Tom Sutcliffe in his wonderful book ‘Shadows on the Streambed’ and in his inimitable style, wrote about it mentioning John Geirach and his story of a hair-raising ride down a precarious mountain pass. It reminded me also of where I had first heard of the ‘Pucker Factor’. According to Tom JG apparently said something along the lines that the pucker factor is the amount of upholstery you suck up your backside when the driver hits a really tight corner going too fast with a drop to hell on the other side.
Well, I happen know that it also applies to many other situations, I know because I have experienced it. In fact it happens fairly often when I’m scrambling around mountains illegally (it is now illegal to fish, be in possession of or for that matter to do just about anything connected with trout in SA) hunting trout in tiny streams in wilderness areas. Home to a multitude of animals, insects, reptiles and other sometimes unknown nightmarish things that have the habit of biting or stinging if disturbed, some don’t even need to be disturbed! Some cause minor irritations, welts and lasting itches and then others can kill you.
I have had a mixture of experiences with different creatures, so far by my presence you have guessed, none deadly, but there have been a few close shaves, far too close! – as happened to me earlier in the year while walking through head-high grass – I stepped over a large, unhappy puff adder coiled to strike the back of my leg, as I learnt later, saved only by the blood curdling yell of my fishing buddy. The kind of yell that without even knowing the danger, sends an immediate chill up the spine and a message to the brain – something serious is amiss, get away from the source at all costs. Instinct causes an involuntary sphincter reaction as a just-to-be-on-the-safe-side measure, also now known as ‘puckering’.
Then, when you unexpectedly walk into a Golden Orb Spider’s web with strands about as strong as 5x tippet and having no idea where the spider you saw a split second ago, has disappeared. It doesn’t matter that they are not venomous, it always results in some kind of frantic body slapping dance with no respect in the moment, for the brittleness of rods, sensitivity of high-tech camera gear or the pain of flesh shredding vegetation – the pucker factor automatically switches on like a 1000 watt vacuum cleaner. Of course, if it is your fishing buddy doing what we now call the ‘pucker dance’, it can be quite amusing.
Another is waking in the dead of night in pitch darkness to find that you are not alone with something cold and scaly or hard and spiky moving in the depths of your sleeping bag – it has happened to me, I know the feeling – with the fear of the unknown, the pucker factor kicks in! Extracting yourself is a little like what a mayfly emerger must feel, trapped in the surface film trying to escape from its nymphal shuck while shadows on the streambed circle below!
Oh yes, shake your boots out in the morning. I have had toads, crab spiders and I know someone who had a bat, hiding in the dark corner of the toe-cap.
Happy wandering and sleep tight ……………yikes!, what the ^%$@* was that?
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