Bear Country

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


A true story of an Alaskan adventure, a brave woman, and one with a natural reluctance to face grizzlies within the ten yard line: close encounters of the fourth kind.

Submitted: March 25, 2018

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Submitted: March 25, 2018

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BEAR COUNTRY – toothpaste & tall tales©
Blake D Prescott

My wife was brushing her teeth and came out, half gurgling, half screaming, " Di yu  seay th sine n ear?"
"What?"
Foam was dripping over the toothbrush hanging out of her mouth. She held her finger toward the inner sanctum of the tiny bathroom.
" Ree th sine!"
"Please, take the toothbrush out. I can't understand you."
"The sign in the bathroom, you idiot, did you see it?"
"No."
"Read it!"
Her eyes glared like blue strobes. I knew that this was an urgent call. Nudging my way past, I followed her finger shaking at a small card to one side of the mirror. The card read, " Make sure that you brush your teeth after having had breakfast – and before going out to fish – so the bears will not smell food on you."
"Oh, honey, that's nothing to worry about. They're just making a bit of fun."
"Lie ell!" The toothbrush was back in her mouth.
"What?"
She removed the toothbrush again. "Like hell! They mean it!"
"Oh, come on, it's just a bit of local humor. The guide will be with us all the time."
"Ey on eev av raeeo ontak ow ther!" She was determined to continue brushing while talking. "I'm na goin! i ree aboo istead."
I gathered she was referring to the fact that there was no radio contact between the base and the area of the Little Ku where we would be fishing.

"Sweetie, come on. You remember those signs in British Columbia. They were just funnin'. That's what people in bear country do. The bears here are so intent upon sockeye salmon that they won't even know you're around."
"Like hell!" She had removed the toothbrush in order to emphasize her response. "An I doen membr ennee sine." The toothbrush went back in her mouth.
"You remember. They were just teasing. They said that it was bear country and that you should wear a bell to let the bears know where you were so as not to startle them … and carry pepper spray … " I started to doubt the wisdom of my reminding her of the sign.
"Ya, an ?" gurgled over the brush.
"Well, they were making jokes. They noted that you should be able to tell the difference between black bear scat and grizzly scat. You remember the joke."
"Noo, wha waz ei?"
"It was a bit of tom foolery. They said black bear scat was small & filled with berries while grizzly scat had bells in it and smelled like pepper spray."
"I neu it! Das it!"

We were late in joining with the guide.

The boat ride was just over a half hour before we reached the mouth of the Little Ku River. Alaska is beautiful this time of year, and this part of Alaska was even more exceptional in that there was not a single person to disturb the pristine views. It was native American land where we had a special and limited dispensation to fish. Fishing for trophy rainbows was here was more than promising. The rainbows had been following the tails of the sockeyes, devouring their tasty pink eggs; so naturally, our "flies" would be egg imitations in subtle variations of pink, white, and red.
The guide shouted over the drone of the outboard, explaining what to expect. The fishing had been great here on the Little Ku for more than a week now. He was very reassuring about the amazing focus of the bears. It was a time for fattening up before hibernation. Our guide, Bobby, had gotten to know the bears well, observing unique characteristics. He had even given them names. There was Sweet Mom & Hard Mom, one with with one cub and another with two cubs; the mom with two cubs would swat her youngster a couple of bear's lengths when he didn't behave. There was Old Fatty, slow but efficient in adding yet more insulation. There were the teen brothers, Biff & Batt, scrapping adolescents that interrupted their fishing to test their strength against one another. And there was Trout Robber.
"Trout Robber?" my wife exclaimed. "I thought you said they just wanted sockeyes!"
Bobby smiled. "It's a long story. I'll tell you all about it over dinner. Nothing to worry about."
Out of the boat, we walked along shore for a hundred yards or so before turning inland.
"We'll cut across 'bout here. The walk's maybe a half hour. Mind the beaver sticks; easy to trip on 'em, an; they got their points. We'll be voidin' the bears as they'll be lined up on the river. Then we'll end up at the aquarium. That's what we call that little stretch where the fishin's been so good. Your'e goin' to have a great time!" That last statement of the guide was directed to Helen, my wife, reassuring her that all was well.
There were alternating lows, with muck and ankle deep water, then highs with mounds stretching  two fly rods high. As we would slog up the face of a high,  Bobby lead the way and addressed each approach with, "Hello bear, hello bear."
"I thought … you said … the bears were … on the river." Helen managed to blurt out between puffs as she stayed close behind Bobby.
"Well they are. But better t'  be careful. Don't want t' scare a stray."
"I can tell you … I can … tell … whose goin'  to be … scared."
"You're gettin' to be a regular trooper here. I'm proud of ya."
We were nearly a half hour in when Bobby stopped on the ascent of a steeper mound. He turned to Helen and, pulling a foot and a half long object out of his back pack, he handed it to her. "Jus' hold this a minute." It was wrapped in foil and, while she held one end, Bobby undid the far part revealing none other than his hero sandwich!
"You're kidding!" Helen shouted as she dropped her end while Bobby grinned. He took a bite from his sandwich and put it back in the pack.
"Now you're one of us. No worries. We'll be fishin' in five."

And fishing we were. Helen caught the first rainbow: a big, fat, hard fighting, line stripping specimen called "leopard rainbow" due to the exceptional spotting; photo worthy, it filled the net and offset her dread of encountering other, more expert fishers of the furry kind. We passed many as we cast our way down the river. "There's trout robber." Later "Look at those cubs. Aren't they cute!"
Hours later we approached the boat.
"Well, that was beautiful." Helen noted. "But you!" pointing to Bobby, "You better watch your step!"


© Copyright 2018 Blake Prescott. All rights reserved.

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