My family always loved to go camping. Some of my earliest memories are of sleeping in a tent and roasting marshmallows around the fire. As we got older, my parents let my younger brother Abe and I explore the campgrounds and make the long trek to the outhouses by ourselves. By the time I was a teenager, we had graduated from a tent to a pop-up camper, and I was able to drive my own car when we went so that I had more freedom to explore.
The incident in the mist occurred on a trip when my brother brought his friend John along with us. We had spent an amazing day at the beach, fishing, and shooting potatoes into the lake with a homemade potato gun. After dinner, when the sky was darkening and streaked with red, we had decided to go try and catch some frogs on the other side of the grounds. It was several miles away so Abe, John, and I piled into the car and headed to the other side of the lake.
The night was hot and muggy, and visibility was low due to the mist that had descended around us. I drove very slowly due to the fog, and we all felt a little uneasy due to the creepy feeling that it created. By the time we made it to our destination, the sun had set completely and it was very dark. Usually when camping, there is no light pollution to mask the sky, so we were often treated to an endless display of stars and moonlight. This night, however, it was hard to see due to the mist that was now swirling around us.
We exited the car, grabbed our nets and bucket, and started for the edge of the lake. We liked to visit this particular site due to the multitude of small peninsulas of land that lead out into the water. The pussy willows were high and thick this far into the summer, and the smell of the lake was overpowering. We carefully made our way to the water and tried in vain to catch some frogs. We were not successful, but still had a grand old time watching frogs leap easily out of our grasp and land with a loud splash in the murky water.
Once the frogs decided they’d had enough of us and all disappeared, we started the trek back to the car. The mist was still swirling around us, creating an eerie feeling as we trudged through the willows and tall grass, feeling the ground squish beneath our feet. All of the sudden, Abe held out his hand to stop us. “Did you hear that?” he whispered. “Hear what?” I whispered back. Nobody moved, and we held our breath. I could hear what sounded like flesh tearing and bones breaking. It was then that John said “holy shit guys!” We followed his wide eyed gaze, and staring back at us were two very large yellow eyes. I am only 5’3”, and the eyes were just a little bit lower than mine.
We were still frozen to the spot, terrified to find out what this thing was. The wind suddenly blew a little harder, clearing the mist for a few seconds, and we saw what it was that stood between us and the safety of the car. It was a giant owl, sitting on the ground and eating a squirrel! It was now a pissed off owl, since we had disturbed its meal. With a scream, it flapped its giant wings and began to rush us! We scattered and each ran in a different direction, but since we were surrounded by water on three sides there was no place to go. The next several seconds, which felt like an eternity, were spent trying to dodge an angry, screeching owl and get around it and into the car. Of course, I dropped my car keys in the process and had to search for them in the tall grass. As I frantically searched, the owl took flight, and I threw myself onto the ground, just narrowly avoiding its talons as it swooped over our heads.
I had landed on my keys, and we all jumped up and booked it to the car. I immediately drove away, but had to pull over and calm down before we got back to camp. We were all pretty embarrassed for being bested by a bird, albeit a very large predatory bird. I never knew that owls could get so big, and so angry!