I was walking down my drive way yesterday from MIL’s home to my own. It is a good walk. We are within “sight” distance, but still it takes me a fair few minutes to make the trek. Let me put it this way: she’s almost to one end of my 11 acres; I’m almost to the other end.
MIL had fed me with one of my favorite comfort meals: meatloaf and English peas. She knows I love the little Le Sueur peas. Ummmmmmm. (No, I did not snap this picture, but it sure looks like her meatloaf!)
As I walked, I spied my neighbor, Midlife Countrygirl, out doing her usual gardening. I’ve written about Mary before, and all her industry. My hat is off to this woman. She cans, she gardens, she mows, she keeps up her pool, her house is spotless…SuperWoman if ever there was one.
One of the things I love about talking to Mary is that she brings me up to speed on what’s happening in the area.
“You know we’ve got a bear out here.” Mary told me. Truth be told, we all know we have bears out here—that is not news. The state record black bear was shot by a hunter not a quarter mile from my home about five years ago. No, Mary wasn’t advising me that bears live out here; what she was saying is that there is a bear “around” that can be spotted by humans…not a good sign.
Apparently, there is a sow and two cubs who have been spotted right near homes just up the road from us. They are seen mostly early morning and have been seen several times. I don’t mind the thought of bears—like it, actually, that I live where there is a diversity of wild fauna, but habituated bears unnerve me. I think they are dangerous—they should be shy of us, not coming intentionally among us.
Mary went on to say that our neighbor up the road had come out upon this Mama bear in the yard and that it growled at her, putting her back inside her house pronto. Again…not good.
Mary also gave me the comforting (not!) news that she and her husband had heard something “breathing” in my woods across my meadow from her home. It had caused her cat to listen and raise its fuzzed tail in alarm. Again…not good. Gave me the shivers, as my eyes followed her pointing finger to my woods. Creepy. Who knows what’s watching us from the forest’s edge?
I have yet to actually see a bear out here, although V’s daughter, M saw one on the side of the road one day maybe ten years ago. But we did hear a cougar one night—my granny would have called it a “panther.” My husband and I were sitting out on our porch one fall night not long after we had moved into this house. At that time, the woods to the back of our house were even thicker than now and unoccupied by humans. They are extremely dark at night because they are so thick. They rise up to blanket a high ridge which is part of the beginning of the foothills that eventually come into the Ozark Mountains. There is a lot of forest for hundreds of miles to our west, including a lot of National Forest.
As my husband and I enjoyed the fall cool, a hair-raising, loud scream filled the woods. Twice. At the time we had our enormous Alaskan Malamute, Shadow, who was never afraid of anything. Except that night. He literally bounded up on the porch between us.
There was absolutely no mistaking what we heard. All my life I have heard my kinfolk talk about “panther screams” and how they sound like a woman’s scream only ear-splitting. We knew it when we heard it.
My husband called the Game and Fish Commission the next day to talk about what we had heard. He was told there are no cougars in our area. They lied, hopefully to keep hunters from looking for them.
Not long after that, the cougar was spotted by our neighbor on his way to work about 5 in the morning. The cat was slinking across our road, just a quarter mile beyond us up the ridge, disappearing into the early-morning woods. Mary has seen one. And a few months after we heard it, the newspaper carried a photograph of one, captured by a hunter’s tree-mounted camera not far from our house.
I’m thankful for Chili and continue to maintain that a large dog (at least one) is important to have if you’re going to live in the country. While I know that Chili is no match for a bear fight, I also know that no bear is going to bother coming about where a large dog is raising a ruckus.
(Doesn’t Chili look like he’s in a police lineup in this picture?)
There’s just a little double-sided feeling at news of the bears. On the one hand, it brings a little trepidation, and I won’t be traipsing off afoot to MIL’s after dark, for sure. On the other hand, it’s kind of exhilarating to live in an area that is still a bit “wild.” C.