Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I'm Not Sure What to Make of This, It's a Puzzle and a Mystery

I usually don't start bowhunting until about the last week in October since by that time it's usually started to cool down a little, the leaves have started to drop, and the bucks start to move a lot more because the rut is getting close.

But a few days ago, since it has been cooler than usual, the trees are starting to change color, and some leaves have actually started to fall, I started to get the itch to climb up in one of my ladder stands and sit in the woods holding a bow while I both hunted for a deer and thought on a variety of subjects (as I tend to do).  It was nice and cool, but I didn't see anything (which is one reason I usually wait to get serious about hunting until a little bit later), but I like to start the season by working out all the cobwebs first anyway, so overall it was a good morning (I did get some hard thinking done if you were wondering).

Come on deer, come out where I can see you
While I was sitting there in that ladder stand, a stupid calf kept bawling over and over on the other side of the railroad tracks (railroad tracks run the length of the farm for those that didn't know).  Usually a calf won't bawl like that unless he has somehow got on the wrong side of a fence and can't figure out how to get back on the right side of the fence, he fell in a hole, or he's just being a pain and decides to bawl his head off for no reason.   

Ninety-nine percent of the time the bawling calf is just bawling to hear his brain rattle around inside his head, but on the off chance he might actually be on the wrong side of the fence this time, I walked over to the railroad tracks, crawled through the brush on both sides of the tracks, and found out that I was right about the stupid calf and he was just bawling to be bawling. 

While mumbling something under my breath about stupid calves, I crawled over the fence, back through that thick brush (I swear, I'm gonna start carrying a machete with me), up onto the tracks, looked down into the brush on the other side, and saw a flash of something blue.  I still find stuff hidden back in brush and trees once in awhile from the tornado (that's right, 15 years later and I still find tornado debris), but this looked different so I had to get a closer look. 
What the heck is that blue thing?

I think that's a backpacker's sleeping mat, what the heck is that doing out here?
When I got closer, I saw that it was a blue foam sleeping mat, like a backpacker would carry, rolled out on the ground like someone had been camping there, had packed up camp, and then just left it.  It had been laying like that for a while, but the leaves under it were still in leaf form (usually leaves will break down faster into leaf mold if covered for any period of time), it wasn't buried in the leaves (so it probably wasn't there last fall or winter when the leaves fell off the trees), and I didn't see any obvious campsite around it except for an old Pepsi can and a green Sprite bottle placed in the grass up towards the edge of the tracks (FWIW, the date on the cap of the Sprite bottle was Jun 2014). 
Old faded Pepsi can
Green Sprite bottle
To me, from the date on the Sprite bottle and the condition of the leaves around the blue mat, it look like someone brought both of them out there sometime last spring.

The thing that puzzles me is that the nearest roads are at least 3/4 of a mile down the tracks one way and over a mile (1.25 miles)the other way.  It's rough walking down either railroad tracks or the gravel alongside the tracks, so I don't see why anyone would intentionally walk them.  A few miles farther down the tracks (going either way), the tracks cross creeks over a railroad trestle which would make the walking even tougher.

As fast as the trains go by, anyone that was planning on jumping either off of or onto a passing train would have an almost impossible job ahead of them. 

I might be reading more into it than I should, but why would anyone leave a foam mat laid out like that in the brush?  Why would someone place a Sprite bottle alongside the tracks as a marker?

Was the person that left the foam mat laid out like that desperate, crazy, on an adventure, a hardened hobo, some stupid kid, or something entirely different?  All of the above or none of the above?  Any ideas or thoughts?

It's still puzzling and a total mystery to me, it could be something and it could be nothing.


  1. Replies
    1. Nothing to worry about, "careful" is my middle name.

      Although I am itching to do some more looking up and down the tracks for whatever else I can find.

      Maybe my middle name should be changed to "sorta careful".

    2. Well, if not be careful, perhaps be armed.

    3. After the handful of rattlesnakes I've almost stepped on lately, I've been thinking something similar for awhile.

      And, if I go looking some more along the tracks, I'll be thinking hard about being "careful" and arming myself.

  2. My middle name is "not careful at all, until I've gone and done something really dumb and learned the merits of being careful." Kind of a mouthful, so I don't say my middle name very often.

    Kiddo and I were hiking last night, actually. Trying to beat the darkness. Found a few mushrooms. Enough rain here to drown frogs. Pissed me off, because I had visions of getting a bunch done this fall... argh... maybe next year. Or maybe we'll have a winter without too much cold or wet.

    I find junk in the woods, some old some new. The old stuff is kind of interesting sometimes.

    1. With a middle name like that, at least when you got in trouble as a kid and your mom was laying down the law by including your middle name when she was yelling at you to stop doing what you were doing before you got hurt, she'd probably run out of breath about halfway through and be a little more lenient with you.

      As in, "RON not careful at all, until I've gone and done something really dumb and learned the merits of being careful SMITH, STOP...oh, I need to catch my breath here...DOING....(cough, cough)...THAT..right now...whoa, let me sit down here for a little while.".

      A wet winter sounds great, a cold winter wouldn't be that bad, but a extremely wet and bitterly cold winter is something entirely different.

      At a place I used to deer hunt as a teenager, I once found a pile of engine blocks back in the woods along a creek. It was a tough walk through the woods to get back there, and I don't know why or how anyone would dump them there unless the trees had really grown like gangbusters after they'd been put there.

    2. I had the same experience with a Sheepherders stove. Clearly, a sheepherder dumped his stove out of his wagon in this odd place, but what a place to do it. Why there? Did they freight in another stove?

      It's probably still there and I should go back and get it (now that I once again own a Jeep).

    3. If it was any other type of vehicle I might not say anything, but since it's a Jeep, congrats on the new Jeep.

      You could always go get the stove and build a sheepherder's wagon around it. I'm not sure if you could technically call that a restored sheepherder's wagon, but it would an interesting project.

    4. It's the second stove I've actually found that way, neither of which I've picked up. Odd. The other one is just off a dirt road and I pondered putting it in my pickup truck but did not.

  3. I think people walking along train tracks it a lot more common than you might think. I can think of three or four people in the last handful of years that have been found dead along train tracks from causes other than trains running the tracks. I have walked tracks myself because it is a good way to get away from people though I am always mindful to have a place to get off should a train come. I don't live near tracks anymore so I haven't done it in a long time which is probably wise anyway.

    This post reminded me of a few years ago when I took a trip to San Diego and was walking around while my wife attended a conference. I came across a tarp bundle along a sidewalk and was pondering what it contained when I tapped it with my foot. A human voice grunted and the bundle rolled over. I nearly had a heart attack. Coming from the rural midwest, it never occurred to me that it was a homeless person sleeping under there. After that incident, I 'opened' my eyes and saw homeless people camping everywhere in that section of town along the bay.

    1. Walking along railroad tracks or being homeless and sleeping along the tracks is one thing, but it's a long, hard walk to town from here, and anyone that might be sleeping out here in early spring probably isn't right in the head in one way or the other.

      The more I think about it, the more I'm hoping it's just a stupid kid out on an adventure.