He Disagreed with Something that Ate Him is without a question the best chapter title of all time; from Ian Fleming’s ‘Live and Let Die’. 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.

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