Yesterday afternoon I walked down to the mailbox to see if the held mail notice was still in it. Just as I slammed the mailbox door, an adult black bear rounded the corner of Stanwell and Langdale, and ambled down the middle of the sidewalk, straight at me. It was fat as bears go, granted that this is the time of year for bears to be fat. Fat or not, what impressed me was that it saw me and didn’t stop ambling. On it came. Forty feet. Thirty feet. Twenty-five feet. There the bear paused, still in the middle of the sidewalk. This was closer than I’d ever been to a black bear without lots of iron between us, and way closer than I’d prefer to be. My first thought was to look for cubs. Not the time of year for that, and nothing in view. My second thought proceeded from my training as a fiction writer: What does this character want? No clue. My third thought was to start backing up, slowly. I’m thin. The bear was fat. It was about 100 feet to my front door. I started doing the math.
After I backed up ten or fifteen feet, the bear ambled across our neighbors’ gravel landscaping and galomphed down into the gully between our houses, where there is a galvanized iron pipe under Stanwell carrying runoff from farther up the mountain. It’s gotten a lot of use this (wet) summer, and was still trickling a little. The bear hunkered down and started lapping water from the open end of the pipe.
I had gotten between a bear and what it wanted, which probably isn’t a good idea. At least the bear was courteous enough to wait for me to figure that out.
Today’s animal stories don’t end there, Uncle Lar. No indeedy. On Tuesday, a skunk got into Jimi Henton’s back yard. Jimi boards the Pack when we travel (we bought three of them from her, in fact, so they’re basically family) and the four of them much enjoy the luxury of having a back yard where they can run around in circles. Aero likes to bark at animals that he sees, generally out the kitchen nook window. Here was one of a sort he doesn’t see often, and he headed off at a gallop to protect his breeder and his pack from the interloper. Shortly afterward, Jimi smelled skunk in the house. She has a doggie door into the back yard and assumed the worst. But no, it was skunk by proxy. By the time she cornered Aero in her living room the whole house reeked.
Four baths and all sorts of exotic remedies later, he still smells a little. But here’s a tip for the skunklorn: Take off the dog’s collar. Much of the smell that remained was in the leather, which is now double-bagged in the big garage trash can.
Oh, and earlier today I saw nine deer right across the street, eating the grass. This is one reason we didn’t plant grass.
Tonight I will grill a good steak in honor of the animal kingdom. I will grill it from my main deck, which lacks stairs and is 23 feet above the ground. If I see any of my animal friends down in the gully, I will wave, hold up the steak, and say, Don’t push your luck.