Monday, August 08, 2005
"I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful."
Life of Pi
Truth is always stranger than fiction, ain't it?
Good God, here's a quick tale.
As if I didn't have enough of facing Mortality these days, I get this experience...
A little backstory.
My Grandfather was 17 years old in 1927, the year he began flying airplanes. This was some serious cutting edge shit. Hell, the Wright brothers made their first successful flight in 1903. How on earth did he start flying that early in aviation history? Probably due to the fact that Charles Lindbergh was reared in the same area as my grandfather, Little Falls, Minnesota, in the Iron Range.
The roaring Twenties.
Romanticism and devil-may-care-attitudes abounded.
Stranger still, in this age of open air cockpits, while he was barnstorming, he met the only licensed female pilot in Northern Minnesota at the time. So he married her.
The two made quite a pair.
But that's another story entirely.
During World War 2, he flew in the South Pacific, returned and did what many war-weary veterans did. Bought lakefront land up in the North Woods and built a log cabin.
Years ago, you would see this on television: A boat in the distance patrols the shore. A plug arches toward the camera. A voice: "Crow Wing, Minnesota, means big northern pike." Jaws and teeth flash, and soon a large fish is hauled aboard. Next scene: fillets, lemons, Old Milwaukee beer, and anglers rubbing their bloated guts as they sprawl on the deck of a lakeside lodge. "You know," says one, "it just doesn't get any better than this."
And it's the damn truth. I've been going to our pastoral property for years now and this past visit was no different. With this one exception.
I spent the first four days just hanging out with my parents. That meant I had the bunkhouse all to myself. I fished my ass off and read lots of books.
But my sister, physician husband and three young children joined us on Friday. And that's where my story finally kicks in.
Because of the invasion, my dad set up an old tent down the hill from the cabin, by the shoreline. I've slept there several times, enjoying the loons calling across the lake and the water gently lapping against the shore.
It was perhaps 1.30 AM when I finally closed my book and settled in.
And then I heard it.
Something crashing through the brush, heading downhill. Towards me.
Now understand, there's tons of critters & bigass bugs in these wild woods. You're always hearing things, no biggie.
But this wasn't a critter. This was something Big.
I immediately thought it was a deer or even a moose - hell, the cabin is located on Moose Point - it stands to reason, right? But deer are typically pretty quiet when walking through the forest, but still, I didn't think anything of it, especially when the noise stopped after ten seconds.
Twenty seconds later, after I dug back into my sleeping bag, it began again, getting closer, but this time with a large branch cracking in half, causing me to immediately sit up on my cot and listen carefully.
The loud thrashing of underbrush continued towards me. What the fuck? My first thought was to see if I had my camera with me, to hopefully catch a nighttime shot of whatever the hell this was.
But when I quietly got up, crept to the side tent window and saw a fucking medium-sized black bear sitting in our wild raspberry patch, perhaps 20 yards away, I immediately starting thinking about weapons instead.
And I had zip. Nadda. The only thing I came up with was my faithful ballpoint pens.
It truly was a fight or flee situation. Despite it being a typically nippy Minnesota evening, after about five minutes of watching the beast, I realized I literally had rivers of sweat pouring down my body.
I didn't know what the hell to do. So I just stood there, sweating and watching in aphasiac terror. The damn bear was in the path of both the cabin and bunkhouse. And despite putting on my shoes, I knew you weren't supposed to run from black bears as it triggers an urge for them to chase and drag you down.
Now SNEAKING away was a possiblity. The door of the tent was facing away from the bear but I wasn't sure if I wanted to gamble yet. There were two zippers to unzip and also the possibility of stepping on a branch once outside, sidling away. I even considered running down to the lake. Not to swim, mind you. Black bears can swim (and climb), after all, but I wondered if I might jump in a boat. Damnit, I realized - both are up on lifts so I'm screwed there as well.
At this point, I was seriously wishing I had my dogs with me.
I decided to ride it out. What choice did I have? And to make a short point, I wasn't and am not scared of dying but I DO have a pet peeve about being eaten to death. I'll take a heart attack or car wreck or lightning strike over being chewed on for supper.
I sat down on my cot, ballpoint pen in each hand and waited.
My wife finds this mental picture very funny.
After what seemed like hours, even though it was perhaps 15 minutes, I heard the bear moving again. This time away from me, uphill towards the cabin.
I saw, and then heard, him scramble into the woods and head up and over the hill. I wasn't sure what the hell to do next. I imagine most folks would have ran for the safety of a cabin, or even a car, but I didn't. I felt the danger was past and waking up everyone would be a tremendous waste of time and sleep. Hell, my folks are old, after all.
So I grabbed my flashlight, laid back down and picked up Harrington On Hold Em Volume Two and was asleep within an hour.
But I didn't sleep very well (imagine that) and when my folks awoke I quickly went up to tell them the story. Dad called someone from the Dept. of Natural Resources and got transferred and ultimately they sent someone out. They found tracks and droppings and told us there was nothing to fear, it was just a hungry lil bear, but to call this cell # if it returned.
My dad was non-plussed, too, as this was only his second bear sighting in the 50+ years he had been coming up North.
I took more proactive measures and immediately drove into town and bought some freaking mace. I slept like a baby every night thereafter.
And so that's my lame little tale. Beats a fishing story, don't it? And this one is true, unlike the latters tendencies.
Whew, it's amazing what a week of no internet, no TV and no phone will do for you. I'm full of ideas. But for now I've got to buckle down and catch up on email and reading.
If anyone wants some fine summer book reading, I'm going to recommend the following three bestsellers. The first two are fiction (and I'm loathe to recommend fiction) and the third, as someone said; 'transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history, though it is superb as all three.' I'm gonna link these to Amazon but be careful of spoilers in the reviews.
Life of Pi
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Let's finish up with a funny link of the day, and what else, bear photos......
Link of the Day:
"The ride home from the bachelor party." This reaction kills me.
One last Prank
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