Cringe of the wild

Heart thudding my ribs, I waken. I expel breath caught in my throat and sink into the pillow. Oh, brother, another bear dream. Fading now is whatever led to my dumbstruck stare into the animal’s furious face as it roared only yards from me. I'd glanced at a rifle in my hands and discovered it was made of lined notebook paper; the part I yanked down to cock it simply tore away.

I think I know what caused this rendition of a familiar nightmare. Near the woods last weekend my son parked behind an empty station wagon. We climbed from the car to scout for a trail. The car ahead of ours bore dozens of stickers on its backside – slogans promoting peace and candidates from elections long past.

I stuck some things in our trunk, in case we decided to hike. My son wandered a bit and returned to tell me this wasn’t the right place. He got in the car while I closed the trunk. I’d automatically locked my door (thanks to Tim’s training I’ve done this most of my life upon exiting a vehicle), so I aimed my key at the lock.

A low, labored Wuff sounded behind me. An animal of size. My imagination flashed on a just-done-hibernating bear empty of tummy and lengthy of claw. I spun to see a huskyish dog, head low, rushing at me.

My fingers fumbled as I cried out. Just as I opened the door the dog halted in its tracks, turned, and ambled back the way it had come.

My son chuckled. “I unlocked the door for you,” he said. I hadn’t noticed.

“It’s just, it could’ve been a –.” I leaned weakly on the armrest.

He shook his head.

Maybe if I would actually ever see a bear in the wild, I’d get over my nightmare-spurring phobia. Truth is, we rarely spot striped chipmunks on our mountain-view ventures, let alone creatures of large girth. Oh, yeah, once we startled a fat toad, but that doesn’t much count.

Other hikers, though, tell me they’ve come fairly close to brown bears many a time. The animals are pretty shy, my friends who hike reassure me. They’d rather avoid me than eat me.

Well, sure, they can say so. They lack my experience. Every time I stayed home sick from grade school (after it had been a few weeks since I last missed, long enough to convince myself I really must be feverish and it was all right to tug on my dear mom’s sympathies), I read at least two books. Usually Charlotte’s Web came first (the animals, the humor, the love), and often next I opened Old Yeller. Fred Gipson’s tale was tragic, lovely, exciting. And the initial deed of adventure and bravery done in the book by the star, Yeller the dog, was a rescue of the little brother, Arliss, from a bear.

Of course, the story makes plain the lesson not to play with a bear cub by the creek as Arliss did, and certainly not to get so scared you hang onto the cub’s leg while its mother charges you. But I know. If a cub wanders away from its mother toward anyone, worrying the mother murderous sick until she finds her babe, that someone in the path at that wrong moment will be me.


Anonymous said…
I appreciate your nightmare about the bear. You Dad and I hiked in Glacier Park on our 25th wedding anniversary and we were told to wear bear bells and talk loudly. The bears do not want to come close to us, but we didn't want to surprise one by accident. I never had a nightmare about bears. Mine is about being caught in a huge train station with trains moving all around me and not being able to get out!
Cecily said…
Sometimes I can interpret dreams pretty alright (well, mostly I'm making it up based on what I know of the person, but they are often amazed by what I come up with, so maybe I can interpret after all!)... but you've done a pretty good job of interpreting it yourself. :-D

Thankfully in Australia we have no bears... plenty of creepy crawlies, but no bears.
Deanna said…
I never knew about that nightmare of yours, Mom. Sounds scary. I have remember your and Dad's stories about Glacier, and I recognize people around here don't feel the need for bells, so maybe that means we're safer(?).

Cecily, I'll try to remember to ask your opinion next time I have a puzzling dream. And, right, glad you have no bears, but there are those tiger-sized spiders...