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Nate reached the yawning mouth of trees he spotted on his hike two days earlier. An orange marker was in his pocket to mark rocks and trees that would help keep him from getting lost. In another pocket he carried the bear repellant he took from a shelf on his grandparents' back porch. He had sprayed himself with OFF and tucked his pants legs into a pair of his granddad's work boots. He came better prepared for the wild than on his first outing. But after nearly an hour of searching, he'd seen nothing that resembled a cemetery. The woods were bigger and more confusing than he had expected. Even with marking his route, he had spent the first ten minutes walking in a circle. He vowed next time to use a real compass and avoid wasting time determining direction. At the bottom of a woodsy slope, he was debating whether or not it needed climbing when the hum of an engine came through the old growth of trees. Nate took a few steps up the slope for a better look. The noise seemed to come from no particular place. As soon as he thought he had a lock on the location, the sound veered away in another direction. But it kept getting louder, which meant it had to be getting closer. This part of the woods had undergrowth thick enough and tall enough to hide whatever made the noise on the hill. But definitely, it sounded like it was blazing a path toward him. The noise grew louder. Nate could hear the swoosh of branches and the snap of limbs breaking. Seconds later, a swift movement rushed across just a few yards up the hill. It burrowed through a thicket of large ferns and wild hedges. Nate jumped out of its path as it skidded out of control. It flipped on its side and slammed into a downed log about twenty feet away. What the heck? ... ... middle of paper ... ..."Thanks." Nate looked to the way they had come. "So, no practice today. We better get you back up the hill." "Okay, you can call me when you're ready for a lesson. You got something to take down a number on?" "I got a marker. Write your number on this can." Billy took the marker and the can of repellent and smiled as he wrote. "You know, this here spray won't work against an angry bear. It's fine for spraying bears that wanders into your yard, but the best way to handle a bear in the wild is to keep your distant from 'em." "I'll remember that," Nate said, taking back the can and marker. "You can call me if you want. Do your parents have my grandparents' number?" "Yeah, I'll call ya'." He tilted his head like he had reached a conclusion. "I'll keep your secret 'cause we're buddies now, okay?" "Yeah, we're buddies," Nate agreed. "Let's get you home."

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