June 2012. The light faded, and the smooth transition of diurnal voices to nocturnal conversations reverberated. The cool breeze carried the fresh scent of mint tea on soft currents. The evening hour was quite a pleasure after a lengthy day of counting rattlesnakes in sun, it provided a much needed respite and the opportunity to crack open my thinking book to record thoughts that were otherwise fleeting while I was busy.
I chose to camp in a location just yards away from one of my sampling sites, but it was also in an area frequently trafficked by feral hog and other game. I worried less about bear than I did the hogs; the hogs are problematic, dangerous and bold. So I decided to place my tent-cot in the bed of my truck in order to sleep elevated up off of the ground and away from any trampling hooves. In the last moments of sunlight, I could already hear hogs feeding from within the neck-high grass of an adjacent game clearing. The sweet smell of my tea was likely not helping my desire to avoid a hog invasion of my camp, but it sure was a refreshing brew beneath the slowly appearing stars.
I had scarcely placed my head upon my pillow, when suddenly out of the black of night; coyotes began to laugh from within the forest nearby. It began as quite a domestic sound, but as their conversation continued, their howls intensified to a more sinister tone. They cackled and cried as the pack ran swiftly through the woods along which I was camped. I was unsure if they were tormenting a meal beneath the hunter's moon, or if they were simply engaged in playful canine antics. The sound was thrilling and also slightly chilling.
Predatory noises erupting suddenly in the night was undoubtedly frightening to our Paleolithic ancestors living in the wild Pleistocene, and it likely caused them to keep close to their firelight for security. The desire for light when shrouded in the dark unknown is an emotion that still tugs at the psyche of modern humans as a reflex of our past. I reached outside of my tent and ignited my lamp, and it cast a warm, comforting glow in a perimeter around my camp. I slept soundly with my lamp standing sentry over me, a beacon in the night to stave off the American Jackal.