What is it about winter that makes us think of bears? They aren’t even around, right? They’re hibernating. Maybe it’s because polar bears make us think of snow, or bear fur makes us think of warm coats. Whatever the reason, bears come to mind.
And, having grown up in the Rocky Mountains, I am one of many who has a bear story. I was a little kid at the time, probably 8 years old, my sister 13. We had just gone on a family vacation to Yellowstone. This was back when black bears happily roamed the park (hence the creation of the Yogi Bear and Jellystone Park cartoon).
People weren’t supposed to feed them, but then people aren’t supposed to break speed limits, overeat, blah blah blah. People break rules. In fact, waaaay earlier the park even had bleachers set up by the trash dump, where people would sit and watch the bears rummage through bean cans and banana peels. Finally this was stopped, as officials realized that garbage is bad for bears. It’s even worse for humans because tourists would occasionally get gobbled up along with the orange rinds.
But in my childhood, you knew to steer clear of bears. Maybe roll down your car window an inch or so, and toss out a lifesaver or a slice of bread, and then snap a picture. But basically stay away from them.
Unfortunately, no one has trained bears to avoid humans. So when my dad, an avid fly fisherman known for his uncanny ability to sense a good bend in the river, pulled over into a meadow and took off in his waders for a perfect place to fish, the rest of us waited inside the car, where it was safe.
Dad disappeared into the trees, and we sat. Within five minutes, we saw a gigantic bear lumbering towards us from the far end of the meadow. Instinctively, we locked our doors.
He got closer. And then closer. We looked around to see if there was something else he could be heading for, but we were the only item of distinction in the meadow.
Within seconds he was behind our car, his long nose jabbing up into the air as he sniffed. It was at this moment that my mother realized she had wrapped up some bacon and put it in the trunk. Yikes.
The bear took a swipe at our bumper. Then at the fenders, denting them in. He growled. He knew there was bacon somewhere in this metal contraption. He placed his mammoth paws atop the trunk and pushed down, bouncing the car on its shock absorbers.
“Don’t move!” my mother whispered. But the bear was bouncing my sister and me like ping pong balls on a trampoline.
Now he roared, slammed all his weight onto the trunk, broke the car’s axle and popped a tire. It also bent the lid in enough to pop it open, revealing all our luggage and, of course, the bacon. Here's someone else's car after a bear got to it:
My mother was shrieking, my sister was wailing that she had now sat on a fish hook, and I was frozen in panic. The bear rummaged hungrily through our belongings, piercing a 3-inch thick book with his teeth, and finally finding the bacon. A few chomps later he sauntered off, apparently unwilling to break windows and eat screaming females.
No way were we going to open the doors and survey the damage. Besides, my sister’s fish hook was her greatest concern and getting a barbed hook out of human flesh is no small project.
Two minutes later my father returned, having decided this was not the best fishing spot after all. But as he approached the car, you can imagine his surprise. The trunk lid was up, clothing was strewn all around, and the entire back end of the car was destroyed, like a bomb had gone off. Here's what a bear did to an airplane just this year:
“What on earth happened? I was gone ten minutes!”
And that, my friends, is all it takes.
You can read even more hair-raising adventures in JUNGLE, my adventure romance novel that will take you to an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean. You can find it in hard copy or e-book here!