There's something about my bed in the bunkhouse that makes me sleep like the dead. Could be that the physical exhaustion from fourteen-hour days helps me go to sleep. Could be the white noise of the horses in the pen not ten yards behind my window lulls me to sleep. Could be anything, but I sleep unbelievably well at the livery.
Spring brings out the deer, elk, fuzzy little bunnies, and the bears. Tourist season means the buffet is open! No matter how often we tell tourists not to leave food in their cars or trash unprotected it still happens. And the bears know this, so as soon as tourist season heats up, so does bear activity.
Because of the increase in bear activity when tourist season gears up, all of the trash cans and dumpsters in town are “bear proofed”. There are some pretty inventive ways to bear proof a dumpster inexpensively. One of the restaurants in town uses a car battery and lengths of chain to electrify their dumpster. Works pretty well. Another uses bottles of bleach and vinegar sprinkled over the garbage and hangs gallon bottles around the outside of the fence surrounding the dumpster. Doesn’t work. My parents use a steel bar across the top of their dumpster that is attached with heavy-duty bungee cords – when the bear pulls up on the lid the bungee cords slam the lid back down. Works well, frustrates the bear and makes a lot of noise. The livery uses come-along straps wound over the top of the dumpster and tightened down, then another come-along strap to secure it to a tree so it can't be knocked over. Works most of the time, especially when whoever takes out the trash remembers to tighten down all of the straps.
One night I had a dream that Mom's horse, Jesse, was kicking at the feed bin in the middle of the night and the sound woke me from a sound sleep.
Bang! Pause, bang!
I pulled my pillow over my ears, snuggled more deeply into the sheets, and tried to go back to sleep.
Bang! Pause, bang!
I was cussing that spoiled brat of Mom's out in my head, visualizing storming outdoors and across the yard to kick the crap out of her so I could go back to sleep. Then I realized...it's not Jesse. Crap! It's a bear. About the time it registered that it's a bear in our dumpster, there was one final BANG – more like an explosion – and I was out of bed, into my pajamas and boots (now that's a look to inspire fashion - flannel jammies and cowboy boots) in record time. I got to the door of the bunkhouse and realized, crap, I don't have anything to scare the bear off with, so I decided I'd just slip into the kitchen next door, literally 5 feet from my door, and wake up Boss man (if he managed to sleep through it) and get some cans or something to rattle around to scare it off. From a safe distance, of course. Nothing overtly threatening, just an obnoxious noise to make it decide to dine elsewhere. OK, so it was kind of a wussy plan, but it was late and my brain was still asleep.
Decision made, I took a deep breath and opened the door, not wanting to draw the bear's attention just yet, even though the dumpster should have been 30 yards from my door. I say "should have been" because there was a lot of banging going on and a good sized bear can move a full dumpster a long way by smacking it around. I stepped outside just as Boss and his wife came out through the kitchen door and activated the motion sensor light. Boss had in his hand a spotlight and shined it on the bear at the end of the yard. All we could see of the bear was a big hairy behind sticking out of the dumpster that it has turned on its side. It reminded me of the story of Pooh Bear getting stuck in the window trying to get at the Hunny Jar – the dumpster was full of bear behind. I'm blind as a bat without my contacts in and can't see my hand in front of my face. When I got up and threw on my fashion-inspiring ensemble, I didn't include my contacts. I knew, even without my contacts, that this was one big bear.
Boss man, being the smart man he is, picked up a rock and threw it at the bear. I was standing next to the idiot, spotlighted by the motion sensor light, who had just thrown a rock at the bear and does not have anything with him to back him up. No gun. Big bear. E-norm-ous bear. One rock. One it-ty-bit-ty rock. No freaking gun.
I calmly suggested to Boss that maybe he should go get his gun.
Now, I'd grown up in the mountains. I'd worked at a gun shop. I shoot all disciplines of the sport. I have a fair working knowledge of hunting and back country animals. When I suggested to Boss that he get a gun, I meant a GUN. Preferably a 12-gauge shotgun with 1 1/8 ounce rifled slugs. Failing that, his Henry rifle. A GUN! Not the pea-shooter he came out of the kitchen with.
The rock that Boss had thrown interrupted the bear’s meal and an unbelievably large furry bottom backed out of the dumpster and it turned to look at us. This beast was literally the size of a VW bug. It was a VW Bear! Standing on all four legs, its back topped the dumpster by at least four inches. The ears on the beast were as big as my fully extended hand. I had never seen a black bear top two hundred pounds or so. This beast had to go at least six hundred. This was a well-fed bear (thank you tourists).
Apparently, my brain filter failed and I uttered, "Sweet Mother of Jesus", don't remember saying anything, just remember trying not to soil myself as the bear stood by the dumpster, unhappy at being interrupted during its mealtime, but I was reminded of this brain filter failure multiple times throughout the summer. Boss picked up another rock and threw it at VW Bear. It took off (not quite as fast as its automotive counterpart), probably more scared of the mentally unstable human throwing rocks at it than anything else. I mean, after all, who knows what crazy people will do?
Boss looked around and said, "ok, let's go clean it up." I didn't realize at the time that the only people outside were me, Boss and his wife. Everyone else had either slept through the commotion (yeah, right) or was cowering in their rooms. LB, a true city boy to the core, cowered in his room at the bunkhouse. Boss went down to LB's room to roust him and get him for clean up duty. Poor LB had awoken with the first bang! on the dumpster and had been watching everything unfold through his window, afraid that VW Bear might want him for an after-dinner snack.
We went down to the scene of the crime in force: a spotlight, shovel, and pea-shooter between the four of us and the bear god-knows-where. The beast had sliced clean through the straps that held the lid closed and had yanked so hard on the dumpster to turn it over that it snapped the strap that secured the dumpster to the tree. We managed to get everything cleaned up, the dumpster righted and secured and back to bed within short order, though I don’t think LB slept for a week after that.
The next morning, I suggested to Boss that he maybe invest in a real gun rather than the pea-shooter he had the night before. Indignant, he informed me that the "pea-shooter" he had the night before was an 1880's replica .45 Long Colt. Whoopty-freaking-do! A six-shot, single action .45 LC against a 600 pound bear that had to be unloaded and reloaded one cartridge at a time is a pea-shooter as far as I'm concerned.