The Bear

When I was a young boy, I spent some time at my Aunt Sherry’s house around ten or twelve. My parents would send me there when I was driving them bananas. There were several times that I went to her house which was always fun for me because my cousin Randy was there. He was several years older than me, but we played well together. Her house was a small one-story place with a large kitchen in the front and a little living room set in the back.

In front of the house was a large mountain and their house was set in the middle of a small field with a river that ran behind that.

One day, we had been playing down in the river below the house trying to catch craw-dads. Coming out of the water onto the sand bar, we saw large tracks. Having studied Boy Scout books (even though neither of us were a part of the Boy Scouts), we knew these tracks were bear tracks. They were very large! We followed the tracks up into the field behind the house and moved up the yard following the tracks in the wet grass.

Yet, upon coming to the paved road we lost the trail. Seeing bear tracks of course made us excited, but also a little frightened. Black bears in these parts were no joke. We had heard stories of hunters who had shot bears with an arrow only to have the bear continue to charge them and kill them when the arrow had not done enough damage.

Several days later, we were coming back from our swimming hole when we decided that we needed a snack. While ideas like this were not common, we decided to not go home to get a snack but to head up onto the mountain to get some blackberries. Randy knew of an area on the side of the mountain called the Blackberry Maze where there were many bushes of blackberries. There were so many in fact that the paths between the bushes made a large maze on the side of the mountain, thus the name.

So off we trudged into the mountains. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the closer we got to the maze, the thicker the brush became. Coming out into the maze, the bushes were taller than me and the winding paths were close nit. They hadn’t been created by people, but by the animals who frequented the area. Off we went sampling the fresh berries. Picking and eating the berries was fun and made you feel like you were a part of the land. We were natives in a natural world living off of nature—freedom in the truest sense of the word.

That’s when we heard it; a snorting sound coming from the edge of the maze, outside of it, and inside the dense brush of the forest. Both Randy and I stopped. Turning we looked at each other.

“Did you hear that?” I asked. “Yes,” Randy replied, whispering.

“Is that what a bear sounds like?” I asked. “Um, I’m not sure,” Randy said.

We heard that distant snorting again, and this time the brush on the side of the maze began rustling and swaying. Something significant was coming this way. Something that made our skin crawl and our imaginations light up.

“We need to get out of here,” I whispered and Randy nodded his head. He led the way out of the maze and once he got to the edge of the area, he jumped up and swung himself into a tree. I followed and soon we were both sitting in the highest branches of a tree off to the side of the Blackberry Maze.

“Can’t black bears climb trees?” I asked, upon settling myself into the crook of a limb. Randy looked over at me, “Yeah” he said. We both began hopping from limb to limb down the tree as fast as we could, but upon coming to the bottom of the tree once more, the noise from the side of the maze came again louder this time. We both froze.

Then, out from the brush at the side of the maze, stepped the largest example of this creature I have ever seen. A buck stepped into the area of the maze. Not a bear, a buck. A deer with antlers as wide as a car bumper stepped through the brush. He snorted and bounded over to our tree. Now in the years since this happened, I have been told this is not normal deer behavior, but I can attest this is true nonetheless. That deer came directly below our tree and scraped his antlers on the bark. He then proceeded to stamp his hooves and circle the tree for the next hour, not letting either of us come down.

I can only guess as to his motivations, but my assumption is that he had himself a girlfriend somewhere nearby and our presence was disrupting his ability to give her attention in a “baby-making” sort of way, but this is only an assumption. Maybe he didn’t like us eating his berries. Either way, after that hour he seemed to lose interest and wandered off. We were able to come down and head home. That’s the story of how I thought we were being chased by a bear, that turned out to be a deer.

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