So here’s a freebie, most of chapter 10 from the book, Tales From The Alaskan Side.
And it goes something like this…
The Unplugged Bear…
(Always a favorite story with the boys at the local youth ranch where I now work part time)
It all started when I flew back to the little dot on the map called Icy Bay (because of a glacier at the head of the bay that was forever dumping icebergs of every size into the bay, summertime included). I was there to clean up and pack up our abandoned gold mining exploration camp left behind the previous week, and get our dry-beached boat back down to the water (see previous chapters).
But I had my tent, my sleeping bag, and my bear spray, and I was prepared to spend a little secluded alone time packing up this camp and getting it staged down at the beach near the water. Then I was going to get our beached boat back down into the water also, so that both of our boats could pick up all of our camp gear during the next super high tide at 1:30am (twilight) almost a week away. After that, we would be off to Cape Yakataga to try again mining beach gold.
In all honesty, I was also looking forward to a little time on my own too, by myself, decompressing from dealing with gold fever drama (see previous chapter), deep in the wilds of Alaska for several days, just proving I could do it, be there and survive. Ever since reading the book “My Side of the Mountains” more times than I care count to as a young teenager, I’ve been itching to try it myself someday, to test my mettle on my own against the wild.
Remember how I said to not expect to live by a set schedule when up in Alaska? Boy did I have another thing coming, much different than what I was expecting. As I stepped off the (little) airplane, this guy that I don’t know from Adam comes running up across the moraine (glacial gravel deposit) above the beach, next to the old logging-road-turned-airstrip, grabs my bags, and heads off. And I’m like, whoa, wait a minute, who are you? I had been expecting to have the entire area to myself! He hadn’t been there a couple of days previously, so where’d he come from? And what the bleep was he doing with my bags?
When I hollered at him, he stopped, apologized, and introduced himself, then told me that he and his wife were camped out just around the corner in a big outfitters tent, and that they were there for his annual, month-long summer vacation to mine his nearby gold claim. Then he asked, curiously, where I had been planning to stay while there, and why was I there anyway? I told him, and he just smiled, picked up my bags again, and trotted off. I just stood there, scratching my head.
“Come on!” he entreated a moment later, looking back over his shoulder. “You can stay with me and my wife. We’d love the company!” I’m not sure what look I had on my face, but he just laughed, and repeated himself, adding that they already had an extra tent set up (for their extra gear) that I could stay in and everything. “Eat with us too!”
Well, that settled that. I can cook, and I pride myself on being fairly decent at it when the time calls for it, even over a camp fire, but hot meals fixed by someone else, just for my company in return, I’m sorry, but I’m all over that one.
So that’s what we did. In the daytime, I went down the beach to where our old camp was, and packed it up, (and dug out the stuck boat). In the evenings, I ate dinner with Todd and his wife, swapped stories by campfire light afterwards, and slept in a tent near theirs (wasn’t complaining about that either – it was total moose and grizzly bear country, and in total honesty, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to close encounters with either one, camping alone, even though I had in fact, been prepared for it).
Then once my own job was done a couple of days later, I still had several days to kill before the high tide, so I did some beach combing, firewood gathering for Todd, and even helped Todd run his gold sledge and equipment one day.
And if you’ve never taken your daily shower on a lonely, isolated Alaskan beach, in a crystal clear waterfall fifty feet high cascading over a cliff that was stunningly full of incredible fossils, while watching the gulls and the seals playing around the icebergs out in the water, with the cold water tingling, and the warm sunshine warming, well, there are some things you just can’t describe until you’ve done them.
But the evenings, sitting around the campfire with Todd and his wife while swapping stories, those were the best.
You see, Todd had been a logger back in the hey-day of Alaskan logging, before things tanked when the feds back in DC made logging uneconomical, and before the tree huggers had moved in. Let me tell you what, Todd had some stories. And being a born story teller, Todd had his delivery down pat too. I laughed so hard my face hurt.
Fortunately, he humored me, and laughed at a few of my own stories as well.
But this is one of Todd’s stories.
And it goes like this.
