I was thinking about bears tonight, remembering the time my Uncle Louie wrestled a bear way back in 1913 and how his victory led to a landmark court case. You’ll have to read my next post for more on that. For the moment, I just can’t help reliving one of the most remarkable days of my life.
I was living in a little log cabin on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. I could look out of my front window and see lake Tustamena about 100 yards away, and off into the distance the Chugach Mountains.
There was great fishing in that lake. Most of the time. An hour of fishing and I could catch enough to feed me for several days But one day, I fished from morning until the sun was almost down…and all I caught was a cold.
As I was walking back up the path to the cabin I thought I was going to have to open a can of beans for dinner… But when I got close to the cabin I STOPPED! I could see….
Something was wrong. There were big claw marks over my door. Big muddy prints on the porch and glass from my window all over the ground.
I had an uninvited visitor…AND IT WASN’T GOLDILOCKS!
I snuck up real quietly and looked in through the hole where the window had been.
And sure enoughIT WAS …A GRIZZLY BEAR.
I probably should have backed away right then. But what I saw made me MAD!
That bear had his right paw right in the middle of one of the Blueberry pies I’d baked and set out on the counter to cool early that morning before I left to go fishin
He had blueberries smeared all over his face. Do you know how long it takes to pick enough blueberries for a pie… especially when you have to stop every two seconds to swat a couple dozen of those Alaska Mosquitoes?
“Hey BEAR! Those are MY pies!” I shouted. The Bear looked at me… He looked at my last pie. He looked at me again. Then he looked at the door. Then he put my favorite napkin, the one Poopdeck’s mother embroidered for me on top of the pie, and with
both his hands he gently picked up that pie and calmly walked out through…through…not out the door and headed toward the lake.
He was walking kind of funny like though, running on three legs and keeping his right front paw up in the air to keep the pie safe.I waited a few seconds and then followed him. right to the shore of the lake. That’s when the mosquitoes found him. They were flying all around him, landing at will, drinking big pitchers of his blood. Those Alaska mosquitoes are extra pesky when the blood they’re drinking is sweetened with Alaska blueberry pie juice. Ask any sourdough. They’ll tell you that’s the God’s honest truth. I was mad about that pie, but at the same time I was feeling kind of sorry for the bear. He stood there kind of dazed and crazed and then I could see in his eyes that he’ made a decision.
He spread my napkin carefully and neatly out on the shore, stood up on his hind legs, and still holding the pie, walked into the lake. The lake was pretty shallow there at the edge. Only about 15 feet deep. So when Mr. Bear walked in his head and arms were still above water. One of his paws was holding the pie. The other was swatting mosquitos.
All of a sudden one of those big trout I hadn’t caught earlier began jumped out of the trying to grab a hind leg from one of those mosquitoes that was still buzzing around the bears head. Well, it turns out that the bear was a better fisherman than I was. With perfect timing he swatted that fish in mid air and knocked it all the way to the shore. Well, there was a small school of those little fifty pound Alaska minnows jumping for those mosquitos and Mister Bear nailed every single one that flew by. I don’t think it even took a minute before there were an even dozen fish strewed out on the shore. Right about then a blast of wind came down off the glacier at the head of the lake and froze those skeeters into fist sized ice cubes.
You probably know that bears love fish even more than blueberries…and I could see that Mr. Bear was feeling a bit of a dilemma. Fish or Berry Pie? Well, it turned out that he left every single one of those fish there for me. He even lined up in a nice neat row. He still had the pie in his paw as he walked off towards where the spruce and birch trees get real thick. Just before he disappeared in the thick woods, he waved to me. I think he winked too.
Almost forgot this part. One of those mosquitos did get away. While I was gathering up the fish, that varmint flew into my cabin and grabbed my last #10 can of beans and whizzed off.
I thought about what happened for a long time…. That bear must have realized that he was wrong ….how he robbed me of that blueberry pies and he must have felt real bad about it. I figure he left me those fish for payment. Don’t tell me that animals don’t have a sense of right and wrong.
Ever since that time…. I can’t ever think about hurting a bear. For the rest of that summer by the way, that bear would come back and we would swap stories. I even taught him to read, and gave him one of my favorite books- one I’d had since I was 3 years old.
Later that evening, just about when the sun was going down around midnight… I got in my canoe, paddled to the lake, and fished out a few of those frozen mosquito cubes. Mixed em with some vodka I’d been saving for a special occasion and had me the best bloody mary I ever mixed. Awhile later, I was just nodding off to sleep after the days excitement when I was wakened by that lone surviving mosquito. He’d come back for the can opener.
Later that evening, just about when the sun was going down around midnight… I got in my canoe, paddled to the lake, and fished out a few of those frozen mosquito cubes. Mixed em with some vodka I’d been saving for a special occasion and had me the best bloody mary I ever mixed. Awhile later, I was just nodding off to sleep after the day’s excitement when I was wakened by that lone surviving mosquito. He’d come back for a can opener.