Thursday, October 22, 2020

Stealth

Cplbeaudoin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


When I was about 11 or 12, like many 80s kids, I was obsessed with ninjitsu, Navy SEALs, and camouflage. I had an entire outfit of cammo. I arranged a "hunt" with the only two boys in the neighborhood. This included my lifelong friend Scott, and another kid named Jeremy. We went back to the woods along perennial Pipe Creek, and agreed to boundaries, within which we would take turns hiding and trying to find each other.

What I achieved amazed me. I had head to foot cammo, with black, mud-spattered tennis shoes, a cammo baseball cap, and even a cammo bandana around my neck and face, with a ninja ski mask underneath. We took turns hiding. I assume it was a Saturday, although it might have been summer and we were off school, I can't remember now.

Scott was easy to find. Jeremy hid along a collapsed section of stream bank, rather than trying to rely upon his incomplete camouflage. Scott found him. I simply chose a gentle slope, covered with forbes and ferns, and lay there quietly, with my face concealed except my eyes, which I closed to slits. Both Scott and Jeremy walked around for several minutes and looked carefully over every inch of ground. I held my breath, squeezed my eyes almost entirely shut, and they looked right past me. I finally had to reveal myself.

During that period of my life, I read many Louis L'amour novels. His descriptions of tracking and how to move quietly through the woods to avoid detection and without startling wildlife captured my imagination. I first practiced walking quietly and slowly, then learned how to move faster with reduced noise. It was easier when I was lighter weight, but I still remember how to do it.

I've always been good at stealth. Some people might call it sneakiness. I frequently startle other hikers out on the trails. This is what we call the law of unintended consequences. Oops.

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