One day, Todd and his buddy were driving down the old logging road between Icy Bay and the old logging camp several miles up the beach; Todd was in a pickup truck, and his buddy was on a four wheeler. And they’re just driving along, minding their own business, when they see this bear on the road up ahead of them. No big deal there; it’s total bear country.
But something was “off”. As this bear sees them approaching, he turns and takes off down the road away from them, in that strange bear lope that bears do. But something was bouncing along on the road too, right behind the bear, making its own little dust poof every time it bounced on the ground. Todd and his buddy just looked at each other for a moment, before an awful realization sank in.
Todd and his buddy had gone moose hunting several days previously. They had packed out the moose they shot, using a fiber, non-synthetic, rope, before finally burying the entrails (and blood soaked rope) after they finished gutting, skinning, and quartering the carcass. The bear had apparently dug it all up and had a feast, rope included.
Then Todd remembered that the rope had had a knot on one end of it. This same rope was now bouncing merrily along the road, faithfully following a bear that now had a knotty problem with a stuck rope. Yes, I’m being serious.
So…. Another “What to do now?” problem.
If they didn’t get this rope unstuck from the south end of this unhappy north bound bear, the bear would soon die a painful and gory death, plugged up so tight nothing was going to move.
Meanwhile, while Todd and his buddy are discussing options, still driving next to each other like rednecks going down a dirt road in the country, the bear continues loping on down the road ahead of them, with a pickup truck, a four-wheeler, and a rope all following him.
Then the buddy suddenly has one of those brilliant Eureka moments and confidently tells Todd, “I got this.” But he wouldn’t say anything more when Todd asked, while the buddy just studies the situation a moment more, with everyone still heading down road. Then after another moment, he simply gives Todd a conspiritory wink, and revs up his four-wheeler.
Of course at this point, Todd thinks his friend has lost his mind, as he watches his buddy aim his four wheeler towards the south end of this presumably grumpy, north bound bear, and quickly catch up to said beast. But before the bear has a chance to react to the threat racing down upon him from behind, the buddy simply runs his ATV wheels right up behind the bear, and across the rope.
Problem solved. Rope goes one direction. Bear whirls the other direction, ready to rip the buddy a new one comparable to the one the buddy just ripped. And buddy suddenly realizes what he’s just done and has a stricken heart attack moment, before gunning his four-wheeler on down the road so the bear can’t catch him. And Todd? Well, apparently Todd had to pull over because he was laughing so hard.
Now of course, this wasn’t a laughing matter, but obviously no one could help it. After giving everyone the death eye, with no one handy to kill, the bear finally just turned off the road and headed back out into the forest, very much alive, with a restored normal life-expectancy. He’d be (very) sore for a week or two, but he’d live.
Moral of this story?
Sometimes, people either do things to us, or we take things into our being (like addictions or bad habits or ???), that eventually plug us up. And without help, being plugged up with whatever it is will eventually kill us.
And sometimes it takes someone coming alongside us and ripping us a new one to get that stuff out, before we can heal up normally and resume normal productive lives with a normal life expectancy. It’ll hurt, but you’ll live.
Seems like I mentioned a similar moral to this one once already…
Tip for Surviving Alaska
If you’re going to be out in bear country (pretty much the entire state except for deep in some areas of the tundra, or the city), carry a can of heavy duty bear spray with you, and know how to use it. They say it’s better than a gun for protection. But don’t, for instance, spray it at a bear with the wind blowing in your face. Then neither one of you can see each other.
And don’t ever, ever, EVER, take a can of bear spray on a plane. EVER. It can get you banned from flying (almost got myself banned because of this, so I know what I am talking about here). Planes have apparently crashed before when bear spray cans started leaking and/or exploded (thus incapacitating the pilot and/or crew) when cabin pressure (up in the sky) dropped.
T. Russell Benedict
Tim was born and raised in Idaho, but has traveled all over since then. He started writing clear back in high school, and hasn't stopped since. Whether it's Tales from Alaska, historical research, cutting edge RnD, science fiction, spiritual, or How-to, he's written material in, and has keen interest in, lots of different genres. Check out http://www.EvergreenMountainPublishing.com for some of his other books and material.