked.
"I don't see why not," Cop 3 said. "It comes with built-in toothpicks."
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