I grew up on a farm in the Florida panhandle. To meet the school bus, I walked a quarter mile along an old wagon trail through the woods to the paved road.
A bobcat runs through a yard in south Lakeland on Wednesday. The bobcat repeatedly went into an open garage in the area and aggressively chased people who were outside. Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Officers responded, and one of the officers was scratched.
After capture, the animal had to be euthanized because of its aggressiveness toward people and so it could be tested for rabies. The animal was sent to the state laboratory for rabies testing and was confirmed positive Thursday. This is the third case of an animal testing positive for rabies in Polk County this year. - Lakeland Ledger, Sept. 21 (Photo by Scott Wheeler)
When I was in first grade, a major outbreak of rabies occurred in that part of the state, so my mother - more concerned about the danger than I was, of course - walked with me to the bus stop for several months.
Rabid animals were attacking livestock and pets, so my parents' fears for my safety were not irrational. I heard descriptions of "foaming at the mouth" animals and the series of painful shots to the stomach that might prevent dying a slow and painful death if bitten by a rabid animal!
The closest I came to one, however, was the morning that a red fox, in broad daylight, approached the farm house. The hound dogs, along with the free-range chickens and guineas, alarmed by a fox running wildly about the woodpile and vegetable garden, were raising a terrible racket. My dad grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun and, standing on the back porch, fired once as the fox came flying over the picket fence toward the dogs. Struck in midair, the poor creature hit the ground dead.
The dogs had been given their rabies shots, so they were relatively safe, but the incident was frightening nonetheless. I learned my lesson well: avoid wild animals as much as possible -- especially the ones without fear.
Pic: I'm the boy with dark hair. My first-grade teacher was Virginia Spears.