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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 03.21.15
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

We could have died out there!

STANSTEAD, QUEBEC | It was shortly after I said to Deb, "We should have brought a compass," that I began to wonder who would eat whom.

Logically, it made sense that I would cannibalize my wife because, seriously, look at me. There's no meat on these bones, hardly any sustenance whatsoever. I'm the watercress of human flesh. I would prolong her life by two days, three at best, and then we would both be dead, so really, what would be the point? It would make much more sense for me to eat my wife. Not that I'm in any way implying she's a KFC Double Down...

It's this kind of thinking that gets you nowhere -- not with your marriage and not lost in the woods either.

And by "lost," I mean "slightly disoriented in several acres of wooded area within the boundaries of our small town next to the snowmobile trail."

But wait. Like Deb and I ended up doing, let me back up...

In an "if you can't beat em, join em" mood during last weekend's snowfall, Deb and I decided to go snowshoeing through the woods. It was my first chance to use the snowshoes my daughter bought me at an end-of-season sale. (Ha-ha! "End-of-season"... rich!)

We bundled up as light snow fell and headed down to the bike trail, quickly veering off into the woods, and by "woods" I mean "someone's back yard." At first we walked along an existing track but soon we broke our own trail in uncharted territory, and by "uncharted territory" I mean just north of the sewage plant.

This was my first time on snowshoes, so I'm not clear on the terminology, but we either mushed, shooshed, ploofed or snarfed around the woods for about an hour before finding ourselves at the snowmobile trail. We walked down the trail for a ways and then saw footsteps going off into the woods to our left. "Want to try this?" I asked Deb. "Sure," she said.

Oh, how we would rue those words...

Not really. Calm down. It wasn't that dramatic. But let's continue... Some time later, we passed the gravel pit and then we hit the snowmobile trail again. Wait a sec. If we had been walking straight through the woods, away from the snowmobile trail, how were we back at the snowmobile trail? And even though the gravel pit was right there, we couldn't tell which side of the pit we were on. The safe thing to do would be to stay on the snowmobile trail. But which way? One way would take us home. The other way would take us to -- gasp! -- Beebe! There was a third option. "I think it's this way," I said, and we headed further into the woods.

Soon our path came to a dead end.

It was then that I mentioned the wisdom of a compass and my thoughts first ran to cannibalism.

I knew we weren't in any real danger, but still I could feel the delicate tendrils of panic tickling my stomach. Or maybe that was just the way my long johns were riding. Regardless, I could see how easily a person could get turned around in the woods. I mean real woods.

A few years ago, I read how a blindfolded person who tries to walk a straight line will, without visual clues, start to veer off in one direction or the other. Eventually the person will come full circle, and, if he walks long enough, in ever tighter circles.

I tried this experiment one winter in the big snowy field behind our house. I closed my eyes at one corner of the lot and began walking towards the opposite corner. I stopped when I walked into a tree.

But, sure enough, when I looked back at my path in the snow, what I thought was a straight line curved distinctly to the right. So even though we were in a wooded area about the size of a down-scale amusement park, not knowing where we were, with no sense of direction, I knew this was a recipe for panic and circular walking. Soon night would fall, and there were animals in these woods. Deer, to be precise. But death by deer nibbles, that's no way to go.

But here's the nice thing about snowshoes: they leave footprints. Or shooshprints. "I think we should tbacktrack," I said. So we did. Plus, I was starting to get hungry and, well, you know...

Considering the carefree spirit in which we had set off into the woods, I have to admit that backtracking felt like a defeat. But as the saying goes, better defeated than eated.

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