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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Grumpy the Wide Awake Bear

Hello my friends,

It has been a crazy couple of weeks with Halloween preparations and making decorations for friends, birthdays for daughter and grandsons, a huge election for the country and a lot of issues with Mr S.

Anna's dad had several falls that we only learned about after he banged himself up good. And it wasn't until he was discovered on the floor of his apartment, claiming to be "getting dressed", that it all came to a screeching stop. He got yet another ambulance ride to the ER, this time to be admitted to the hospital on October 31st. He was just released today, November 8th, to go back to his living accommodations, but for now into the rehabilitation unit. We shall see if he can improve upon his ability to care for himself and thus continue to live independently. The alternative is to move into the nursing home wing and I don't think he will like that very much.

Also during this period we received word that our local Mensa group newsletter the Neva-Mind (Anna being the editor), has once again won best newsletter in the entire country. A total of four awards for the Neva-Mind, plus one (national award) for yours truly for best non-fiction essay for "I'm Not Throwing Them Away" also featured on this blog back in May. We also won the award for best small group web site, (webmistress Mindy take your bow).

One humorous note; a comment (criticism) from one reviewer complained that I didn't combine the sequel "More Valuable than Gold" with the first story. I didn't write the second part until 12 years after the first one, and that in response to readers who wanted to know the rest of the story after the first was published in the Neva-Mind. Both stories have now been published (with permission) in other newsletters and all of this, still wouldn't buy me a cup of coffee.

The story for today is from 1975 and my first winter in Alaska. I hope that you all have vivid imaginations and can picture the events as I describe them, and rest assured, they were even funnier in person! Enjoy!

Grumpy the Wide Awake Bear

It was early winter in 1975 and the ice was finally frozen hard enough over Mosquito Lake on Fort Richardson to go ice fishing. We had been talking about it and waiting for the right conditions for months. A couple of the more experienced guys (from Michigan and Minnesota) that I worked with decided that it was a good day for it and went to Recreation Services and checked out an ice auger to cut the holes with while the rest of us brewed up some coffee and made some sandwiches for a day of fishing.

Now I don't know why, but the below zero cold never bothered us when we were going fishing (as opposed to the whining when it was work related). Maybe because we expected to be cold and knew that it was just the way it was, or our youth prevented us from caring (lack of good sense); whatever the reason we dressed appropriately (warm and in layers) so it was no big deal. There is a certain perversity to the idea of sitting on a block of ice and putting your hands into cold water when you spend the rest of your days trying to stay warm. But hey, it’s fishing!

It took a while to drive out the snow covered dirt road to the lake, even with my four wheel drive vehicle. You didn't want to get going too fast because you would slide into a ditch, or get hung up on the snow banks on the side of the road; even with four wheel drive it could ruin your day. When we got to the intersection with the only other road around the lake we saw tire tracks which were wiggling and sliding from side to side and figured that we would see that vehicle stuck somewhere before long.

As we neared the lake itself and could see the actual frozen surface, we thought that we could see lights reflecting repeatedly off to one side of the area where you entered to fish. We pulled into the parking area, (which was just a clearing in the brush, almost at the lakeshore itself) and sure enough there was a sedan from the base police, according to the lettering on the door and confirmed by the red and blue lights on top which were going full tilt.

The sedan was kind of "parked" at a funny angle, with the front end and driver's side higher than the rest of the car. We guessed that the driver was playing and tried a real fancy pursuit slide or something, based upon the marks in the snow, and got hung up on the brush pile.

That was just the minor problem as we found out, because right then an MP holding onto a radio microphone with a cut off cord, went zooming around the car with a really grumpy looking brown bear chasing him! The whole time he was running, the young fellow was still talking into that microphone, calling for backup!

His partner was still inside the car with his seatbelt jammed and for some reason, probably the lack of a microphone, he was having a dickens of a time getting through to the police base. He was yelling into the speaker that they needed assistance... I guess the poor fellow didn't understand how speakers work, or something.

When the vehicle slid to a stop, it just happened to land on top of Mr. Grumpy's bedroom; which was a cave of sorts in the thick brush pile where he had settled in for a snooze and got interrupted. I don't know if you are at all familiar with the habits of bears, but waking one up from his winter nap is a BIG No No. They have absolutely no sense of humor and want to shred whatever caused the disturbance.

Our two heroes were dressed for being inside a warm cozy office, and probably were assigned to exactly that and thought they would go outside and play "Patrolmen in Pursuit" or something. They did not have on long johns, they were wearing uniform dress shoes, and no parkas or gloves; they might just as well have been naked out there in the ten below zero winter weather. It was obvious that they were very cold, even the guy running from the bear, as he had been outside long enough before Grumpy showed up to get some minor frostbite on his fingers.

We were guilty of laughing ourselves silly before we got out and threw a couple of cherry bombs... er, fishing aids... at the bear and all four of us walked towards him yelling and waving our arms, presenting a kind of "united front" and got him to reconsider his options. He finally did move off in search of a better neighborhood, where the humans didn't park on your roof!

The police vehicle was not operable as it had a branch stuck into the oil pan and the belts were gone (I suspect that they broke from the sudden stoppage of the engine). The body had been severely hammered by Grumpy as he took out his anger and it looked like it had been in a rollover (it had not) with its buckled hood and crushed fenders all around. So after we cut MP number two out of his seat belt, and convinced him that the bear was gone, we loaded them up in my International and hauled them back to the main base where they reported to their Duty NCO. We got out of there as fast as possible, lest the MP D.O. might think that we had anything to do with their misadventures.

We never did go back out there to fish; it was getting too late in the day and besides Grumpy was still around there somewhere, and he was probably still really cranky about the unscheduled wake up call. It was best to give him a year or so to forget.

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