I always forget the appropriate admonition. I’m talking about what one is supposed to do if you suddenly find yourself in the path of a bear.
I suspect that I’ll be the one who forgets what to do and piss some bear off — royally. Just like I fear when we’re back in our other home state: I’ll be frolicking in the ocean waters of Rhode Island and suddenly find myself jaw-to-jaw with, well, Jaws.
Do I thrash about or remain calm? (As if remaining calm is possible in this type of situation.)
Yes, I know the part about gouging the shark’s eyes out, but let’s face it, that kind of focus will take serious concentration and a deft blow to the pupil region. I doubt I’ll be able to pull that off in a panic situation when I’m screaming and churning water.
I’m also confounded in North Carolina, regarding bears. Which rule to follow? Do I thrash about and make noise? Do I try to remain mute? It’s important because hubby and I like to go hiking along trails — trails I know bears are probably hiking as well.
That’s the reason a few years back in Asheville I bought a contraption. It’s a big bell on a strap. They sold it at a tourist store, so I know my fear is one that concerns many. (Or maybe they just know we new residents are stupid.)
According to instructions attached to this device, I’m supposed to carry the bell with me on woodland jaunts, in case I encounter a post-hibernating bear who’s ravenous and isn’t fussy about what he eats. The bell alerts him to the fact I’m coming, and so he avoids me altogether (or so the ad implies.) He’ll supposedly run off and hide. Well, that’s if he’s a normal bear. My concern? What if he isn’t? Specifically, what if he’s dysfunctional or psychopathic?
On another score, I can’t recall what color fur signifies herbivorous and carnivorous bears. Oh, I know the white ones are polar. They’re easy. I know they like to eat humans. Grizzlies, too. They’ve got the kind of hair color I used to have when I was a young girl — chestnut or auburn. Since they’ve got that reddish tinge, it’s easier for me to remember. They’re hot-tempered (like all red-heads); they’re definitely meat-eaters. Hell, the name “grizzly” even implies they’re not affectionate.
But brown bears? Hmm … I had a teddy bear once, a sweet, cuddly thing, when I was a little girl, and he was a chocolate brown. We know size has got nothing to do with it, as we see with those lovable, large panda bears who are docile creatures, and they’re pure leaf-eaters.
But black bears (the kind in the Asheville woods), well, I think they’re probably laid-back vegans, like a huge part of the population here, meaning they prefer a non-meat diet. They probably don’t have a mean or nasty bone in their bodies. They’re purists at heart, but then again, I’m not sure they’re “absolute purist.” I mean, you take a ravenous vegan berry-eater, leaf-finisher out of his cave after a several month hiatus and dangle a hunk of human flesh in front of him/her, and I’m just not sure they would remain true to their principles. Just like real vegans in Asheville, if confronted with real starvation. (Now, don’t send me hate mail. This is all meant tongue-in-cheek.)
So, make noise or go quietly into the woods? Carry the damned bell strap or toss it aside?
Hell, if I heard all this noise (the bells) in my habitat, I might attack the interloper out of sheer annoyance.
Just trying to see it from the bear’s perspective.
P.S. Got your own sure-fire way to ward off bears? Do tell …
Colleen Kelly Mellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) came to Asheville eight years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, four years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in The Wall Street Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”