Archives for posts with tag: scary encounters while running

The day started a little earlier than usual with the 5 am fireworks and all. The resulting explosions were surround sound with all three Iglesias’s (churches) participating. There was an explosion every 15 seconds for 2 straight hours. The sun comes up at 7:15 so this is going on for 2 straight hours before daylight. It turns out that today is Mary’s name day (as in the Mother Mary).  Everyone has a name day; it’s like a birthday. Then there are the saints days.  And there are the trades days; carpenters, etc. And there are tons of other reasons to pretty much have a year around party.  So Mexico can be a noisy place but still if I were a nine to fiver and had a long commute to look forward to I’d be seriously pissed when my alarm clock got pre-empted by mortar fire.

But I really don’t mind anymore. And I am a morning person after all so getting up a little earlier than usual doesn’t bother me. And I had lots to do. It was a run day. I had sandals to ship. I’m working on a new bag. I am also working with a new huarachero to adapt one of his classic sandal designs onto my sole (recycled airplane tire) with a better grade of leather for the upper – and with a couple of other very small modifications… and I am heavily engrossed in writing my maybe never to be published, next novel.

I drank coffee and worked on the party chapter for novel numero dos waiting for Gaby’s to open up at 8. I walked down for a very tasty breakfast of eggs, beans, homemade salsa and fresh tortillas. I wished she served coffee but she like so many others here in Latin America have somehow gotten Nescafe confused with real coffee; art imitating life and all that I guess. Anyway, damn those wily Swiss!

I wrote for an hour after breakfast before suiting up for my run. That’s running shorts, sandals, and a bandana around my head to keep the sweat out of my eyes.

Midway into my run I saw a rancher with two dogs. I only overheard part of the conversation but it started with the big dog saying, ‘I am going to go eat that guy’. The smaller dog wagged his tail in anticipation. The rancher said, ‘No you’re not’. The big dog got up anyway, followed by the smaller dog, and started to cross the short distance of freshly mowed field that separated us. The rancher yelled ‘Venga aca pendajos’(get your asses back here)!. The dogs quit running but didn’t exactly stop either. The rancher said, ‘If you eat that guy I am going to beat you everyday and not feed you for a week’. The dogs reluctantly returned.

Running in the valley I am constantly mindful of three things: First – dogs. Second – not stopping to pee where I have to stand too close to a mound of fire ants. And three – when hunting season starts up in December I need to start early and end early and avoid the weekends when there are sometimes multiple pickup trucks cruising around the canal roads loaded with kids in the back all sporting small caliber firearms. All I can hope is if I do manage to catch a stray or for that matter intentional bullet that it doesn’t hit a vital organ like my liver.

The army with logic and reasons known only unto itself had two trucks patrolling nose to asshole (to borrow from the ranching vernacular), on the valley roads this morning. Manned and mounted big M-60s with lots of other guys sporting M16s dressed all alike in body armor and sporting scary face-masks. I put up my hands and made a feigning motion as they passed like ‘Don’t shoot’ all the meanwhile reciting The Lord’s Prayer. A couple men laughed at the half naked old gringo running with the water bottle while a few soldiers scowled. I had that déjà vu feeling that there was possibly more than one ‘rancher to big dog’ kind of conversation happening as they continued to slowly traverse in the opposite direction.


Now I don’t exactly have proof that the big sugar sack lying by the side of the road contains 5 heads but I would be very surprised if it didn’t.

A couple of days ago I found the route that allowed me to extend my run beyond an hour.

