I found myself lying there in a laurel thicket wearing a 3-piece suit.

I’d come home from some fancy function or other at Western Carolina to be immediately informed Jake had pulled another jailbreak from the pasture and was laying waste to a good chunk of East Fork.

I briefly considering changing before taking out after him, but nah. I’d corralled Jake quickly and repeatedly during his increasingly frequent crime sprees. I got this. Piece of cake.

Badly winded and a bit dizzy from the midsummer heat, I could hear Jake thrashing around in the thicket above me. I assessed the situation, wondering if I should start chasing him again and risk heatstroke. I also was troubled by the possibility that had begun crawling around in the back of my head that he was just wearing me down before moving in for the kill.

Either way I figured I was ahead of the game, being already dressed for the funeral.

In the end I heard Jake move off through the brush until he was out of hearing range. I brushed myself off and wandered back toward the house, where I found Jake wolfing down a row of corn.

Of all the animals of my younger years, Jake was the best escape artist. OK, artistry probably isn’t the best term, as his tactics involved a) going over a fence or b) going through a fence.

That bull preferred a direct approach.

Some animals do exhibit true escape talent.

The current Buchanan household cat, Jupiter, is clearly trying to learn how to open the French door to the back porch.

We have a stand near the door and she’ll get up on it and from there jump onto the latch, attempting to work it back and forth. It’s fun to watch, like seeing a politician trying to grasp the concept of truthfulness – lot of sweat, not much in the way of results.

We keep that door locked, just as a precaution.

I would point out that Jupiter is very energetic but not very smart. She has yet to figure out the actual cat door in the garage.

If she develops opposable thumbs, maybe then I’ll start worrying.

The animal that truly befuddled me with its abilities, and the one that gave me the worst mauling I’ve received from an animal in my life…

…well, it’s embarrassing.

Readers of this column know what the stories are usually about. Bears, bear dogs, wild boars, rattlesnakes. Real He Man Outdoor Life stuff.

Let me tell introduce you to Freckles, the toughest gerbil in, if not these 50 United States, at least the Lower 48.

You have a kid, kids have pets. It’s the natural order of things.

I was not familiar with gerbils, and my first experience with them yielded three observations: They’re cute, they eat a lot, and they … they do a lot on the supply end of the food cycle after all that eating.

Ignorance is bliss.

We had a nice sturdy cage for Freckles. We’d let Freckles out to play a lot, and Freckles didn’t seem to mind the cage.

Back in those days I did a lot of work on the computer late at night down in the basement near the room where Freckles’ confinement was located. And I’d pick up something out of the corner of my eye.

Free-range Freckles.

I’d corner Freckles, give the cage a good looking over to make sure bars weren’t bent or no opening had presented itself – I never did find done – and lock Freckles back up.

A half-hour later, I’d pick up something out of the corner of my eye.

This process repeated for a few nights, a minor annoyance. And then Freckles found his way into the heating vents.

You’d hear a “ting ting ting” of tiny claws on metal, and Freckles would later turn up who-knows-where – upstairs, downstairs, every room in the house.

He had the entire system mapped out, and became expert at diving for the nearest grate when I was closing in for the capture.

It was one of those moments when I made The Grab.

Freckles made The Bite.

That thing latched on to the meaty part of my hand between the thumb and index finger and proceeded to bite nearly the entire way through as I ran through the house screaming, shaking my hand, Freckles latched on like flypaper.

After some reflection, a 911 call on a gerbil bite just seemed stupid, so I bled a bit, disinfected and washed and wrapped the wound. It healed up nicely.

Thank heavens.

I’d hate to have had to break that one out when the guys sat around bragging about their combat scars.

Jim Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.