Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Morning News: Sometimes the Bear Gets You; Sometimes You Get the Bear

My wife and I are not campers. We don't do rustic. Oh, we'll get on a horse and ride all day through the drizzly bogs and hills of Connemara, or into the dusty hills and washes of the Arizona desert, but come dinnertime, we want the convivial bar, the merry restaurant with great food and company, the Jacuzzi in the bathroom and that nice comfy bed with the 400-thread-count sheets.

So I'm not real sure about bears in the woods. Or the protocol toward them.

Yes, I know you're supposed to keep food secured at night so one of the beasts doesn't stroll into your campsite or cozy up in your tent. But I didn't know you could get a ticket for whacking a bear that was about to eat your son.

According to a report by D. Aileen Dodd in The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Chris Everhart, an ex-Marine, was camping with his three young sons at the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia when a 275 pound black bear wandered into their campsite while the four were toasting marshmallows around 9.30 p.m.

The bear grabbed a food cooler. Impulsively, six-year-old Logan grabbed a shovel and chased the bear. The bear dropped the cooler and lunged for the child.

Whereupon Mr. Everhart grabbed a log of firewood and chucked it at the bear, beaning the charging beast.

Bada-bing, bada-bang, the bear went down like a ten-dollar palooka.

Father and sons rushed into their Jeep to take cover, figuring they now had a very pissed off bear with a thumping headache on their hands. But nope, ol' Smoky was more than down for the count. The bear was -- well, it was bleedin' demised. It had shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. It was an ex-Smoky, to paraphrase the Monty Python dead-parrot sketch.

Later, some hump with a badge from the Forest Service showed up and gave Mr. Everhart a $75 ticket for failing to secure his food properly. It is, of course, a matter of debate whether the late bear, at the moment of resolution, was defining food as the picnic cooler -- or as the six-year-old.

Yes, I know you're supposed to make sure food is out of range of bears in the woods at night or when you leave your campsite, sometimes by tying something like a cooler high on a tree branch.

But who'd have thought the Forest Kops would expect you to hoist your six-year-old up on a tree till the marshmallows got toasted?


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