Daddy's Bear

I thought I saw a black bear tonight as I walked with Agatha on the trail through the front meadow below the house. We had taken a soggy tramp down towards the lake on the neighbor's farm and I slid to a stop and caught my breath in fear and consternation.  A large black shape at the edge of the water, the perfect image of a black bear, reared up on hind legs in alarming bear like fashion.

It wasn't really a bear, of course, just the product of my ever overactive imagination which seems to find a story lurking around every corner. 

My daddy did a lot of story telling too but some of his were quite tall tales.  When he claimed to have seen a bear many years ago, not 100 yards from where I stood tonight, we all were more than a little bit skeptical.  Bears are quite rare in this part of Ohio and I hoped his story of a lumbering black creature that flashed in front of his headlights early one morning wasn't really a bear.  

Daddy always got out of bed long before even the chickens were afoot and it was just after 4 am one morning as he drove out their long lane that he encountered a huge black creature that he described as an animal too alarmingly big to be a dog...

I've always worried about bears. Of course, I worry about a lot of things that I'm unlikely to encounter on our quiet farm in the hills of Ohio. 

I blame it on Readers Digest. 

I used to wait with baited breath for each new edition to arrive in P.O. Box 112 at the local post office.  I'd walk there after school and peek inside the tiny glass window of the ornate one hundred-year-old brass box that held each village resident's mail. 

My favorite feature was "Drama In Real Life" complete with hair-raising illustrations of large bears with enormous claws and fangs that leered out at my 9-year old self from the pages. Often, the drama would involve some unfortunate hiker (of course, also alone in the woods) who found himself unhappily face to face with an enormous, very hungry and grumpy grizzly bear.  I used to sit up late at night with a smuggled flashlight under the blankets (or covers as my country upbringing taught me to call them) shaking in my pajamas, worrying about the unlikely possibility that a bear might make it's lumbering way across the path I walked to school.

Agatha and I hadn't been down to the lake in some months, the winter has been bitter and the snow deep, but suddenly the sun began to smile on we winter-weary northerners and I gazed out from the upstairs window amazed to see the ice had melted from the big lake and a mist of green and rose had seemingly overnight tipped all the bare trees with the first glimpse of Spring.