A STRANGE BIRD AND A SCARY ANIMAL


I first saw this bird in Spain on a drizzly morning in Antequera. With time to spare I had wandered off to look at an underground prehistoric site. An entrance had been dug out to the site and with no-one but me there I walked down to the gate I could vaguely see at the foot of the cutting. The gate was locked. I turned to go back and there at the top of the cutting looking down at me was a large, black, 3-legged dog which did not move as I walked towards it. When I was close enough to touch it (not that I did or wanted to) it turned and moved off and then I saw near a pile of rubble this strange bird, a hoopoe which I vaguely knew had some mythological link to the underworld.

The first time I saw a strange black dog was in Mississippi in my student days in the 50s. It was late. It was dark. I had been given a lift to the edge of a forest near Natchez. Although it was past midnight and because it was a fine, starlit night, I decided to hitch on. The problem was that there was no traffic. As I walked slowly along, looking over my shoulder for the friendly lights of an approaching car, I  heard an animal call from the forested right side of the road and an answering call from the left. As I walked on I became aware that the two animals were converging either on me or some location just ahead of me. Then I could hear from the forested left side of the road, moving parallel to me, the heavy breathing of some animal and away to the right a  similar call from an animal not so close to the road.

I stopped. I took off my rucksack.

Just ahead of me a large black animal stepped onto the road, too big for a dog but like a very large mastiff and it too stopped.

Now since then I have told myself that when it turned its head to look at me or in my direction its eyes glowed red but this may have been something I thought after it had gone.

I stood, ready to run, then at the call from the other animal it crossed into the forest on the right and for several minutes I listened till the silence came surging softly back.

I picked up my rucksack and continued on my way.

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