DECAMERON TALE #19 August 30, 2020
“Lions and Tigers & Bears…Oh My!”
No, actually mostly bears. There are likely few residents of Litchfield county who haven’t had an encounter of some kind with the increasing bear population. I’ve seen them in the neighborhood for years. In my first very close encounter, upon opening my back door to fire up the grill, I was face to face, perhaps ten feet distant, with a large male. The conventional wisdom is to never surprise them. Too late for that!!
Additional guidelines are to act large (??), make a lot of noise and throw something at them. What the DEP does not reveal is that a bear will not flee at the first loud “BOO”. In this particular incident, the only thing I was carrying was an icy cold Sam Adams. I always barbecue with beer. [I don’t put it on the food. I barbecue with beer!] The notion that I might waste a fresh one was not in the realm of possibility. That left only noise. I can’t explain it but the only sound that came out was an imitation of a lion’s roar. My suspicion is that I wasn’t any more convincing than Bert Lahr. At the end of my routine, I sounded less like Leo the lion and more like a wet kitten. Unimpressed, the big male waddled off to wreak havoc on the neighbor’s deck. Lesson learned. When you shout at a bear, do it in English with a coherent threat. Unless it’s a tourist from Quebec.
After a long respite, the ursine issue returned recently when a female with two cubs overturned my garbage. Acting large, I ran down the barn driveway shouting that everything was spoiled or past its sell date. With cubs in tow, she dragged the bag into the shady border separating my property from the neighbor’s. I stood in the road shouting that they were trespassing and that if they didn’t vacate immediately, I would report the incident to the First Selectman. I promised that Dapper Dan would surely chastise them severely. And suddenly there was no movement in the glen. A firm threat always works.
After a few moments, I ventured over the stone wall with a garbage can to police the debris field. Suddenly, she reared up on her hind legs, paws extended and gave a loud snort. (What a great Zyrtec ad!) I retraced my steps with some dispatch. As my late uncle might have observed, I moved out smartly. Out on the road again, I unleashed my full repertoire of obscenities culled from my long childhood association with the Lathrop farm. A fearsome catalog indeed. And this time she really left!
The light had changed and I watched as she receded from view. After waiting for the purple miasmic cloud of obscenities to dissipate, I retrieved about half the strewn garbage mess when a rustling of branches indicated that she was back, this time sans cubs. She had stashed them at a distance no doubt taking exception to the company her offspring were forced to keep. This time we seemed to ricochet off one another. I retreated to the barn and blasted the boombox (cutting edge we). She lounged on a boulder in the sun waiting for me to leave. In more benighted days, this may have been referred to as a Mexican standoff. The cubs became restless and wandered off.
I saw her twice more, now reduced to one cub. She charged me on sight both times, the last when I merely opened the front door. A DEP rep explained that most bear charges are bluff. And the un-bluffs? Fight with all you’ve got at hand! Punch, kick or gouge!! This is not a promising avenue. (Did I call the wrong number? Is this the World Wrestling site?) Zapping them with paint-balls was suggested to which nephew Garth wondered if merely annoying a large, capable omnivore was such a good idea. Point taken.
I wondered why this garbage incident annoyed me so much. Near neighbors barely give them any thought and calmly pick up the mess. Even the very particular tree man takes no offense and describes the bears as “cute”. With no wolves or appreciable numbers of mountain lions, bears, by default, are the apex New England predators. Watching them make a living chasing after garbage seems unnatural, even tawdry. Many years ago, my grandfather took me to a circus at the old Danbury fairgrounds. The lions acted like lions, roaring, snarling and trying to slash their handlers. I was entranced! The bears, however, wore big silly hats with cutouts for their ears and preposterous pink bow ties. On cue, they danced around on their hind legs.
I must remember to tell that young jogger who happened to pass by that I wasn’t addressing her. The bears made me do it!