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Thursday, July 21, 2011

MAMA BEAR AND BABY BEAR AT AIR BELLOWS

morris louis, point of tranquility, 1960




Yesterday, Selma told me she'd heard of some people that went to the waterfall and saw bear tracks along the edge of the water below the fall, and baby bear prints with it. Also, they found a cave the bear is living in. Considering that the one who reported the paw prints is from a city and walking to the falls with a couple of little kids like a visit to the state park, it didn't have much credibility for me. Except it's not a state park. First thing I said, "There are no caves down there." Selma swore they said there was a cave. I said they might have seen a rock overhang they took for a cave. I could go with bear prints. They're rather unmistakable. Then I wasn't quite with baby bear prints. They might be coon, dog or bobcat getting a drink. I've seen a bear turd in the road several months ago and took it a bear was marking territory. It sounded an awful lot like drama.



This afternoon talking with Gary next door, source of the second-hand info Selma told me about. He said he got it from the young woman from Chattanooga with an SUV and kids, suburban soccer mom to be. I questioned the cave part to him. He described a place in the bank across the stream the bear had dug out, a kind of den. She had photographs he saw. She photographed the paw prints too, and he affirmed it was indeed small bear prints. We've known a bear was living in the woods across the road for some months. A bear alone doesn't bother me, but a bear with a cub tells me to stay out of the woods. I really do not want to scare mama bear. I don't want to come face to face with her. We talked about the bear for quite awhile and he convinced me there was something to the baby bear and the "cave." They have claws like cats, only much bigger, and big sharp teeth. I stay out of the ocean because I figure it is full of critters looking for something to eat. I'll stay out of the woods for awhile, until I hear somebody has killed the bear.



The last time we had a bear up here, somebody killed it. It's skeleton was found in the first holler the gravel road goes around as it starts up the mountain from the pavement's end on Brown Road. I'd seen several traces of it in the woods across the road and smelled it strongly in the air. It might have even been looking at me. But, as happens, it ended up dead. Now that word is out about this bear at the waterfall, I imagine somebody will go in looking for it just to kill it. A lot of people don't like having bears around. I'm sort of in the middle of the matter. Not interested in killing one, I really don't want them around if I have a choice. I know all that they say about black bears not being aggressive, so that part doesn't bother me. What bothers me is having the shit scared out of me so bad. I even wonder about putting up a small sign at the head of the trail that goes to the waterfall to let people know a bear is in the area. The people that come here in 4wheel drives of every variety with license tags from Away are from the suburbs of North Carolina and Florida cities, sometimes Maryland.



It's an hour romp in the natural world they see on nature tv, a petting zoo without bars. When I think about making a small sign to advise heads up, I imagine it stolen by one of the first half dozen people to see it. I wouldn't think like this except that the people I see park across the road heading for the waterfalls in multiples on foot, often with kids and indoor dogs, are so innocent of the natural world, so unaware of dangers that are everywhere, or can be, run about and holler like they're in their back yards at home. It's probably a good thing that they make a tremendous amount of noise walking through the woods, talking, laughing, shouting, stepping on sticks and breaking them, to warn the wild things that live in there the humans are coming. They get out of sight in a hurry, knowing that all a human has to do is see you and you're dead. The critters living in the woods are way more afraid of us than we are of them. Their fear makes them dangerous.



I think of ways to warn people going to the falls to be attentive, pay attention to what's around them. Then I remember times I've attempted to warn people of some of the hidden dangers in the mountains and got derided and laughed at every time. So I quit. They're on their own. Occasionally, someone I know will come to the door on the way to the falls to say hi. Them I will advise that a bear with a cub lives in the area and let them make the decision what to do. I honestly don't think there would be a problem, because suburbanites make so much noise the bear would see them without them seeing her and vacate the premises unseen, unheard. She would be more wary than they would be. The wariest they might be would be spooked.



While Gary and I were talking this afternoon, we talked a good bit about how helpless city people are in these mountains. They even want internet as fast here as it is in the city, which it's not. They drive down the middle of a gravel road and do not pull over to let you go by when you meet one. I can get by them with the right side tires riding the edge of the ditch and still miss their rear view mirror with mine. It scares the shit out of them when I'm going down the mountain and a gigantic SUV or Detroit van is coming up the mountain in the middle of the gravel road. I can read the space available to me pretty well by now. I don't even slow down, just go on by them laughing at the pellets in their under drawers. One of the many changes I've seen in 35 years is when meeting a car or pickup on a gravel road, it pulled over to the side and I pulled over to the side and we gave each other plenty of room, in years gone by. Now, it's almost never that I meet someone on a gravel road who pulls over to the side a little bit to make room. They never do. I think they freeze and don't know what to do.



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