On August 21, 2017, I woke up shortly after dawn. Peering at the sky through the window in my tent, I saw that it was pale but clear, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’m not usually an early riser, but on this morning, I was anxious. I’d been anticipating this day for years and had come to this cattle ranch outside Casper, Wyoming to view the Great American Eclipse.
The previous evening, we’d had thunder and a few raindrops after dinner. The forecast for eclipse time was favorable, but still I worried we might wake up to clouds. So when I saw the clear skies that morning, I felt elated. What to do, but go for a run?
While my husband continued snoozing, I laced up my running shoes and called my dog, Molly, out of the tent. Let’s go for a run, I told her. She leaped in the air, as she does, and then led the way.
We ran down an ATV track along a small creek surrounded by open meadows and vast vistas. The air was clear and the sun was bright. My anticipation of the eclipse put a spring in my step. And then we turned a corner and I heard a scary, weird bark.
At first, it struck me as the sound of an aggressive dog. I called Molly close, and the sound continued. I assumed that we’d crossed some other human campsite and their dog was now staking its claim. This worried me so far as it might mean a dog-to-dog encounter, but I wasn’t particularly frightened. Then I looked to the creek on my left.
On the hillside on the other side of the creek, I spotted the coyote making these sounds. Although the aggressive barking sounded nothing like any vocalizations I’ve heard from the coyotes that frequent the space around my farm in Colorado, I felt reassured. It’s just a coyote, I thought.
I kept running, and for a few minutes, all was well. Then I looked down the road and saw the coyote had crossed the creek and was coming for me. Except it wasn’t a coyote. HOLY F-ing SHIT!! It was HUGE. And it was’t just barking at me, it was running toward me. It was at least as large as my Catahoula Leopard dog/standard poodle mix — that is, BIG! I looked at Molly and looked at it, and then my heart rate rose to about 230 beats per minute.