Sunday, June 17, 2018

Spiders And Bears

Those were about the only two things of which my friend, Craig, was scared. Craig was a city-slicker, but he was a bold and adventurous sort and loved to hunt and fish. Not surprisingly, we became friends in junior high (middle school, they call it now) and stayed so through high school and a few years afterward. No-one likes running their face into a spider web in the autumn woods, but Craig would go especially spastic. Instead of just backing up a step and hoping the webs would let go, he’d automatically start doing his Bruce Lee imitation, further entangling himself before finally destroying the web and everything else within 10 feet. If I’d ever gotten a video of his behavior, some folks might have thought that he suffered from demon possession.

As we got older and began hiking and camping in the mountains, I learned he was also paranoid about bears. Now I’d never been around bears either, but I’d been around a lot of farm animals and I think that gave a me a better perspective about them. I’d always read that they’ll generally leave you alone, if you leave THEM alone. Of course, there IS that rare individual who desires to have you for lunch; Then you may have to fight like the devil. You couldn’t tell it if you met me on the trail, but I was never in bear country without a 12 gauge. The Boy Scout motto used to be “Be Prepared,” after all, and I was a former Boy Scout. (I suppose the new one will be “Always Carry A Condom.”)

I remember one night that we were camped in Cranberry back-country when a deer snorted about 10 feet from the tent, just as we were getting asleep. How a guy goes from horizontal to vertical without apparent arm or leg movement, I’ll never know. Regardless, there he was, all six feet of him standing in my five foot tent, asking loudly “What was that?” He was not amused that I was amused, but I explained that it was a curious deer, probably a doe, and he gradually got back into his sleeping bag. It helped that I stepped outside and proved the point.

Another night, and another year, we were camped (illegally, I think), back a trail at Mill Creek Falls. Again, just about the time we were getting asleep, it sounded like a bull moose was running around outside our tent. Craig was only sitting up that time when he asked nervously if it was a bear. I told that bears are usually sneaky and that I would guess it was a chipmunk with insomnia. He thought I was nuts, of course, so I stepped outside with a good flashlight and was able to see the eight inch tall weeds move in sync with the invisible little fleet-footed ruckus-raiser in our campsite. After Craig saw the scene with his own eyes, he finally settled back down and went to sleep.

You know, the funny thing was, he’d have wrestled a bull moose bare-handed, or lit into a small gang of ruffians on his own and never thought twice. I reckon we all have our fears, though. Copyright 2018

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