It begins from my house on Calle Victoria and doglegs to the northeast where I pick up a semi-rural road that cuts back west terminating at gated community called Rancho Dorado. The road first runs past a small gated community on the left, then a cemetery, and then there is a small brick making operation on the right that sits on the road side edge of acre after acre of pastures and fields. The air doesn’t clear up until well past the brick kiln where they use everything imaginable to fire the brick. The mud is hand mixed and put into 8 lot molds and air dried much like I would have thought the Mesopotamians did it 4000 years ago although I reckon it took maybe another 1000 years to figure out that firing the brick made them stronger. Mexico brick makers, being on the peso economy and all, have extrapolated their energy requirements to include those things that are rich in underutilized petroleum products- like old tires – to fire the final process step. And it really isn’t a kiln inasmuch as huge heap of bricks stacked over and around freaking big hot smoldering fire.
So this road is remote in a way but then again not, and is quintessentially Mexican in that it is just another place where you can do what you want.

Anyway, this road runs straight for about a mile before taking a sharp left hand turn where it turns from tarmac to an improvised cobblestone made from mostly river rock and then runs its final 200 yards uphill where it terminates at a gate. It was 50 yards before the turn on the right hand side of the road where I saw the bag sitting more or less on shoulder; that is if Mexican roads had shoulders.

I literally jumped. My intuition told me something was wrong. I passed it but looked back over my shoulder because something about it gave me the creeps. It was an old white sugar sack of the industrial size that originally held 100 lbs of sugar or thereabouts.

This bag was now about a third full and held several lump like shapes. The bag was tightly tied off, not once but twice, with heavy twine. On my run back I clearly remember that it wasn’t there the day before and I made sure to give it a very wide birth as I passed it.

Yesterday the northwesterly wind announced the presence of the bag 10 yards before I passed it and I once again gave it as much berth as the road allowed. The sack was covered with flies and contained something recently dead and whatever it held it was seriously into the spoiling stage. I wasn’t going to let my imagination run wild even although I couldn’t keep the image of 5 severed heads out of my mind. And I thought, if it was bad guys they’d want to make it public like when they left a cut up body that was hacked up into 10 pieces and left in bags in the plaza (3 blocks from my house) a couple of months ago. I tried to include other possible scenarios like maybe it was a Mexican dog burial? But no, dead animals, pets included, don’t get trussed up in a sugar sack and left so neatly by the side of the road. And most certainly don’t get doubled tied off with strong twine.

I told Lulu this morning (my 21 year old English student) that I found a great place to run. I described where and she told me that her father ran that some route early every morning with a buddy of his. She then asked me what time I ran there and I told her that I ran mid-day. She told me that was good because after dark it was a very dangerous road.  I asked dangerous how and she said gangsters. I was not able to get from her the why of what gangsters would be doing on that road at night. So all I know is that a cartel somehow and for whatever reasons uses that road at night.

Creepy huh? Something dead, trussed up in a bag lying on the side of a road that’s used by the bad guys.
Personally, I think its 5 heads.

He Disagreed with Something that Ate Him is without a question the best chapter title of all time; from Ian Fleming’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. And in that chapter the story was about some minor character getting stuffed into a fish tank that held a bunch of vicious razor toothed piranhas. All told very tongue-in-cheek, very deadpan as only the British can.

Personally, big teeth and biting animals that savage lesser things scare the crap out of me, no matter how drolly told. My fear started almost 40 years ago when a friend’s rescue bitch German shepherd lunged from the back of his Ford Econoline van and tore a chunk out the back of my Levis. All of this for no apparent reason other than maybe she had a hard time as a puppy growing up in the urban jungles of Detroit.

So I was 30 minutes up into the Calzonuda; the hills the locals call ‘the big panties’ and my feet were getting sorer with each footfall. I was dirty and hot and those damned rocks kept finding the same bruised spot on each foot. I was discovering the running sandals weren’t made for such inhospitable terrain as stony mountainous Michoacán.

I was searching for the branch trail that connected the ‘sack of heads’ piece to the larger one that started down in El Rincon. I knew there had to be some kind of continuity; how else would foot traffic get from Sahuayo to the villages that surrounded the big panties like Tunamanza to the northwest? And I had to find it because it would have to be better than the segment that repeatedly traumatized my feet.

