Not So Warm-Blooded

The account of my demise becomes fodder for stories for generations to come, and strong men drink strong liquids while admiringly recounting them. I become an awe-inspiring memory.

Marsh Madness by Bruce Cochran

Dying doesn't much appeal to me, and I don't dwell on it too often. However, when I do allow myself to think about it, I think not only of death itself, but also the method the Grim Reaper might employ when my time comes.

Naturally, as an outdoorsman and waterfowler, I occasionally entertain visions of dying gloriously in some remote place. In these fantasies, the end comes sensationally and is the stuff of legend. The account of my demise becomes fodder for stories for generations to come, and strong men drink strong liquids while admiringly recounting them. I become an awe-inspiring memory.

Sometimes, while goose hunting in Alaska, I am set upon by a mad grizzly or a starving wolf pack. I fight valiantly with teeth and trusty knife before succumbing to the law of claw and fang. I've seen myself gored and trampled by a wounded cape buffalo in Africa, just like Ernest Hemingway's hapless but heroic Francis Macomber. (I know, I know. That has nothing to do with waterfowling. Just bear with me, please.)

My best imagined death, however, comes when I am swept away by a wild whitewater river while rescuing (always successfully) a woman (always beautiful, with lust in her heart for me) and her baby (there has to be a baby) before the eyes of dozens of onlookers.

But none of that is going to happen. My track record of my close calls says otherwise. I'm bound, I fear, to exit this life in some inglorious fashion. Allow me to share some ominous precursors of a death that will doubtless be remembered as ludicrous and downright silly, even.

For instance, there's the day I stepped onto a submerged rock in a creek while jumpshooting mallards. The "rock" turned out to be a shadow. In the resulting tumble, I missed bashing my head by mere inches.

I've been nearly decapitated by a flying wood duck. That's right, a wood duck. He flew at me on a direct line at head level as I stood against a hickory tree. He missed only because I saw him at the last second and turned aside. I later envisioned that cool guy on "CSI: Miami" viewing my body -- with the duck's head protruding from one ear and duck's butt protruding from the other -- then removing his sunglasses and saying, "Hmm, this is indeed a poser, now isn't it?"

Then there was the "bear." I was out after teal, knee-deep in a Florida cypress swamp. He was somewhere, unseen, snorting and snuffling, coming ever closer. My subsequent discovery that it was only a swimming beaver blowing water from its nostrils did little to allay the almost-heart attack I had when the fur appeared.

How about the time the cottonmouth crawled into my canoe, motivating me to leap overboard into a pond teeming with water moccasins and alligators! Or the morning I launched myself from a platform blind at the screech of a barred owl perched 2 feet above my head. Another near-coronary coupled with contusions, abrasions and a sharp stick imbedded in my'¦ Well, never mind.

Point is, folks, old Bob isn't likely to die well. Or glamorously. In fact, I'm about to go duck hunting moments from now in a pond just across the road from where I now sit. If death awaits, it'll likely have "Greyhound" emblazoned on the side.

I'll look both ways before crossing.

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