I’m fast asleep in a run-down trailer on a pot farm deep in Northern Humboldt county, when I’m awakened by a dog barking with incredible depth and malice—the type of sound that should inspire a person to run like hell. My brain, finally functioning, tells me that it’s Rosco, my buddy Skyler’s behemoth Pitbull, bursting to get after something. My own dog, a little brindled Dachshund named Mr. Marbles, suddenly explodes into life within the depths of my sleeping bag. It’s like an out-of-control Disney movie scene as he claws at me and hurls himself into the bag’s walls in attempt to escape and give chase to whatever Rosco had scented. “Damn dog!” I curse as Marbles makes it out and clambers over my face.
From the main area of the trailer, I hear a door open and Skyler shout, “Get’em boy! Go get’em!” He owns the farm and, in that moment, it occurs to me that I’m in a context where there might actually be bad guys and shooting. “Shit,” I curse and reach for my pants. I call for Mr. Marbles, suddenly anxious about him charging into the dark in the middle of isolated forest land. The dog barely listens to me in the best of times, so, not shockingly, he ignores me, ducks his head like a charging bull and runs through Skyler’s legs out the door. “Hell yeah, buddy!” Skyler shouts. “Let’s go see what Rosco found!” His enthusiasm seems insane to me given the circumstances, but I need to get my dog and, to be honest, there’s something about the energy of the whole thing that is infectious.
I throw on pot-caked tennis shoes, and, after Skyler grabs a questionably short-barreled shotgun, we follow the hounds. Rosco and Mr. Marbles, both in a maniacal frenzy, sound like they have something cornered. For a second I’m amused by the difference between their deep and squeaky voices, but then I envision the reality of Rosco attacking a person and pray that it’s an animal.
I follow Skyler as he deftly runs beneath redwood trees, occasionally dodging underbrush and scrambling over fallen logs. Even for a woodsy guy, he seems surprisingly adept at finding a trail until I realize that we’re heading straight for the largest pot grove. This knowledge increases my anxiety that we are about to find a marijuana raider turned Pitbull snack. I feel a familiar pull between terror and thrill. Life on the edge baby!
Up ahead, the six-foot tall plants take shape beneath the light of a nearly full moon. However, the frenzied barking is to the left, so we swerve away from the crop and back into the surrounding redwood forest. I’d just run more in five-minutes than I had in the previous ten-years and my chest feels like a caged animal trying to slam its way out of captivity. I vow to start jogging and doing push-ups again. Maybe tomorrow.
We finally reach the dogs. Rosco, on his hind legs with front paws extended above him on the base of a particularly large tree, continues to emit booming barks and ominous growls. It’s Mr. Marbles, however, who really catches my attention. Beginning about ten feet away from the tree, chest heaving with righteous indignation, he suddenly charges forward at full speed. Moments before impact he leaps upward onto the trunk, his tiny legs scrambling like a cartoon character suddenly suspended over a cliff. The same Dachshund talons that had clawed at me in my sleeping bag, now attempt to carry Mr. Marbles up the tree. For a brief moment, I think he’s going to succeed as he miraculously gains about three feet of height. But, then he slides back down to the base of the tree where he squeaks out several barks of rage. A second later, he turns and dashes back to his starting point where he then swivels and charges the tree for another attempt. Again, he manages to claw a few feet up the redwood. Again, he falls on his little ass, yelps, and dashes back to the starting point.
Meanwhile, Skyler’s reached the tree. He begins to laugh and calls out, “I’ll be damned! Matt you gotta see this!” I join him and peer upward. Above us, wrapped around a large branch and with what I would later swear was a look of pure insolence, is a small black bear.
Still laughing, Skyler pulls Roscoe off the tree and says to me, “Grab your attack dog before he breaks his butt.” I scoop up Mr. Marbles right as he’s gearing up for another charge, and we head back to old trailer to eat microwave chimichangas, watch Star Trek, and do some trimming.