Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Welcome To My Neighborhood

I never really liked bears, but my Dad did.
He loved to take us to the zoo, and sure enough we always gravitated to
the bear exhibit first. His favorite was the sun bear, a tall lanky brown bear with a
yellow patch on his stomach. At 5 feet at least it looked tall to us when we were
younger and shorter.
It has large paws with naked soles, which helps it to climb. It has small, round ears and a stout snout. Unlike other bears, the sun bear's fur is short and sleek. Dark black or brown-black fur covers its body, except on the chest, where there is a pale orange-yellow
marking in the shape of a horseshoe. Similar colored fur can be found around the muzzle
and the eyes. These distinctive markings give the sun bear its name. He has an extremely
long narrow tongue for getting into bee hives and is sometimes called a honey bear.

They would stand on either side of the fence and stare at each other. Daring,
who would be the first to flinch? My dad always won.

He had a way of taking chances that made my mom mad. One day, driving through Yellowstone Park we saw a black bear on the side of the road. My dad pulled up, rolled down the window and threw jellybeans across the car
roof at the bear.

“Don’t Feed the Bears!” Don’t Feed the Bears!” My mom screamed. The bear was on her side and she was the one who would be attacked first. The four of us in the back seat begged him to quit too. We were too young to be afraid of the bears, but we wanted the jellybeans.

I guess it was natural to be carefully comfortable living around bears. We
lived in a house in the mountains on the edge of the forest. Wild life was abundant
and we learned to live in their neighborhood as they live in ours. It seems that every
year we had visits from the bears, especially during the droughts. The apple tree
was particularly vulnerable to their munching and it was outside my bedroom window.

Other bears loved to break into the neighbor’s hot tubs for a warm drink.

Janet, who lived up the street a few houses made two apple pies one fall and
left them on the windowsill to cool while she went to town. Her daughter Mary came home for a visit about the same time that the bear was ready for a snack. Hearing the noise of the bear entering the house by the window, Mary quietly got up, shut the door and left to call the forest service bear retrieval department from a safer distance.

Another year a neighbor came to tell me that there was a bear sighting. A high school boy was doing his homework at the table in his kitchen two houses down the road from us. Hearing a noise, he looked up and out into the back yard. There on the deck was a black bear trying to get into the house through the screen door. Coolly keeping his head Paul closed and locked the glass door. The forest service arrived and the bear headed quickly to one of the taller ponderosa pine trees at the
back of the property. Taking my two-month old daughter with me we walked down to the house to watch. We sat on the deck as the forest service men shot a tranquilizing dart into the bear’s side. The bear turned, looked at the dart, and calmly picked it out of his rump, dumping it to the ground. Three darts later he was still feisty and determined to stay in his tree.

“Give him a lethal dose Joe”, the boss shouted.

One more shot and the bear tumbled to the forest floor. We had been told to head
into the house the moment he landed in case he hadn’t been knocked out yet. So we hustled inside, the adventure over. When he was trussed and netted we headed back
out of the house to make sure he was still alive and would be transported to another
mountain hundreds of miles away to continue his life pillaging a different

My daughter doesn’t remember this adventure, but has inherited her grandfather’s appreciation for honey and bears; at the zoo.


~T~ said...

Fun stories!

lap said...

I had to look closely at those bears in the beginning. We need to share more pictures