There have definitely been times where I’ve been scaredA few months ago, I was shopping in Mitchell when a reader asked if I was Roger. We had chatted for a minute when the lady asked, “In all your adventures, have any situations every struck fear or apprehension into your heart?”
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
A few months ago, I was shopping in Mitchell when a reader asked if I was Roger. We had chatted for a minute when the lady asked, “In all your adventures, have any situations every struck fear or apprehension into your heart?”
I told her I had to think about that. I have thought about the question, and the answer is yes. You may have heard these stories before, but today they are from a different perspective.
Twice I’ve fallen through ice. I don’t recall being afraid, but I do remember trying to methodically think things through. I was especially fortunate in one incident where someone came to our assistance. I was alone the time I broke through Choteau Creek while deer hunting — a very close call.
Twice during the summer of 1984, I experienced fear. Betsy and I went to Colombia to see Laurie, our daughter, who was on a Rotary exchange. While visiting her Bogota home, her host parents, the Heime Uribes, warned us not to go alone outside their home. One morning, I foolishly went out for a neighborhood walk while carrying a good 35 millimeter camera from my neck.
As I passed a dark entryway just off the sidewalk, my eyes met those of two men lurking in the shadows. Their eyes moved from mine to the camera and back. I threw them a hard “make my day” look and headed back to the high-fenced Uribe home. I escaped a potential robbery, but I didn’t escape a stern lecture from Heime. My next Colombian escapade was even dumber.
Betsy, Laurie and I were walking around the streets of Cartagena one night after supper when a boy asked Laurie for a penny. She told him he could have a penny if he would take us to someone who would take her father fishing the next morning. He led us on a half-mile walk to the harbor area called Boca Grande. We came to a building in a dimly lit area where he knocked on a door. A man answered. After an animated Spanish conversation with the man, the boy explained something to Laurie in Spanish. At 5 a.m. the next morning, I was to knock on this door and ask for Gabriel.
That 4:30 a.m. walk from our hotel to Gabriel’s scared the heck out of me. I knew crime was rampant, but I also knew it was petty except for drug lord altercations. I eventually hooked up with Gabriel, and we slid his aluminum canoe into the harbor bay behind his home. While almost rubbing shoulders with freighters and ocean liners, we paddled through the harbor mouth and out into the expanse of the Caribbean! Deep sea fishing from a canoe was way beyond my definition of adventure!
Around two miles out, we did some bait fishing and caught a variety of smaller fish. About this time I noted a number of dugout canoes approaching. The two-man crews were coal black and stark naked. Some fish lay in the bottoms of the dugouts. I recognized the word “Americano” as they looked me over. Their conversation with Gabriel included the words “dos cientos.” I eventually figured out that they were talking ransom money.
I had paid Gabriel the equivalent of 25 American dollars before embarking, but I had also placed two $100 Colombian bills (about $2 American) in my shoe to serve as a tip if all went well. Fortunately, for me, those two bills were “dos cientos.”
I guess I found out how much I’m worth on the open market.
Greg McCann, Ed Kniffen and I flew to Alaska for a caribou hunt in 2000. A bush pilot service out of King Salmon dropped us into a very remote area near Lake Iliamna that was infested with grizzly bears. On the plus side, bear-wise, spawning salmon choked nearby streams and provided a buffet for the bears. On that trip, Ed and I made a hike through seven feet alder thickets that were full of bruins. Steaming manure piles really grabbed my attention. I can’t speak for Ed, but that little junket scared the heck out of me even though we carried our rifles.
In 2005, friends and I were fishing a remote “fly-in” lake in Northern Saskatchewan. Bears had become bold thanks to the careless campers that preceded us, and I was afraid that the bears would enter the cabin and destroy the place in our absence. As the trip was something that I had put together, I felt responsible.
When dealing with animals, I believe it is important to show no fear. On this particular morning, I decided to chase the biggest bear, a 500-600 pounder, out of camp. I put up my arms to look big, grabbed my spinning rod, and went after him. For a few seconds, the plan looked good, but then he stopped, turned around, got up on his hind legs, and began woofing and clicking his teeth. Needless to say, I retreated right now. I was terror stricken! On the plus side, the bruins never came back.
My father and I went to Costa Rica for some tarpon fishing in 1990. We fished the mouth of the Parismina River on the east coast. Though there was an intricate network of inland jungle rivers, the best tarpon fishing was in the ocean just beyond the surf. Today, the lodges have large boats that “piggy back” the smaller fishing boats through the surf and into the calmer tarpon waters beyond. Back then, you went through the surf in the smaller boats. The lodge owners told us that on the average, we could expect to safely cut through the surf one out of three days. On the other days we would fish elsewhere.
Two anglers and a guide had lost their lives just prior to our arrival. The anglers had bribed the guide to cross the surf when the guide knew better, and their boat went over. Tiger and hammerhead sharks ripped them to pieces. The tragedy lent an eerie atmosphere to the camp.
On one of the days, we dared not attempt a surf crossing, we did some surf casting from a sand beach. The guys making the longest casts were hooking some tarpon, but my rig didn’t cast far enough, and I was frustrated. I started wading out into the water. Knee deep seemed safe enough, and soon I was in crotch deep water. Now I could feel the tow of the current, but soon I was in waist deep water. I struggled to maintain balance, but my casts were going beyond the necessary range. I anticipated a strike at any moment.
A guide had waded into knee deep water behind me. He called out, “Amigo, you are very lucky!” I asked why. “The tarpon they follow your lure to you and the sharks they follow the tarpon!” I must have looked like a jet ski at full throttle heading for shore!
It was the most scared I’ve ever been.
*See you next week.