Saturday, September 15, 2007

The story of Coyote Trail

On October 5, 2005, a Northborough grandfather was out hiking with his 4-year-old grandson along the Assabet River (here) when they were suddenly attacked from behind. The grandfather, Arthur Cole, age 76, positioned himself between the coyote and his grandson. As the coyote was biting Cole’s legs, he unsuccessfully tried to fend her off with his hands. At one point the coyote turned around and trotted away. Cole was relieved, thinking the attack was over, but he was mistaken. The coyote was just getting some running room so she could jump for his throat. Cole told me that this was her big mistake, because when she ran away his hands were freed, such that when she jumped at him he was able to grab her throat and tackle her to the ground. He landed on top of her and had her pinned under him, with her head in his arm and her tale in his other hand.

His grandson, Nicholas, came to the rescue. Cole said, “He truly was heroic. It was his idea to run for help and he had about one quarter of a mile to run.” Nicholas ran back to Cole’s home and got his father (Cole’s son, Peter). It was clear that Cole could not let go of the thrashing coyote, so Peter attempted to kill the coyote (without luck) and called 911. Cole kept the coyote pinned to the ground for nearly 30 minutes before police officers, unable to shoot the frantic animal b/c of the proximity of Cole, suffocated the animal. Lab tests revealed that the coyote was rabid. Cole suffered numerous bites and scratches requiring extensive stitches, as well as rabies vaccinations. Cole’s 4-year-old grandson will grow up a hero.

I met Art Cole on October 26, 2006, at Cedar Hill in Northborough. I had just started letterboxing, and I was sitting at the stone wall where the SVT letterbox “See-Der Pine Cones” is hidden. I was engrossed in the logbook, and I didn’t see him coming (rookie mistake). He made me jump a mile with his greeting! We chatted for quite some time, and two of the things I learned about Art that day were that 1) he was the guy who fought off the coyote, and 2) he had just stepped down as chair of the Northborough Trails Committee. He talked at length about the different trails in town, about which I was amazed. I’d lived here for 4 years and didn’t know about any of these places (except one). He even pulled out a map of some of the local trails and gave it to me. At some point during our conversation, he mentioned that the Trails Committee could always use volunteers, if I was interested (which I very much was). I couldn’t make it to the November meeting, and there is no meeting in December, but when I showed up in January, Art remembered me right away. Thus started my journey to “Board Member” of the Trails Committee and “Trail Steward” of the Cold Harbor Trail.

It’s perhaps ironic that Cole was the Chair of the Trails Committee at the time of the coyote attack, but not too far-fetched, since you would certainly expect such a person to be spending lots of time on the trails. The real irony, for me, is that Art was not only the Chair, he was the founder of the Committee. In 2001, Art went to Northborough’s Open Space Committee and asked if they’d be interested in having a Trails Committee. They enthusiastically agreed & appointed him chair. The extensive trail system we have in town now is a direct result of Art’s initiative. (Do you think the forest animals got together & figured out who was responsible, and then sent out Coyote?)

Thus the name of this trail. As Art explained it: “The trail was named for that misbegotten coyote who bit me as sort of a joke perpetrated by a humorous committee. One thing I have always liked about the committee is that we have so many good laughs at meetings.” And I couldn’t agree more—it’s a fun & hard-working group. And the evidence of this is the extensive very well-marked trail system in Northborough.

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