It was reckless. It was reckless, stupid, and dangerous. But, it was just the rush I was looking for in my Yellowstone vacation. Standing outside of the Gardiner, Montana Gateway inn, I inched closer to the very large, very intimidating bull elk. The setting sun made silhouettes of the rest of his herd. His fur glittered from the rays. In awe, I continued to move forward.
My brother, trying to beat me in our life risking game, had taken a sideways route to the elk. I was standing right in the bull elk’s face, hardly four feet from him. I glanced up and gazed at his antlers. They were larger than those you see hanging up in cabins. The thick, blunt antlers could easily take little, tiny me. They were angled up as he reached for leaves. His neck muscles were strained, I could see them bulging out as he craned his head back. I took this opportunity to raise my phone and snap a picture of him to show my friends.
â–º honorable mention 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
As the branch above us shook from his nibbling, tiny flakes of dust and pollen rained down from the shiny, green leaves. I sneezed. Not just a tiny sneeze. But a monster sneeze that echoed around the quiet parking lot area. A record-breaking sneeze that probably alerted anyone within a quarter-mile radius. At least, that’s what it seemed.
I sniffled and snuffled, but when I looked back up I froze. My innocent sneeze frightened the elk and his herd. He had his antlers angled towards me, ready to attack. I could hear his front hoof scraping the grass in aggression. He rocked his head side to side. I remained frozen sending a silent prayer that he wouldn’t make a corpse out of me today. I noticed my brother backing away slowly. Staring right at me with a perplexed expression. The others who had gathered to observe the elk heard had stopped whispering and watched me closely.
A whistle cut the silence like a knife. It pulled the elk’s attention away from me and towards the setting sun. I caught a quick glimpse of a shadowy figure walking away, twirling a whistle on a lanyard around his finger. I took this momentary distraction to back away from the agitated elk. When I was at a safe distance, I exhaled. Under my breath, I uttered two short words.
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