WILDLIFE ADVENTURES By Ron Toel

It was mid April in the Smokies in the era before digital. Wayne had joined me so we could do some scenics and some wild flowers and waterfalls. We had worked the Bryson City side on day, and the Blue Ridge Parkway the next. We did the sunset at Clingmans dome and the sunrise at Cades Cove to see what was lurking in amongst the trees there in the wee hours. We had found the lunar moths and other assorted bugs. We had done a lot of shooting.

We were going to check an acreage I own, because I knew there were pink lady slippers growing under the scattered pine trees. We were so intent on finding them, and finally we found one. It was in full bloom. We found a few more. And a few more and still some more. We stopped to shoot all of them.

We decided we had a good selection of lady slippers on film so we were going to head back to the car. We walked in the direction we thought the car was. Oh! how we were mistaken. We were walking in the opposite direction. I knew that when we walked up to this group of doublewides.

I apologized because I knew that if we did not find someone at home to take us back to our car ……it would be a 12 mile walk around the mountain to where we had parked, and we could much better spend our time than hiking with all our gear.

I knocked on the first one’s door….no response. We walked a short distance to the next one. Hoping someone was there…..I stepped up to the porch to see an ole dog laying there. I greeted it, and it never moved. I knocked on the door …..several times……no answer. I was just in the process of telling Wayne how far it was when this car pulled up.

“May I help you?” was the drivers request.

I explained to him how we got lost and were trying to get back to our car.

He kept looking at the porch. He finally said, “Did you knock on the door?”

“Yes I did.” said I.

“And that dog never bothered you?” He questioned.

“No sir,” said I. “Old dogs and little kids, I related to very well. They all seem to like me.”

“You have just signed that dogs death warrant. He is supposed to tear any thing that steps on that porch, limb from limb. I am that guys nephew and I can’t even step on that porch.”

“No sir. He did not even lift his head.” said I, “You know that if you take us to our car and you never tell your uncle, he will never know and the dog will be spared.”

He said “ Deal, get in.” and he drove us to where we were parked. On the way, he told us somewhere there was a den of foxes and some other things we might like to shoot. We never went back there as we knew more than 50 feet from the car and we would be lost.

The only wildlife in this story was the mean dog that wasn’t mean, but it was still an adventure. How did I know about the 12 miles…..I had made the same mistake once before.

I am reasonably sure that the image of a Pink Lady Slipper Orchid that you see below, was made on that April day in the Smokies.  I am sure that the image began its life as a 35mm slide.

My feeling and I am sure Ron’s is, if you live to tell about it, the adventure was more than worth the effort.  Wayne Nelson

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