The Hundredth Meridian

Wildness in Waiting

Dick McIlhenny awoke with a cold foot in the blackness that could be an hour after he fell asleep or ten minutes before the alarm clock went off. He attended to the foot inside the sleeping bag and checked the luminous dial on the clock beside his pillow. The clock said 30 minutes past one. McIlhenny rolled on his side and was working deeper into the bag when the first scream sounded. It came from a hundred yards or so away, manlike but voluminous as the shriek of a giant. The sound came and came again, a high-pitched yell bonded with a roar, before a second voice answered it from the opposite ridge. In the darkness McIlhenny fumbled for his revolver. He had a flashlight with him in the pop-up camper but was unwilling to call attention to himself by using it. Wanting to peer across the moonlit clearing, he was fearful of the sound running the tent zipper down would make. Instead he lay listening for nearly ten minutes to the unseen creature beyond the edge of the forest and the thing that was answering it from half a mile or more away, until nine rifle shots fired in rapid succession from a neighboring camp rang out, waking his son beside him in the camper and ending the screams abruptly. Armed with rifles, the two men patrolled the forest and the edges of the parks where, in spite of the full moon overhead, they observed no deer or elk grazing. The incident occurred near Leadville, Colorado, in the second half of October 1994.

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