Thursday, August 14, 2014

A bear, a moose and a priest

"So a bear, a moose and a priest walk into a bar." I then finished the joke for my friend Steve: "and the bear and the moose walk out.".

I am writing all this down while sitting on the toilet at 4 AM in the middle of a national park in a place whose name I can only recall as Gus Davis, Alaska. I am a little worried that a bear can smell the remnants of the apple cinnamon bar that lays in the wastepaper basket but a few feet from where I am busy cogitating. I think I should arise and shut the window. That's better. Sorry for the interruption.

I never take guided tours. Too pedestrian. Too slow. Too much for my lazy brain to handle. But yesterday, after checking in to this lodge, Steve, Judy, Jo and I found ourselves with a group of about 10, listening not so intently to a tale of a place that had been home to a glacier but a few nano seconds earlier in the time continuum.

"So what do you do if you spot a bear" (hopefully before it spots you, I was thinking). "Definitely DON'T RUN" was the first critical command.

Our leader, after giving a much fuller description of how to respond, then focused on the other significant inhabitant of the woods.

"If a moose is coming at you, RUN."

It was too big an opening for my feeble brain to hold back. "What do you do if a moose and a bear are running at you at the same time?" "Pray" was the response that seemed most suitable.

This is a place inhabited by the most rugged individuals. People who live off of the land, who rely on their own resources, who brook no nonsense, take no prisoners. And into this world I arrived, filled with almost unimaginable trepidation.

I had grown up, no strike that, I had lived my entire life surrounded by nothing more fearsome than the noise generated by two angry drivers fighting over one parking space.

There was a different mentality, a different ethos here. Here, other guests stripped down and jumped into 38 degree waters, for fun. Five minutes in those icy conditions might be enough to bring disaster. There was a better chance of my becoming President than sticking a toe into the frigid river.

We were told there was safety in numbers. So, after the lesson was over, it was my self imposed mandate that all four of us remain virtually tethered as we took a short walk on the path.

As we were advised that the sounds of the human voice tended to keep bears at bay, Steve began a non-stop crooning. For my part, I yelled if the distance between us grew large enough that a bear's tablecloth could fit in the open space.

Suddenly, just behind me and to my right, there was a rustling in the woods. I let out an involuntary high pitched sound, reaching a note I had not been able to find since puberty. I clutched Steve's sleeve so tightly I must have cut off the circulation in his arm.

In an instant, Jo and Judy turned to investigate. The porcupine scurried deeper into the brush, probably terrified by the awful sound that had just penetrated the early evening air.

I would look up the definition of emasculating if I thought it would do any good, but it wouldn't. If I were a groundhog, I would without a shadow of a doubt be headed back from whence I came as soon as I spotted an alter image of myself. I am surprised a permanent yellow streak is not located directly down my spine.

On the rest of the trail hike, I could see Jo and Judy alternating between giggling and guffawing as we jointly discussed in detail my act of bravery.

The lore of this piece of rugged terrain will no doubt be amended someday to recite the incredible tale of the porcupine and the almost unimaginable squeal.


Anonymous said...

So funny!


Anonymous said...

Love this! You should be a writer not a lawyer or song writer.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Soooo funny!!!