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Living in Bear Country.

Posted Sep 11 2009 2:12pm
There seems to be some misunderstandings about bears. We do not have ill natured grizzly bears here. They don't stand on their rear feet roaring aggressively and shaking their heads before running at you full tilt to separate your head from your torso. Forget about the bear in Jeremiah Johnson. Our bears are black bears. Fairly quiet. Attacks are extremely rare. They come in for food. A couple years ago, during a dry summer, they were more of a nuisance than usual, but we did not stay inside watching nervously, guns drawn. In fact, really, we deal with the bears much like we deal with the neighbor's dumb ass dog. I'm pretty sure that the 'dumb ass' is straight from his owners. They make no attempt to train him. He spends a lot of time in our yard. We spend a lot of time saying, "Winston! GO HOME!" We don't call the bears 'Winston', but we do tell them to GO HOME! This is one of my newspaper columns recounting one night that we had fun with bears.
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I have been the mother of teenagers for 12 years now. When one of them leaves the teenager years, there's always been others right behind that one. I don't mind teenagers, for the most part. Except for the sarcasm. And the temper tantrums. The high drama is not so fun. The whole sigh-and-eye-roll-routine makes me mad. The challenging can get on your nerves. The fact that they know everything grates, too. It makes you wonder how you muddled through life before they were part of it. I'm pretty eclectic in my musical tastes, but rap makes me angry, always generates a parental lecture. Other than that, however, I really do like being around teenagers.

Cara is the last teenager. She's actually a pretty easy kid to get along with, when her eyes are not rolling and she is not heaving dramatic sighs, and being a sarcastic know-it-all. She doesn't like rap either, which greatly reduces the stress level in the house. She does not favor me in looks, lucky girl, but there is one trait that we share. We are both kind of oblivious. I actually think that Cara might be more oblivious than me. Once, our truck suddenly burst into flames in our driveway. Tim was dashing around trying to put it out, dashing in to call the fire department, and then racing back out to move the rest of the fleet out of danger. The firetrucks arrived. The fire was being fought. My mother had heard the whole thing over the scanner, called the house all in a panic. The conversation was reported as going something like this: Mom: "Cara, is that you? What's going on? What vehicle is on fire? Is everyone all right?" Cara: "Nothing's on fire." Mom: "Cara, it was on the scanner." Cara: "Here?" Mom: "Look out your bedroom window, Cara. Are there fire trucks there?" Cara: "(Gasp!) Um, hey, Gramma, I gotta go, okay?"
When that kid is in her room, AKA "Cara-Land", she misses a lot.

Last week, we witnessed yet another example of this. Tim and I were in bed. I was stretched out, in that wonderful half asleep, half awake state. In my fog, I heard the garbage cans. My mind registered this as 'Cara taking out the garbage.' Moments later, I heard the back door. I registered this as 'Cara coming inside.' What did not register logically was the pounding and crashing on the back deck and the baying of a dog gone crazy. I leapt up, grabbing for my robe in the dark. Tim was doing the same thing on HIS side of the bed. (Why it did not occur to either one of us to turn on a light is beyond me.) I was yelling, "Cara, Cara! Are you all right, what happened?" As I flew to the top of the stairs, she was standing at the bottom, looking up in amazement. "What?", she asked. "Did you just take the trash out?" She answered that she did not, she was watching 'CSI', and the dog wanted out, so she let him. Mind you, the dog is still roaring and carrying on like crazy from the back yard. I said, "Cara, I think the bear is in the back yard." Full of teenager know-it-allness, she sarcastically says to me, "There's no bear out there. The dog barks all the time. He's just stupid." To prove her point, she storms out the back door to yell at the dog.
All this before I could get the belt tied on my bathrobe.

I heard a shriek. A very loud shriek for a girl who prides herself on her level headedness. The back door slammmed so hard that the vibration rattled the stairs that I was coming down. Cara was standing there with her eyes bugging out of her head shrieking over and over and over again, "MOM! MOM! MOM!" Nothing else. "Just "MOM! MOM! MOM!" Tim and I both tried to find out what was going on, finally gave up and went out the back door to assess the situation ourselves, not knowing whether we coming up against man or beast. And there it was. A long legged, lean looking bear standing in our backyard. Buck, the amazing wonder dog, was racing circles around him, puzzled by the fact that, unlike all other bears he'd encountered, this one was standing nonchalantly looking back at him instead of running for the woods. I yelled at the bear, and at that point, he did amble to the brush, maybe 50 yards from the house, and sat down, waiting no doubt, for the hubbub to die down, and for his chance to tear into the bags of trash that he'd pulled from the trash cans.

Well, that left us in a quandry. The bear wasn't budging, and the trash was not picking itself up and moving to a secure area. Finally, we decided that the bear was not behaving aggressively. We got lawn bags, and went off the porch to gather up the scattered trash bags, while watching Mr. Bear closely with a spotlight. He was, in turn, closely watching the dog (instead of us) which was okay, too. I told Tim a couple times that I thought that I saw a second bear down there, farther behind the star of the show, a little to the right. Cara thought so too. But Tim, who has a bit of know-it-all streak himself, impatiently told us that we saw nothing. We took the trash and locked it over night in a stripped car destined for North's wrecking yard. Dummy me walked right past my bird feeders on the way back. My eyes were on the spotlighted bear and my crazed dog. I called the dog off, and he reluctantly came back, shooting reproachful looks at me and confused, frustrated looks at the bear still sitting on his butt in the brush. We went into the house, got the dog settled, and went back to bed.

It was not five minutes before it all started again. Tim grabbed the spotlight, shone it out the back window and said, "Well, your birdfeeders are toast! Man, that is one huge bear..." I was not there to hear the rest. One of those bird feeders had sentimental value. I tore out the back door yelling "Get now, go on, leave them alone..." and was rewarded by the immediate view of the backside of a bear making for the woods. Pressing my advantage, I dashed off the deck, grabbed my prized birdfeeder from the ground, and unwired the other one before it registered that the bear leaving the yard was not the same long legged beast that had ambled to the brush by the zucchini bed. This bear was bigger and heavier, more matching Cara's description ("biggest brute of a black bear I ever saw...like a furry Volkswagon on legs....") Clutching my rescued bird feeders to my chest, I turned to see the first bear still patiently sitting in the brush, waiting for the hubbub to die down.

The birdfeeders were saved, and no animals or people were wounded in the making of this drama (although I did break a nail). Cara learned that just sometimes parents can know where-of they speak. Tim learned that when the oblivious claim to see shadows in the dark in the brush they are not always full of beans. We learned that cool-as-a-cucumber-Cara can lose her cool completely. Buck learned that not all woodland creatures acknowlege his position as lord and ruler of the back yard. The bears apparently learned that there are quieter places to visit in the neighborhood, because they haven't been back, either one of them.
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