Out of House and Home

The American black bear, one of the largest an...
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The bean beetles are early this year, and, combined with the drought, the beans are under stress.

We have few enough plants that we (read: I) can apply digital pest control: squishing the prickly yellow larvae between thumb and index fingers.

But if I miss a day, more eggs have hatched. And the squash: lots of empty flower stalks where yellow crookneck squash should be. Something is nipping them off before they set fruit.

Speaking of fruit–it’s black bear-y season. We were sitting on the front porch with our supper. We’d given the dog something to chew on to keep him occupied at the foot of the porch steps. Ann suddenly says: “Get the dog!”

I hadn’t heard any other dogs and didn’t see or hear anybody coming down the road on foot or by bicycle. What was the matter?

“Bear. Over there. See him?”

And as I followed her finger across to the pasture, a large black bear had turned (he had been heading straight our way when she first saw him–and the dog didn’t) and he was making tracks back in the opposite direction.

That little episode could have ended differently if the dog had seen the bear first.

I ran inside for the .22 and fired it once into the bank, just to discourage our visitor from our end of the valley. But we’ll see him again–hopefully in time to avoid a close encounter.

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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. Now that is one huge black bear! I always think it would be cool if we had bears around our area, but then when I see your bear, I think, maybe not so cool, more scary instead!