Friday, June 6, 2008

A Bear Story

One lazy summer day when I was about 13 and my brother, Bill, was 12, we heard a lot of barking dogs over the next hill. We realized our two dogs were missing, and Bill and I decided to go check it out. We walked quite a distance down one hill and up another, and then further up the hill where the trees had been cut down to make more farmland for our neighbor. There was a large pile of brush and by the time Bill and I reached it, we could see all the neighborhood dogs surrounding something much larger. It took us a minute or so to realize what we were seeing. It was a young bear, probably a yearling, and though the dogs were biting at it's legs, it kept trying to move along. Bill and I were behind that pile of brush, but not for long. Bears were unknown in our area in the fifties, and our father had told us what not to do should we ever run into a bear. Well, I didn't give his instructions a second thought. I ran, FAST, the whole way home. Poor Bill was running somewhere behind me, calling, "Wait for me! Wait for me!" Brother or not, I wasn't waiting for anyone because I was terrified. I don't think my feet hit the ground very much, because I think I was bounding, rather than running. I could have made the Olympic sprinters team that day. We breathlessly told our parents about the bear, and my father later asked around and found there were two bears, probably a mother and her yearling cub, around the farms that week. One neighbor's beehives were toppled over and destroyed as the bears ate the honey. Daddy said he would have to keep an eye on our beehives, but the bears must have moved on because we neither saw them nor heard anything more about bears in the area. Bill and I started asking questions again about what to do if a bear came along. Daddy said not to climb a tree because bears can climb trees. He said not to run away because bears can easily outrun people. He really never told us what to do, and until recent years, I have often pondered what you are supposed to do if you encounter a bear. Now they say to play dead. Personally, I think that would take nerves of steel. I can't run like I did when I was young, and I couldn't shimmy up a tree even when I was young, so I think I will buy some pepper spray and carry it with me all the time, hoping that should I run into a bear, my aim would be good enough and that the spray would effectively deter it.
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