Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Bear That Roared

Three years after the infamous Duck Story quaked up the boyfriend, we set forth on yet another adventure.

I have to say, life with the man is never dull.

At 20, I was putting myself through college with a job on campus. Boyfriend Scott was through with college in two years. As in, “Tried it. Didn’t like it. Don’t need it.” He proved it by evolving his part time job at a pizza restaurant into Manager of said establishment. He did so well the corporation sent him to a city 35 miles away to fix another ailing franchise. I knew it was merely a stepping stone, not a career. Scott is inherently smart when it comes to business. Unfortunately, between jobs and distance, we were left with Saturday date nights only.

When one of those warm spring days signaling the end of winter came along, Scott called to say he was picking me up early. We’d make a day of it, touring where he hung out when he wasn’t working, sleeping or heading to my house on Saturday. I asked if a boat was involved. He laughed but assured me we’d remain landlocked.

The town where Scott worked was small, rural and um…r-e-a-l country. Let’s just say smart folks got a high school diploma then left town to see the world beyond tobacco barns and cotton. People like singer Rob Thomas and astronaut Ronald McNair. It was the kind of southern town where people superstitiously painted their window and door frames bright blue…to keep out the haints. [That’s old south for "ghosts"]. His landlady believed she could tell the future and that cats kept evil spirits away. Probably explains why there were so many cats at the place she rented to Scott and his roommate.

Then again, Scott and his buddy brought home pizza scraps. The cats preferred sausage over pepperoni.

On the drive that Saturday, Scott told me that earlier in the week, in the middle of the night, he and the roomie heard a load noise outside. It was followed by the sound cats make when startled and running for their lives. Grabbing his pistol, Scott peered out the back door. What he found was a bear eating the cats' pizza. Flipping on the porch light, Scott watched the brown bear run into the woods behind the house.

The cats didn’t return for two days. I’m not sure if they ever ate pizza again.

I would’ve thought he was pulling my leg if I hadn’t heard similar tales of brown bears being spotted in a variety of backyards in the area on the local news. Although no pets had gone missing, people were asked not to leave small children unattended, chain their pets outside or leave food for the bears. The goal was to get the woodsy visitors to return to their natural habitat instead of say, getting hooked on pizza. Scott said several of his neighbors had experienced bear visits.

At the conclusion of this tale, we pulled up to a pretty spot in the country. The field was filled with small yellow flowers bobbing softly in a warm breeze. To the left was a dense stand of woods, to the right a small pond in the distance. The sight of water made me look at him funny. Smiling, Scott assured me he’d been told it was a good fishing spot and just wanted to take a peek. How one checked that by merely looking was beyond me. As long as a boat wasn’t involved, I was game.

Scott opened the glove compartment where he kept a small pistol, sat there for a moment, then closed it without removing the gun. He explained he usually carried it in case of snakes, which in this neck of the woods meant rattlesnakes. But upon reflection, he felt it was too cool for snakes to be stirring. I resisted an urge to ask if wild hogs or gators liked small farm ponds.

Exiting the car, Scott grabbed my hand and all doubt vanished. We checked the pond which not only had some fish in the shallow water, but was hog, snake and gator free. We took a walk, then headed towards the car. And then we heard it.

A slow, crashing sound coming through the woods. Towards us. Cue horror movie music.

Scott immediately halted, making me unexpectedly do the same. Eyes surveying the area, he listened for clues. My immobility came with feelings of impending doom. The pleasant breeze stopped, as if holding its breath. The sound continued. Slow steps crunching on dead leaves like a drunk staggering through the woods. Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

We both thought it. But he said it.

“Bear.”

When the footfalls momentarily paused Scott told me to back up, toward the car. SLOWLY. I politely questioned the wisdom of abandoning him. Deep down, I was afraid to let go of his hand. Wouldn’t it be more difficult for the bear to swallow two of us fastened together?

Using the same tone Dad did when expecting unquestioned compliance, Scott told me to get moving. I began walking backwards like some deranged Miss America contestant imitating a snail. My steps faltered as Scott muttered under his breath about leaving the pistol in the car. Never taking his eyes off the woods, he told me to keep going, his ears noting my lack of progress in the dry grass.

