10 October 2011

BEARS!! (Forget the Lions and Tigers)

[Speaking of lions, tigers, and bears, those are all names of sports teams. I just noticed that! And they're all in Great Lakes states. Crazy.]

When I was a little girl (so, some decades ago now) my family used to sing a song that started out "The other day, I met a bear, up in the woods, away up there". Now, thank God, I have never actually met a bear up in any woods; all my bear-related experiences have been confined to zoos, except for this one time that I'm pretty sure I heard a bear getting into the garbage can at the cabin up in Three Rivers at Sequoia National Park, but since I didn't actually see the bear, I can't claim to have met it. I don't have anything against bears qua bears, but I just like them in their place, and their place is as far away from me as possible. I don't have a lot of fears (though the ones I do possess tend to have a paralyzing effect on me, but that's another story) and I'm really not a big "outdoorsy" person, but I have what I would term a "healthy respect" for Nature, particularly with regard to things that can kill and/or eat me. This plays into my unenthusiastic attitude toward camping, among other things. I'm not a citified wuss; I have jungle cred. It's just that I'm really not interested in leaving the comforts of civilization, if it means I have to sleep outside with only a thin sheet of synthetic fabric separating me from vicious hungry predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions. WHO THINKS THIS IS A GOOD IDEA? But I digress.

Today's story is not about me. I've been seeing, for a few months, a very nice young man who happens to be native to Ohio, more specifically to a small town in Coshocton County. He (the Significant Other, or SO) invited us (the Little Bug and me) to join him at a family event at his ancestral home (his parents still live in the house where his father grew up). So yesterday evening, we hopped in the car and drove east on the freeway (through the city of Coshocton itself, which happens to have a Walmrt, and it's THE ONLY WALMART IN THE WHOLE COUNTY, which tells you a lot about this general region, i.e. IT'S RURAL OHIO, i.e. IT'S AWESOME), got onto a country road, drove a while longer, passed a little country church with some hilarious signs (one said "THE ONLY GHOST HERE IS HOLY", which immediately begs all kinds of questions about that church), then turned onto a rather narrow unmarked road that began to wind back and forth up a hill through a forest, and at that point, I started to wonder exactly how far back into the woods we were going to go. Not too much later, though, we pulled up to a house with several cars parked outside, and I figured that had to be the party place. And when we got out, we saw an old tractor under a tree. AWESOME!! The Little Bug wanted to play on it (because IT'S A REAL LIVE TRACTOR) but my SO said it wasn't safe because there were probably bees in it. Bummer. But still: TRACTOR BEES. Awesome, right? Then we were met by a coterie of nephews and nieces bearing tales of paintball shooting and black bear sighting. The bear story seemed rather doubtful, but the paintball story was real, and it was taking place on the far edge of the rather large yard, but I had the Bug with me, so I had to be diligent about keeping him away and I couldn't partake myself, though I might have wanted to otherwise. I glanced at my phone, though, and saw that I had no signal.
Me (to my SO): I don't have any cell phone signal!
SO: Yeah, me neither.
Me: I'm pretty sure almost every horror movie starts this way.
SO: Now you know the story of every day of my life growing up.
But with a couple dozen people milling around, most of them tiny tykes with energy to spare, there was little time to contemplate our severance from the outside world. Inside the house, we were greeted by hot dogs, birthday cake, and (apparently) a Waltons TV show marathon. I found this fascinating because I'd heard of something called The Waltons but never seen it before, and it is (apparently) about a big family that lives in a big old house on a hill out in the woods, and also it's (apparently) my SO's dad's favorite show. COINCIDENCE? I think not. But I digress (again).

After dinner, we toured the garden on the slope behind the house (very nice, if slightly grown over now that it's autumn), admired a mysterious fossil that the SO's dad had found while digging in the garden, and played some Scrabble. All too soon, it was late in the evening and high time for our return to our upscale metropolitan life. We said our goodbyes and headed out to the car, accompanied by a very large, very old German shepherd (I saw his food dish--it was the size of one of those big tin washtubs we used back in the old country). We were met outside by two older nephews who had been amusing themselves by wandering through the woods in the pitch blackness, and they told us, "Hey, you should go up and check out this deer carcass we found. It's just over there." We demurred, and I pointed out that if there really was a rotting dead carcass, I would prefer to stay away from it rather than seek it out. Also: WHAT IF THE DEER HAD BEEN KILLED BY A BEAR? I buckled the Bug in his car seat, jumped in the car post-haste, and was ready to head out as soon as possible. In reality, though, we had to creep back down the hill at about 20 miles per hour because it was that windy road and there were no lights anywhere.

