I grumbled as I pulled on my shoes to go for one last walk before dark. I’d rather have stayed at the computer to finish what I was working on, but she insisted, and I relented “if you’ll keep the danged dog on the leash this time.”
She agreed, because earlier in the day, he’d already been on two “adventures” (she calls them)–we found him off in the woods digging for moles and later, a quarter mile up the road following his nose to something dead and stinky.
Even at 8:00, the east ridge this time of year is still pierced by slanting golden sun that peeks here and there deep into the dense woods. Ann went first, holding up her ever-present hiking stick to clear away the invisible spider webs that span the path this time of year.
We’d reached the level part of our “middle path” logging road that follows the line of the pasture, running back away from the creek and 40 feet or so higher. The rhododendrons this year are in full bloom, dropping their blossoms across the way, but still holding enough that they were abuzz with activity.
“He’s on high alert” she said, and walked on. I stopped to listen to the bumble of bees in the flowers overhead while the dog pulled at his leash, bristling with the adrenalin of anticipation. Deer, most likely, I thought little of it.
Ann said at first she couldn’t remember whether you were supposed to stay quiet or make noise.
So she hesitated at first to call out. The dog never barked, but by the time Ann hollered, he was puffed up like a hyena, high on his front legs and using all his considerable strength to pull free of her restraint.
“Fred, help me. It’s a bear!”
A full-grown black bear was coming our way, maybe 50 yards down the road, not in a hurry. He stopped when I arrived as Ann and dog were disagreeing about the direction to take. I began shouting and waving my arms like a wild man. The two of us pulled the dog back in the direction of the house until we gained some momentum. Then I stood firm to see if the bear was following (which I thought unlikely.) He’d disappeared into the dappled light, preferring berries to battle.
But he’s still around, that’s certain, and will be until the berries are gone. And my guess is, the Ruger .44 will be going for a lot of short hikes in the coming six weeks, more a noise maker and badge of confidence and mock courage than lethal weapon.
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