“I’ll be right behind you,” he whispered, trying to motivate me.

No, you’re about to be eaten right in front of me, I thought as the menacing sound moved closer.

I was miserable. I felt like a coward. I was leaving my boyfriend to stand between me and danger. Quite chivalrous on his part but rather cowardly on mine. Scott had only taken a step or two backwards, eyes never leaving the woods. I wouldn’t take my eyes off of him, resulting in a spine tingling moment when I bumped into the car. After my heart slid out of my throat, my brain noted I was close enough to grab the pistol if necessary. Scott had taught me to shoot. I could hold my own although in this case, I think the wiser course would’ve been to run the pistol to him, then flee back to the car.

Sliding a hand blindly down the side of the car I located a handle. Scott froze in mid step and so did I. The powerful stumbling had reached the edge of the woods. In a few seconds I’d know what we were made of…hopefully that didn’t entail viewing internal organs becoming external. In my head I heard the music from the shower scene in “Psycho”. Scott stood his ground firmly, glancing back only long enough to see I’d made it safely to the car. A car I couldn’t force myself to enter. The ominous sound grew louder, creating an odd duet with my beating heart. And then the bear stepped out of the dark woods into the bright sunlight and roared…

“Moo”.

Where in the hell that cow, and the two blinking bovines which followed, came from we never found out. The farm had been long abandoned. There was nothing for miles. Just two humans on pins and needles and three cows grinning jovially.

Scott’s shoulders slumped, more in humiliation than relief. I was too relieved to laugh. Well, out loud. As Scott walked back to the car, reiterating how many times a bear had been seen in this area, I just listened. Quietly. No need to gloat. I had just inherited my own humiliation story. And it didn’t star me.

So every time Scott tells the Duck Story, I always politely add, “Now tell them the one about the bear that mooed.”

7 comments:

Susan said...

Ha!! But wasn't he brave and didn't he take good care of you?? I thought it was a wonderfully romantic story for that, especially remembering the photo of him standing with the conquered alligator (or was it a crocodile, or Godzilla?) from a few months back. Quite a hero; no wonder you're in love with him!

I was almost eaten by a man-cow once. A bull I mean. Seriously.

Terence McDanger said...

LOL great story.

You got me!

hope said...

Susan it was an alligator but I swear it looked more prehistoric! Yeah, he's a good guy. It's why I kept him....hubby, not the gator. ;)

McDanger...thought you'd enjoy a "moo" story. :)

the broken down barman said...

just reading your comment on radge's blog. hope your ok. uve been a real help to me so i hope i can repay the favour.
a job is a job, sometimes its not worth the hassle. only you can decide that. i felt like walking out tonight over the actions of one of my workmates, but decided against it. im better than that. my job has no satisfaction for me and absolutely no value to my life. it pays the bills and it feeds me, that is all. i like the punters and i know i have their respect. my boss is ok, only after himself, but most are anyway. my life is outside work. still not very exciting, but then ive got the bnp and some daft paisly councillor to piss off in ma free time, so that keeps me amused!!!!!
all the best
andy c x x

p.s. enjoy yer time off, think you need it.
pps a good scottish sayin is " things will eyeways be summin!!"

Linda McGeary said...

I just found your site, my first time here. I'll be back, as not enough time today to read all of them, but the bear story is very visual.
I could see it.
Well, written, had a very nice touch. Light, sweet, but also hold your breath suspense.
I enjoyed it.

hope said...

Thanks Barman! I appreciate that more than you know. Going on vacation [okay home, not somewhere fancy] in a couple of hours. Sadly I checked my e-mail and received the old, "You're so qualified but we hired someone else" message. Sigh. Oh well, guess that just means there's something better for me. Just keep me laughing. If I can laugh, I'll be fine.

Welcome Linda! Hope you'll be back soon. If you get a chance, the "Duck Story" a couple of posts back is where the Bear story actually began. I have a sense of humor and use it probably when I shouldn't but there's enough sorrow in the world. Come back soon!

the broken down barman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.