On the journey down, I asked my SO if he thought there was a bear killing deer by his parents' house.
SO: There's any number of reasons why there would be a dead deer around, but probably not a bear. If a bear kills a deer, it eats it and doesn't leave much to be found.
Me: So there are too many people up there for the bears to stay around?
SO: Oh, there's black bears up there for sure. I've seen one.
Me: !!!!!
SO: That bear's gone now. It got captured and put down. Someone started feeding the bear, so it became dangerous.* It learned to expect the food and it would go up to houses expecting to be fed. So it came up and opened the kitchen door--
Me: Wait, it opened YOUR kitchen door?
SO: Yeah. That kitchen you were sitting in? It pushed open the door right there.
Me: A bear came in your house?!
SO: It didn't come inside. It just popped open the door because the door didn't latch. If it had come in, that would have been a problem.
Me: ?!?!?!
SO: My mom slammed the door shut really fast, and she and my dad shoved some furniture, I think a pot-bellied stove, in front of the door. And then my dad grabbed his camera to try and get some pictures. I was there in the house when it happened so I saw the bear.
Me: At least the bear just opened the door, and didn't come in. That was pretty polite, considering it was a bear.
SO: Well, it would've been nice if it had knocked first.**
SO: And can you believe it? Our dog didn't even bark once.

YOU GUYS. It was a long, roundabout way to get to the point, but this kind of thing is the reason why I live in a fairly populated area. Somewhere, less than an hour's drive from my home, a bear tried to go into someone's house. A BEAR. I always had a sense that if you were in a house, you were at least kind of safe, but it turns out that isn't necessarily true. I don't want to go into my kitchen one morning and find that I need to slam the door in some bear's face and barricade it with my kitchen table. What if the bear got mad? What if it wouldn't go away, like it was trying to make quota selling cookies or magazine subscriptions? Living in a house up in the woods really IS like living in a horror movie (no cell phone signal!) except that you don't need a serial killer with an axe or a chainsaw. The local wildlife can handle the murdering duties with no problem whatsoever. And while I do live within city limits, the thing is, there are miles and miles of wooded hills and empty fields all around this area. I am SO putting Animal Control as a contact in my phone, plus I'm planning on spending the vast majority of my lifetime in a place where I get four full bars.

Excuse me, I have to go hyperventilate now.

*Editor's note: Why would someone feed a bear? You can feed little puppies and kitties who've lost their mommies. You can even feed the birds (tuppence a bag) if you are so inclined. But you don't need to feed a bear. Bears are KILLING MACHINES, plus they are omnivores, so they can eat plants and nuts and berries and stuff, as well as innocent slaughtered animals and people. The bears can get their own dang food, is what I'm saying, so you don't need to feed them.
**Hilarious! I love his sense of humor.


Willow said...

I love this story. It's so you and so SO!
Where you grew up there were no bears, only wild boars and mean, nasty cassowary.

Kiti said...

In New Guinea, the predators at the top of the food chain are the big pythons and the crocodiles, plus there were all the poisonous snakes. Yikes! I actually like snakes and lizards more than most people do, but again, I have that healthy respect for reptiles that can kill me. Meanwhile, wild pigs are as scary, in their own way, as bears. Pigs are so smart and you can see the evil intelligence glinting in their mean little piggy eyes. They are totally plotting to kill us and take over, as in Animal Farm.

Also, I can't believe I forgot to take pictures last night!

vespreardens said...

Don't forget about dangerous moose. People seem to forget just how BIG moose are, and that they can get incredibly territorial. Sure, they won't eat you, but they can still trample you real good.

Kiti said...

There are no moose this far south, but I know that they are actually very dangerous. A bull moose can kick a grizzly to death.

Debbie said...

I like seeing bears in the wilderness. I do not find them nearly as scary as most TV. The only time I really had an issue was when we were camping in the Sierra's and there was one right outside our tent. I was pregnant and needing to throw up and use the outhouse, both equally urgently. I really wanted that bear out of there.