I spied a man and a woman sitting just off the trail with their backs to me. They were sitting up high on a rock and dirt ledge that was shaded by some dirty looking scrub trees. They were sharing a liter and a half bottle of coke and the fact that they were taking their siesta out in the middle of nowhere was only slightly disconcerting to this dust covered old gringo who had been panting his way up hill for the better part of an hour.

I call out to them, just a quiet ‘buenos tardes’,  and the man no sooner turned and looked my way then the brown shape laying next to him stood up, growled, before hurling itself towards me.

I was thinking (or maybe said out loud), ‘Holy shit’ as that  enraged animal, trailing what appeared to be a 10’ piece of chewed off chain, landed in a snarling, snapping, lunging mode just a few feet away.

I didn’t even have time to think; ‘I am so screwed’ before a second dog, a big black beast, came flying out from that same spot.

I am thinking ‘What the shit’?

One of my biggest nightmares was unfolding before my very eyes; two big unrestrained dogs on the attack – on me – and there was nothing I could do to fend off what was going to happen; one dog can chew you up and two can kill you.

I had close encounters like this before, like twice in Bolivia a few years back, and one was totally déjà vu; I was taking a run in the beautiful countryside when I awoke another very big dog who knew for a fact, just like now, that I didn’t belong there either.

And my mind was still grappling with the exploding events being brought to me in the way of two very big angry dogs that I was even more totally unprepared when yet another dog charging into the fray. I am thinking ‘holy shit, who has 3 dogs?’

And suddenly it wasn’t a question of getting bit and savaged but more a question of how many times and how bad.

I threw my water bottle at the closest dog and made myself big as that seemed to work with the 2 small dogs that tried to bite me the week before. One of those little bastards was laying in his doorway and pretended to ignore me as I walked by and it was only instinct that me turn and catch him as he had crept up behind and was in the process of taking a chunk out of my ankle. He got smacked with a water bottle too.

So there I was surrounded by 3 lunging snapping beasts and I see the owner out of the corner of my eye looking on impartially as I was whirling like a dervish throwing rocks, yelling for him to contain his dogs and just generally trying to keep arms and legs out of harms way.

After what seemed like forever, the owner finally stood up and shouted at the dogs which of course just ignored him.

I hit one of the black dogs in the hindquarters with a big rock, it yelped and the owner told me to ease off, ‘that it was going to be all right.’

In a voice 3 octaves above my normal I heard myself scream, ‘Are you crazy? Call your dogs off!’- in English of course – I didn’t want him to hear me call him ‘loco’; as the last thing I wanted to do was to piss off my only potential advocate.

This entire time the woman stayed seated sipping coke with an emotional detachment that suggested the dogs ate people all the time and them killing just another dusty old gringo was too boring to get even remotely excited about.

At what seemed like the last minute, the owner finally stepped down and got into the fray. After some slaps and fumbling he managed to grab the brown dog’s frayed chain and restrained it. The black dog that I hit with the rock retired at some point because I found that there was only one dog left which I finally managed to drive off with a couple of big rocks.

My heart was thumping in my chest and I thought, ‘Oh great, saved from the dogs only to keel over from a massive coronary.’ I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt such fear and unmitigated panic.

And I knew that if things would have turned out different and had I been tore up by those dogs it would have been my own fault; wandering around ‘the big panties’ was inexcusable. If it would have gone to court, which I doubt, the dog owner would have merely shrugged and admitted that his dogs had bit me.

The court would have asked what I was doing up there and if I answered running, the next question would have been, ‘From what?’ Like only criminals run in this part of the world.

If I would have replied in some naïve el norte Americano way that ‘I was running for recreation’, I would reckon that after the laughter stopped and after everyone caught their breath the immediate response would have been something like, ‘Are you simple minded? There’s dangerous stuff up there.’

So all the humorous bravado aside, it is truly a wonder I didn’t get as much as a single bite. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my entire recollectable life.