Hmmmm. My Ears Still Ring.

Nope. It don’t make me wanna holler hiDeeHo! (Reference to _____ — you boomers out there?)

I’m talking about two rounds from the .44 magnum short barrel rifle, fired into the bank. I had nothing to shoot at, and didn’t want to. But I DID want to distract the dog from tangling with the bear I saw crossing the creek ten minutes after I got home from work. Tsuga had barked twice from the back porch, and was headed fast in pursuit after a lumbering black form headed for the west ridge.

I was, it turned out, barefooted, but adrenalin can do some amazing things to pain. I grabbed the rifle and got as far as the other side of the garden, heard barking beyond the pines, and fired over into the bank. The dog came running, right past me, across the creek, over into the field, and took a…well, you know the saying about having that scared outta ya. Must’ve happened to him. Whew! Close call, I said to myself about the time the dog bounded back across the plank, back away from the house, back toward the bear. Oh crap!

I ran to the house, BACK across the gravel drive (after noticing thistles growing the yard I would have missed wearing shoes), grabbed some more .44 shells and my boots, and ran faster in this heat than my heart would have preferred, to where I’d last seen the dog. Again, adrenalin is a heady motivator. Another shot into the bank over my whistles and screams, and sure enough, here came Mr., undamaged, tongue hanging, pretty proud of himself.

And I guess I’d never noticed, though neighbors have remarked about it. It just smelled musty–like bear–and knowing that smell, I’ll be more tuned in to when one or more is in the valley. The dog could smell THAT from inside the house, no problem.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. O my gawd; what a story Fred!! You had all of us across the country in the palm of your hand, waiting the outcome of that one. On another subject altogether: is that line about hideeho part of a song named “Chugalug, chugalug”?

  2. poor old ears too – they are ringing tonight as well. I think from the mowing – back to ear protectors. I cant fire a round anymore from my shotgun without them – deaf for days afterwards. Isn’t age fun?

    Jay is now 6 weeks after his knee replacement – he blew his knee chasing a fox.

    Smart to keep your boy distracted

  3. I have wondered how often you see bears, where you live. I was laughing the whole time I was reading. Very glad you and Tsuga survived with no more than maybe sore feet. Song by Roger Miller.