Friday, October 1, 2010
Not Your Average Ordinary Bear
I've always felt something of a kinship to bears. We're both big, dark, and pretty damned grouchy when first waking up. In my early days in university, I had the occasional early class (yes, 8:30 is an early class!) and I wasn't much for that sort of thing. Some of my mates took to calling me the Bear. It fits.
In the time my family's had the home in cottage country, when I've been out there, I've had the occasional close encounter with bears. On one such occasion, it was being within fifteen feet or so of one in the woods. Fortunately I heard him coming, so made enough noise to let him know I was there. It's best not to alarm them, or get between them and food, or between them and cubs. That one didn't panic or cause a problem; he just went on his way.
On another occasion, a summer day, I was sitting in the gazebo, doing some reading. A white and black blur bolted past on the driveway, and I looked up. One of the cats raced up onto the porch. And what was she running from? I looked, and there he was, lumbering his way down the driveway, not a care in the world. A black bear. He didn't seem to notice me, and he didn't seem to care about the cat. He just walked past the house and out of sight. Now these are cats, mind you, that have been known, from time to time, to pick fights with foxes and stalk deer. It takes a lot to frighten them. I'd say the bear was just a little too big, in their opinion. And running for the safety of home seemed the best idea at the time.
In August, I had several sightings of what was likely the same bear. I went up one day to the Oxtongue Rapids, a swirling stretch of water on the river of the same name. It's not that far from the house, and it's a lovely spot. Lo and behold, there across the river, a big black bear was standing. He saw me, I saw him, and we had ourselves the river between us. I doubt he was all that interested in crossing; he probably knows it's a bad spot to try that. Besides, at that time of year, bears are in a great mood. They're gorging themselves on berries, getting fat for the winter, so as long as you're not doing something like, oh, walking up to a sleeping bear and kicking it on the butt, you're fine with them.
There were more sightings to come. Another day I saw one while walking on the main highway. He was coming out of the bush, looking to cross, and he decided against it, heading back into the woods. Once again, a big bear, which meant a male. You don't have to get that close to tell the difference. The boys are twice as bulky as the females.
One morning I was up letting the cats out, and I glanced out the window. There he was, in the front yard this time. Same bear, no doubt. He was huge. A neighbor walking her dog out on the road spotted him, and the bear spotted the two of them. That was enough to make him sprint. He bolted off for the woods, and trust me, those of you who think you might stand a chance of outrunning a bear? Uh uh. Not going to happen. Usain Bolt couldn't have outrun him.
And once again, he showed up in the space of a few days. Overnight, some idiot (I blame a camper who was too damned cheap to pay for garbage disposal) left a full bag of garbage out on the road. I woke up, came downstairs, and there was the bear. He'd dragged the bag away from the road, and was happily chewing on something on the property line. Well, we can't have that. As amusing an image as it is to see a bear doing that, we can't have him thinking of human homes as a food source. Very carefully, I chased him off (a bit of noise sent him on his way) and I quickly gathered the trash (meat and chicken, by the way; Yogi had himself a feast that I so rudely interrupted).
Later that day, he turned up once more, sniffing about at the scene of his earlier feast. Lo and behold, he kept sniffing around, and finally went up the outside steps at the neighbors, sniffing around their deck. No trace of the food, Yogi must have been thinking. Damn. Finally, he came back down, and sauntered off into the woods. Likely to find himself some late season berries to gorge on.
Yes, Yogi. Norma coined the name for him. Not entirely dignified, though it was either that or Winnie.
I can't use him as a character for Heaven & Hell, obviously. Unless I decide to completely shift the emphasis and bring in, oh, the creatures of Narnia as a final act. Though I'm sure the heirs of C.S. Lewis might have something to say about that.
In closing... there's another bear in a zoo in Europe. It seems she's taken to yoga as of late. Don't believe me? Here she is: