What’s there to fear — except maybe the ticks ... and UFOs?
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick
My father always said, “Nawthin’ to be afraid of in the woods around here, Beck.” I believed him. Animals were way more scared of us than we were of them. Not smart to get between a mama bear and her cubs, he said. But that’s just common sense. I spotted a mama chowing down and cubs romping on the far edge of the blueberry field. Those cubs were “awful cunnin’,” as my mother would say, but I stepped back, stood quiet, and did my heavy looking on from a distance.
Even as a child, the woods didn’t scare me. Neither did bears. Nor moose.
UFOs, on the other hand, gave me pause. In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill of Portsmouth were “supposably,” as Uncle Nub would say, abducted by aliens near Indian Head in Lincoln. The Hills were driving home late at night from Canada. They got grabbed and probed by some short gray fellas, then sent on their way.
I was 6 years old. The Hills’ encounter didn’t surprise me. My family spent many summer evenings by the lake watching the sky for UFOs. Might have been an excuse for Dad to sit up late drinking with Nub, but I kept my eyeballs peeled and tried my best to stay awake.
One night on the road, we saw one. It slid silently over the top of the car, then disappeared. Don’t know where it went or what it was after, but I was glad it wasn’t after us.
UFOs connected in my child brain to nuclear war — probably all that glowing. In school we learned about the mushroom cloud, shock wave, radiation, how to make a splint from a broom handle and turn a sleeve into a tourniquet. By fourth grade, I knew for sure if the UFOs didn’t get us, the mushroom cloud would.
Not much I could do about the radiation. “In the event of a nuclear disaster,” as the man on the black-and-white films intoned, I’d be cooked and so would everybody I loved. We had no bunker.
However, if the UFOs came, I had a plan. I’d run to the big woods behind the house and hide behind a stone wall. Slow and near-sighted, the aliens would never find me.
I was a teenager when Walter Bower Sr. of Webster (next to Boscawen, where I lived) spotted Bigfoot, 9 feet tall, reaching into his apple tree. The Concord Monitor said Bower was upset that nobody believed him.
I believed him. Dad had seen Bigfoot tracks many times. He took pictures.
On a snowmobile expedition from Boscawen to Kearsarge Mountain and back, four out of six snowmobiles broke down. Huddled by the fire in the deep woods, awaiting rescue, we sensed Bigfoot watching from the darkness. I wasn’t afraid. Bigfoots are notoriously shy. “How to you think the Bigfoots got here?” somebody whispered.
Dad said, “The UFOs brung ’em.”
Now that I’m grown, I’m not so sure about UFOs or Bigfoot, and my fingers are crossed regarding nuclear war. So far, so good. I’ve left childish fears behind. Not much scares me these days. I hear my
father’s voice: “Nawthin’ to be afraid of around here, Beck.”
Except ticks. And Free Staters.