An early morning visitor named Mr. BearNovember 18, 2018 ⋅ ⛅ -19 °C
"Ugh, do we really need BOTH these boards EVERY night?" sighed the exasperated helicopter engineer as he fought to place two wet and swollen boards into the custom built holders on either side of the door frame. My boss quipped, "Nope, but you're the one that gets to hold the door closed against any polar bears that decide they want inside the cabin."
The engineer knew the boards were going up and he knew he was the one that was going to do it because for the last weeks, he was the person that had graciously taken the frustrating duty on along with turning off the generator outside for all of us. (selfless person to let everyone else ready for bed with light). Normally, putting up the boards isn't such an annoying task, but, this year, the rains had not broken and our plywood shack, with no insulation and no real barriers to the wet, was soaked. The door didn't want to close, the cabin was sinking noticeably in one corner (a corner which just so happened to hold the oil stove and made walking in the cabin a sometimes dangerous affair when you felt yourself staggering towards the burning stove!), and putting those damn boards up was a nightly struggle. In fact, going out to pee in the night was a decision in which "do I feel like removing those stuck boards" or "do I risk peeing on myself in my sleeping bag" was a real question.
Nevertheless, we all remained true to protocol and always the boards went up and we went to sleep peaceful in our bunk coffins with everyone else within arm's reach.
Rousing me out of my sleep almost 7 hours later, is the engineer's voice. This time he is repeating, in a voice that immediately breaks any lingering sleep reverie, what seems like completely irrelevant information to share at 5 am. "Daisy is barking. Daisy is barking." My brain: "why are you telling me this and why are you getting out of bed with just your undies on? This is completely uncharacteristic of you Mr. Engineer Man." Then my sleep-addled brain got it. A BEAR! There must be a bear!
That's when my second dose of reality hit. My brain began berating me, "Damnit Jasmine why did you decide to wear pink lacey thongs under your yoga pants?!?! You can't be seen jumping out of your bunk to fight a bear in Victorias Secret ridiculousness! What kind of idiot brings those to field camp?" The bear would have to wait. I quickly began trying to locate my well-placed yoga pants in the dark and put them on in my bunk that has so little headspace that it is impossible to sit up. While I frantically tried to pull them on, I was donkey kicking below me trying to rouse my apparently earplugged-to-the-max boss. Evidently my kicking worked because he started to move. While trying to pull on stretchy pants and wake my boss, the engineer had made his way to the door of the cabin and was going to look outside. I heard the door open and then furiously slam. "Not good", I thought.
The engineer burst back into the cabin and threw his back against the door with arms and legs spread eagle yelling, "THERE'S A BEAR. ON THE PORCH. IT FUCKING LOOKED AT ME. 3 FEET."
Turns out, that's all you need to say to get 5 otherwise peacefully-slumbering folks out of their sleeping bags and bunks in a hot second.
I was just slipping on my glasses, because, well, I didn't figure I should be slinging firearms around without my glasses, when my boss jumped out of his bunk in his undies and grabbed the .44 magnum revolver that lived by his bed.
The engineer had already grabbed the shotgun that lived by the door for these such occasions and together they started pacing about the cabin in their undies trying to assess the situation. The difficulty here was that the shack had but one fairly useless window the size of a commercial cookie sheet. So, we had approximately a 10 degree view of a situation in which, oh, I don't know, 360 degrees would have been nice.
We quickly saw a blur of white run past the window. Was that the bear?! The barking had not stopped. Then we saw the blur again. It was not the bear. It was the white husky bear dog Daisy protecting us and clearly trying to let us know to get our shit together and help her out there!
The guys with guns decided that they could not safely open the door. There was an 8 inch ventilation pipe that went through the wall of the cabin through to the bathroom which shared a wall with the one-room cabin. The bathroom was a 3ft by 3 ft room that was accessed from the outside. The ventilation pipe, coming from the inside of the cabin passed across the top of the bathroom. However, I guess there wasn't quite 3 feet of pipe because that vent tube stopped about 7inches shy of actually exiting the bathroom (it was great getting to listen to folks play games on their phone or listen to music while they were in the bathroom---a vent pipe and plywood wall aren't exactly the most sound-deadening). The engineer took the shotgun, filled with banger ammunition that is designed to scare away wildlife with it's loud 'bang', and shot through that 8 in ventilation pipe while the rest of us covered our ears. "BANG, BANG, BANG" he shot.
Then, it was back to our cookie sheet sized window to see if the bear had moved to the other side of the cabin. Nope. Not a sign. It was the moment of truth. The front door had to be opened.
The two guys approached the door with weapons at the ready. Standing like two stooges, one head above the other, in their tight boxer briefs, the cracked the door. Then, they exploded through yelling. The bear had retreated toward our tent filled with food and gear. The guys ran off the porch yelling, "GIT, GIT! while firing more rounds of bangers and .44 rounds into the air.
As the bear ran up and over the hill, I couldn't help but have the image of those two standing out in the cold, barefoot, in their underwear, yelling and shooting seared into my brain.
The morning's wakeup call got us all going and we quickly got dressed to go after the bear with the helicopter. The dog was gone. We didn't know if she had chased the bear or been chased by the bear. The pilot and engineer fired up the bird and off we flew to give that bear one more taste of bad human experience. We found the bear, made it have a bad morning, and then returned to camp to find the dog waiting on her cadre of helpless humans.
We spent the rest of the day weathered in and looking nervously over our shoulder when venturing outside for pees or smokes. Daisy spent her day curled up and happy from many carrot treats as reward for her heroism.Read more