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Bear Hunting

by Bille Burdick

Gramma Bille here...with a cosy bedtime story...for your relaxation, enjoyment, amusement....or something. It probably doesn't have much to do with any of our discussions on net...or...maybe it does...I dunno...I just happened to think about pulling it out of archives ....not that it really says anything about bringing people into the church...or what you might do after they were in there....or anything like that.....

Evangelist of Laodicea

In the North Country, far beyond the last highways and settlements, by a tiny jewel of a crystal clear lake, there sits a certain simple cabin, jointly owned by four men. They work in the same busy office, day in--day out, fifty weeks of every year--faithfully walking the treadmills of their separate lives. But early every fall, during the days of summer's final fling, when the fruit of field and tree wants harvesting by man and beast, they leave the drudgery and toil of city life and turn their faces northward to their simple cabin.

It's an idyllic setting. The meadows and sparse forest surrounding the cabin abound in berry bushes. The lake swarms with fish. Here, insulated in time and space from the demands and frustrations of their daily scheduled hectic business world, freed even from the gentler pressures of family responsibilities, they can be their real selves--bear hunters.

It takes patience to hunt bear. The men spend long silent hours in the "blind" they have constructed, waiting for exactly the "right shot". There are whole days when rain confines them to their cabin, days too hot for bears to be about, long autumn evenings by lamplight after bears have gone to bed--these hours they fill with their favorite game of cards.

On this certain year, only days before departure date, one of the men became ill. Panic gripped the other three. They thought of those long hours without the fourth "hand" for their game--the game that every year survived the fiftyweek's interruption. The game must go on. They must find someone else. In desperation they appealed to Joe, their only other possibility.

Now Joe was city born and bred. His idea of getting close to nature was buying a flower from the street corner vendor. He had lost nothing in any north woods that he felt obliged to go hunt, and even a picture of a bear scared him speechless--but he too, was an avid card player--so at last he was prevailed upon to go.

The journey was long. Darkness fell before they turned off the main highway onto the narrow tracks that had once been a logging road. The headlights bored only a tiny tunnel through the brushy new growth that pressed in upon the sides of the road. Every jounce and jolt and scratch and scrape added to Joe's regret that he had ever let himself be talked into such a venture.

The cabin was no better; musty, lumpy, narrow mattresses on hard board frames, with obvious evidences of its year round inhabitants--four, six, and eight legged creatures of unknown dimensions and dispositions. Joe hoped he could black it all out with sleep--come morning he was headed for home.

But to a city dweller, accustomed to the friendly smile of the corner streetlight and the reassuring presence of a police siren, the velvety patterned blackness of the night north woods is terrible, its silence ominous, and its creakings and cryings--terrifying. Joe could not sleep a wink. The night creature symphony that quickly lullabied his companions into log-like sleep, terrorized him into petrified alertness.

An eternity later, dawn came. The symphony outside added new and eery voices, but discomfort in his bed and attraction for the light overcame his fear of the loon's unearthly cry, and quietly, so as not to disturb his sleeping companions, he pulled on his clothes and cautiously ventured forth.

The giant trees, so threatening in the night, now stretched forth majestic, kindly branches, blessing, sheltering the little cabin. Toward the lake, where soft mists steamed from its glassy surface, a natural meadow dotted with shrubs and slender trees slanted gently to a smooth sandy beach.

Lured by the beauty of the dawn he moved down the slope, feeling at last some of the peace and wonder that yearly drew his companions to this place. Down near the shore he came upon bushes heavy with fruit, and too naive to question their variety, pleasured himself for the first time in his life with a sweet breakfast served by the shrub that grew it. There was an unreal, hushed atmosphere about the place, like partaking of a sacrament in a mystic chapel. Morning mists still circumscribed the limits of his world within soft wispy curtains. The blue dome of the sky, a deeper, brighter hue than ever seen from city street, arched overhead. Completely won at last, he contemplated joyfully his coming weeks within this paradise and moved clockwise around his bush, enjoying his berries, oblivious now to sounds that had so terrified him, going "bump in the night".

He might better have stayed alert. He might then have questioned the rustling, snuffling noise on the backside of his bush, before he met the bear, breakfasting counterclockwise around the same bush--face to face.

Or, had Bear not had his nose so intent upon his breakfast, he might have fled before our hunter's unfamiliar scent. As it was, each equally supprised the other. Now had Joe been woodsy-wise enough to shout and flap his arms, Bear would have run the other way, for woodsy bears are more fearful than fearsome--but that was a theory Joe was not prepared to test. In the staring contest with Bruin, Joe conceded quickly and retreated toward the safety of the cabin faster than he thought he could--but not nearly so fast as he wished he could. Bruin was curious. He had heard of hunters who chased bears. He was intrigued by one who ran from bears--intrigued enough to follow after.

Joe didn't know he was only playing follow the leader with a curious cub. He thought he was being chased by a ferocious beast--and the beast was gaining on him. Lightning quick calculations told him he would reach the cabin first--but not far enough ahead to open the door, get through it, and shut it, before Bear got through it, too. A brilliant scheme leaped full grown to his desperate mind. He opened the door and jumped aside. Bruin, surprised in mid-stride, applied his brakes--but to no avail. Before he quite understood what was happening, he found himself within a dim cave with no exit.

Joe, having secured the door and congratulated himself on his brilliant strategy, calmed down enough to think about his companions still asleep in their bunks. He should, perhaps, waken them before Bruin did, and apprise them of their situation and responsibility. However, he had no desire to reopen that door and continue his personal involvement. Being a man of great resourcefulness, as well as feeling a certain sense of pride in his accomplishment--and responsibility for its outcome--he rushed around to the open window.

"Hey, fellows!" he shouted, "Wake up! Here's the first one. You take care of him while I go back and get another."

To some He gives the call and the gifts to be evangelists. To me He gives, for sleepers, bear, and hunters--all, a kindly, loving, somewhat understanding heart. And a cup. To offer filled with cold water or to use to measure--milk and flour, leaven, fruit and oil and salt. Mixed in the right proportions, held in proper proximity to heat--blueberry pancakes for breakfast!

And there is this possibility. The aroma of baking pancakes sometimes gently wakens sleepers, calls bear, and hunters, too.

This essay first appeared on Sdanet on January 31, 1995 under the subject line "Storytime . . . :)"

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