The Friend-of-a-Friend Bear Story.

Okay, I promised you people the Bear Story. I cannot vouch for its total veracity. All I can say is, when I first started at the library--meaning, literally, the first week or two--I did not know any of the regulars nor any of the people who would meet for various purposes, like the book club or the garden club. Also, I started working in the library fresh from having a juvenile black bear frequent our yard a couple of days in a row, necessitating the purchase of an air horn in case the fellow came back. For spring is when the bears come out, all hungry from their hibernation, and that's when they are most problematic.

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Everyone in town is pretty bear-savvy. When suburban "problem bears" are trapped and transported out into the wilderness ("where they won't bother anyone") many of them are transported HERE, where as a matter of fact they *DO* bother people, meaning *US*. But, like the poverty-stricken mountain dwellers in Appalachia who do not have a say when some large corporation trucks mountains of asbestos to dump in their backyards, we don't really have much of a say when the guys in the green uniforms dump "problem bears" in our backyard. You can tell the problem bears from the natives because they have tagged ears. For the most part--to give credit where credit is due--they soon cease to be "problem bears" because few people here are dumb enough to feed them, and we all have air horns and/or pellet guns to reprogram their little bear brains until they start to associate people with Vast Unpleasantness instead of food. But it is still a hassle.

Okay, so this story has the friend-of-a-friend aspect that might mark it an urban legend. (The urban legend people actually use the acronym "FOAF" and use it as one potential clue to mark their suspicion of an urban legend.) This is why I think it's not: I have no idea who it was who was talking, for, like I said, I was new to the library and I was just eavesdropping as people were discussing bears. It was late May or early June, which is when they are the most problematic, and everyone was sharing bear stories. And the person relating this story mentioned the victim by name, as in "Did you hear what happened to poor M_____ last week?" (I forget the actual name of the person) instead of "I read this once on the internet". Plus it is just unbelievable enough to make you think it is true, since, as writers say, fiction has to make sense, whereas Real Life is filled with unlikely occurrences.

Anyway, with everyone in town all on the lookout for problem bears, this middle-aged woman (so I gathered from the speaker) comes home to find a "problem bear" on her porch attacking her dog. Being of stout Yankee character, like so many of the natives up here, she gets really super annoyed at the animal. When honking her horn doesn't work, she gets out of her car, gets a TIRE IRON out of the trunk, and goes onto her porch to confront the bear.

(Mojo would like to pause here to assume her civic responsibility as a Peerless Role Model to warn kids Not To Try This At Home. Even though, for the most part, the black bears in this area are pretty much sissies who will run at the sight of a human. If they don't run, you're in trouble. But I digress.)

So this no-nonsense woman starts yelling at the bear, shaking her tire iron in a threatening manner. The bear leaves off the dog and turns to the woman. He is annoyed, and confined in close quarters with a human, and he doesn't like this. So now this woman has this very large, very strong, very angry wild animal on the porch with her.

So what does she do? Well, she's pretty much closed off many other (more cowardly) options that Mojo probably would have taken. She's talking trash, but now it's time to put up or shut up. So she does it. She lets fly with her tire iron. Whap, right on the ol' bear noggin.

Now, by rights, this woman should now be dead, or at least severely mauled. But wouldn't you know it? In what has to be the luckiest shot in all of creation, she KILLS the bear with a single blow to the head. (Yeah, okay, so Mojo feels a little sorry for the bear. But I'm sure the woman didn't INTEND to kill him, just scare him off her dog. I once accidently knocked out a chicken who got in the way when I was throwing firewood around. I thought I KILLED the poor thing, but after about fifteen seconds of lying there motionless and me running over all upset she shook her head and stood up and--in a rare moment of chicken intelligence--ran away from me. But again I digress.)

Unlike my chicken, this bear was stone dead. And as the adrenaline slowly ebbed away from the poor woman, it began to dawn on her--in addition to the peril to life and limb she so foolishly put herself in--that she now had several hundred pounds of a very stinky, very dead animal on her porch. (I have no idea what happened to the dog. He or she just kind of disappeared from the story.) And while she was able somehow to kill a bear with a single blow of her mighty arm, she now lacked the wherewithal to drag this enormous stinky carcass out of her house. So that's where the neighbors came in, and how the story spread.

My impression at the time was that this was a true story, but, like I said, I don't remember who told it or who they were talking about. But specific names were named, so I am inclined to think it was true.

At any rate, I thought it was a great story. And while yes, there is a part of me that does feel bad for the bear, those who aren't plagued by them need to realize that these aren't our fluffy woodland friends, but potentially dangerous creatures. I don't mind the occasional traveler wandering through my backyard. The bears here are relatively wild and harmless, and stay out of sight. I go out in the woods all the time, totally unarmed, and they steer clear. Live and let live, I say, peaceful coexistence and all that. But if one were to attack my animals or destroy my property, I have no problem defending myself against them.

Only I would probably be too cowardly to use a tire iron, and since I don't own a massive bear gun myself I'd probably call the neighbors to help, or F&W, or any handy passerby with a large-caliber weapon, and sit and wait for reinforcements to arrive. I mean, I like my dog and everything, but quite frankly I like my own life even more....

Sorry, dog, but those are the breaks. Another human being in trouble would probably inspire somewhat greater courage, I'm guessing. But you never know how you're going to react until you're in the thick of things. Besides, I'm sure much of it depends on how generous and thoughtful the human victim was at Christmas....

Food for thought. Hmmmmm....

Mojo