Bear Tale (or Why I Own a Gun Part 2)   Leave a comment

The hot August afternoon hung still and close over the valley. The only sound was the buzz of insects and the distant song of the creek at the bottom of the hill.

Brad stared at the GPS, sweat trickling down from his hair into the neck of his shirt. To get from waypoint 2 to waypoint three, he needed to cross a tract of fallen, fire-killed trees where brush had begun to grow up. Before he could chainsaw another brushing line for the surveyors he had to calculate the angle of his line. He couldn’t see both waypoint markers, so math was required. The square of the hypotonuse is ….

Where was Lela? She said she and their son would drive out today with fresh supplies and chainsaw gas. Maybe they could help him with the math. The angle of the hill was throwing him off.

Gosh it was quiet here! Brad allowed himself a brief reverie about evenings in a cabin in the clearing he’d found yesterday. A long way off, he heard the sound of a truck gearing down on the highway as it came down the hill. He could live with that. He glanced at the sun and estimated that Lela and Robert were out of church by now, but probably not left Fairbanks yet. He was tired of MREs and hoping she’d bring some fruit. No cell phone service made it impossible to tell ….

Some of the taller brush moved down slope.

Oh, good, she’s here early. I’ll just finish up this calculation and get ready for a picnic.

The brush swayed hard now.

She brought the dogs.

Brad tried to decide whether he was upset with her for disturbing the peace of the valley or glad to see the two mutton heads.

The brush was shaking more violently and he was about to shout “I’m up here” when the branches parted and a cow moose running full tilt uphill ran straight at him.

Damn, I don’t have a gun!

A cow moose … with calf running behind … could easily stomp him to death even though she was running into his space. Thinking quickly, Brad raised a fist over his head and as loudly as he was capable, shouted “Hey, you! Back off!” while pumping his hand at the moose with each syllable.

She blew from her nose, but with missing a beat, veered around him, one great brown eye rolling to look at him. It reminded him of a horse and if his adrenaline had not been so high, he might have laughed. The calf veered with her and they continued their headlong rush up the hill.

Whew! That was close! Wow, I voice-commanded a moose! Pretty cool!

The brush down the hill moved.

Aw, twins! Come on, baby moose! Catch up to Mama and brother!

Brad rehearsed in his head how he would guide the baby moose to follow its mom using the same technique as before and then — above the brush about 30 yards down slope, a large brown head appeared. Brad’s voice clutched in his throat. His hand dropped.

Bear? Don’t run! Stay still!

The bear looked right at him, dropped into the brush and headed directly toward him. Brad’s body turned to run even as Brad’s brain said “Don’t!”

Chainsaw!

Thirty feet uphill and across a mass of downed trees that crisscrossed one another to hip height and then — he leaped from tree trunk to tree truck without pause, slipped, rolled, sprang up and ran again. Behind him he could hear branches cracking and snapping. He didn’t look back. His body wanted to just run down the path he’d cut. He was trending that way.

No! Chainsaw!

Against all instinct, he ran toward the waypoint marker where his chainsaw and pack waited. The bear was closing.

Run!

With a burst of speed, he reached the post, grabbed the chainsaw, pushed the lock forward and pulled the cord. He expected it to putt and die like it always did, but this time it roared to life without a hesitation. Revving the motor, he turned in the direction of the grizzly. It was 10 feet away, a good 5 1/5 feet at the shoulders and headed right for him. He revved the chainsaw higher and held it out in front of him like a rifle. The grizzly stopped, sprang up to its hind legs and roared. Brad revved the chainsaw again. The grizzly dropped to all fours and scampered back, putting about 15 feet between them, then circled around to the north and upslope.

Brad started back down the brushing line, running chainsaw in his hand, walking as fast as he could. He could hear the bear crunching along in the brush maybe 30 feet upslope.

Don’t run! Walk fast! Keep going! Don’t run!

He reached waypoint 4 and the downward trail. He glanced upslope and the bear reared up in the brush, still about 30 feet away, but clearly not giving up. He started sideways down the brushing line, moving as fast as he dared without actually running. Just as he reached the trail that would lead to his tent, the chainsaw died. He pulled the cord. It putted and sputtered. He pulled the cord. It putted and sputtered.

Run! Get out! Get away!

Brad jogged to the bottom of his brushing line, to where it met with the neighbor’s trail and then he ran, ran as hard as he could while carrying a chainsaw until he reached an outcropping of rock where he could climb high and sit and wait.

Brad didn’t see the bear again that day, though he had a good view of the valley. When he returned to his abandoned pack two days later, (with Lela guarding his back) he saw evidence that the bear had marked it, sprayed the waypoint marker and there were claw holes in his canteen.

And, people wonder why we think we need guns?

 It’s not about hunting! It’s about survival!

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