Yodeling is most commonly associated with lederhosen-clad Swiss people and an aura of beer and mountains.
Lacking both the lederhosen and beer, not to mention the Swiss nationality, about the only thing I can bring to my particular brand of yodeling is the mountains.
This is not a pastime I indulge myself in around our secluded wilderness home, but rather a way of announcing my presence in the woods when walking with the dogs.
At this time of the year in particular, when the pint-sized wildlife offspring is courageously guarded by their mothers, I have no wish to run into animals with my entourage of dogs.
Since the only song lyrics that ever stick to my mind are of the annoying ear-worm variety, such as old ABBA hits, yodeling offered itself as a good alternative for broadcasting our position in the forest to our wild neighbours.
The other day I was out walking and had finally succeeded in switching my doggy GPS to the summer setting — this is our old dog who will lead us on command to the closest trail we use or straight back home.
In the winter, we use somewhat different routes, which, as the snow and ice disappear, become a swampy mess or dense tangles of brush.
Old Leshi kept guiding us back to these now impenetrable trails, much to my chagrin. But after repeatedly telling her “no” and leading her to the more walkable summer routes, she had now finally clued in.
As we are following her along, I spotted a kayaker out on the lake and decided to stop my periodic exclamations of “holla da hoosel, moosel” so as not to disturb that person’s wilderness experience.
Harbouring very different feelings for the camouflaged trophy hunters that infiltrate the bush to fulfill their dreams of displaying part of a bear carcass next to their plasma TV, I keep thinking that it would be very funny to burst upon one of those characters with a hearty yodel, but so far we have eluded each other. I’m not sure they’d see the humour in it, anyway.
The dogs and I turned further into the woods, now moving a lot less noisily, and my mind started to drift off, shuddering at the impending town trip that would entail shopping for literally a ton of supplies.
“Hinges, we are out of door hinges,” I was thinking when the youngest dog suddenly barked up ahead.
Whistling and yelling, “Milan, come,” I quickly grabbed the other dogs and got the leashes out of my backpack.
Loud cracking and a scrabbling sound came from Milan’s direction. A look over my shoulder revealed not only the dog coming back to me, but also the inquisitive face of a large black bear poking through the shrubs where he was standing on his hind feet.
In a fine display of synchronized motion, both the bear and I bent down again at the same time.
With the dogs now on leash, I turned back the way we had come since the bear seemed not inclined to go anywhere.
Suddenly I couldn’t care less about the kayaker’s wilderness experience and made my usual noise to relay our progress to the bear.
It is funny, but in all the years of walking, the only times I ever encountered a bear has been when I was not yodeling my way through the woods.
I do it year-round, whenever I have the dogs with me, and moose seem a lot more tolerant of encountering us (or my yodeling) than bears.
After the rut and during winter, the moose sometimes wait until they can see us before moving off even though they must have long heard us coming.
In early summer however, the cows with calves apparently take great precautions since luckily we have never run into any of them.
I’m eager to keep it that way after watching once how a moose was fighting off the unwanted company of another moose by rearing up and thrashing at its head with the front hooves.
So if one day you find yourself walking through a quiet forest outside of Switzerland, enjoying the songs of birds and the wind in the trees, and you suddenly hear a quavering “yolla da hoodel,” it might be me. Double-check for beer and lederhosen, though.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.