The return of the bear......Last night, when I was feeding the horses, Mouse became extremely alert and stood very tensely staring into the woods. It was nearly dark and my old eyes don't function well then so, even though I walked down toward the woods for a closer look, I couldn't see anything. Steve says, "Probably just a turkey or deer." I said, "Why would Mouse and the others react that way to something they see all of the time?" Mouse was very agitated and for her attention to be somewhere other than her food--it had to be something.
When I was feeding the horses today, Sadie, my dog, started barking very loudly and frantically at something in the woods. It was so different that even the horses looked up in that same alert way they did last night. Then Sadie came running like crazy out of the woods and went straight to my truck trying to get into the cab. She kept looking behind her....oh, I forgot to tell you about the roar, didn't I? There was a roar right before she came running out of the woods. Didn't see it so can't say for certain what it was roaring (but know what I think it was) but I can sure tell you...and Steve...that it wasn't no darn turkey or deer!
Sadie surprised me jumping in my truck last night so that she could return to the horse pasture. After we got there however, her behavior changed. She didn't run around playing and dashing into the woods like she usually does. No, last night, she was both mine and Steve's shadow. It was as if she was attached to our legs with invisible string because she stayed at our heels.
All of this has made me think of something. Years and years ago, at least fifteen but I'm thinking even longer (the memory is failing fast), we had friends visiting and we took them to Cades Cove to go horseback riding. It never fails, whenever I've gone on one those type of trail rides, I always get the crazy horse. Of course, they never tell you this until you're already in the saddle. As soon as I was seated, the guide handed me a stick and said, "This guy is a little loco. He'll probably try to stop on you or lag behind and when he does, whack him on the shoulder with this stick." I asked if he was kidding me but he not only said no, he also didn't seem to have a sense of humor at all.
So, off we go and old Loco, as I was now thinking of him, was behaving well. He started slowing down and we started falling behind the others. I tapped him, not whacked him, on the shoulder with the stick and Loco did not appreciate that at all. He snorted and turned his head so that he could bite at my leg. That kept us occupied for a while and then Loco actually speeded up a bit, catching up with the others but grumbling all of the time about this crazy woman they'd put on him. Then Loco suddenly stops, he tenses and he becomes extremely alert. I was ready to yield the stick again and angry enough at him to really whack him just like I'd been told to do but I then I looked to see what had caught his attention and stopped his feet from moving. Not fifteen feet away was standing a very large black bear. Trust me, it looked nothing like the cute little guy in that photo. Loco has decided it is time to move on but I yell, "Bear!" Instead of having the affect it should have and moving everyone on down the trail at an accelerated pace, just the opposite occurred, every other rider stopped their horses and began to "oooh and ahhh" over the bear as if they were watching it on TV or behind a sturdy fence in the zoo and not within swatting distance of those very large and sharp claws!
That is when I decided that old Loco wasn't so loco after all. He was probably smarter than all of us because the boy recognized danger when he saw it. We left the others and their obviously mentally inferior mounts in the dust as Loco and I decided to head toward safer territory. Old Loco is probably grazing in heavenly pastures now but I will always be grateful to him for that day. I think bears are lovely creatures but only when observed from a safe distance....like several miles instead of several feet!