The bear that isn’t soft and cuddly

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By Editha Bartley

Well, what can I say? Bear with me, because this is a story almost out of ranch-style science fiction, or something like that. This is yet another vent that “just what do you do on a ranch” list — I sometimes keep.

Bears and I share this big area without interfering with each other. I did follow one a long time ago with my camera, hoping to get that perfect photograph. My quiet interlude while waiting for the bear was interrupted by big boss Jim, gun in hand and a stern reprimand. I was never ever to follow a bear without a gun in hand. On occasion bears would cross our trail when riding with guests, but they went one way and we trotted off another.

This year has been so different in the mountains here. The big drought has taken a toll on all wildlife, and especially the bears. There is nothing for them to eat as they tank up for the long winter. Therefore, they continue to come closer to habitation in search of food.

A big bear sauntered through my yard late at night not very long ago, and dog Tinta’s barking plus my yelling made him rethink his plan and he sauntered off, probably up the road.

Obviously he did not forget the scents and smells we humans leave behind, and he returned just a few nights later. Tinta was both barking and shaking from her bay window perch – almost next to him. He paid no attention to her, and decided he’d just push the big, thick Bartley lumber gates that shut off my porch open. By the time I got the porch light on and stepped out the back door to this porch he was standing straight up, almost smiling and waving at me before he stepped through the open gate.

I'm barefoot, in a flimsy bathrobe, standing about 10 feet from him. I yelled at him to get out now and he just stood there. He was taller than I and more so because his arms were far above his head. He was a beautiful golden brown — I might add. I backed up, into the utility area where I grabbed the first thing I saw — an almost full big bottle of Downy fabric softener. I threw it at him and continued to yell at him to get out.

He did back out of the open door/gate, but he just went down on all fours knowing I’d probably leave. I quickly called son John for help and he showed up with a very big flashlight and a rifle.

Mr. Bear took one look at this imposing figure about to confront him, and he managed to almost scamper over our solid corral fence. Now he was trapped in a tight shed/ corral enclosure, and before any of us could say anything, he managed to get over the same fence again, slither under the gate into our hay barn and just rush the hills.

He was so big and strong he actually bent the bottom steel pipe on the gate as he pushed through it.

Oh,  yes — I am ready for him when he returns. The back gates now have a huge steel bar, a brace that makes it impossible to push them open by man or beast. And I was only feet away from my loaded pistol that night, but luckily (I'm told) I didn’t use it because it probably would have not actually killed him. It would have only made him very angry and he’d just bark an “ouch” at me before taking me down in grand style.

Tinta and I both sleep with one eye and one ear open now, waiting for the big bear’s next visit. However, I suspect he is now out of this area and yes, we alert all of our neighbors to be on guard. This is a very big bear and he was very hungry. I can say that this with authority now! And because that jug of Downy didn’t break when it went flying through the open door, this bear really did miss his chance to be soft and cuddly. Oh, well.

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.