I’m very happy living in the woods, as you probably know. I love looking out the window or stepping outside, and seeing green, green, green. Lush, fresh, it never gets old.
But Saturday I had a pause in my love for the forest. We had walked a half mile down our gravel road to a neighbor’s party. The less sociable of my household left for home early, which left me, 11-year-old Megan, and 9-year-old Jacob heading for home at the party’s end. Just me and the little kids.
Jacob had brought his bike, and though I told him to stay with us, he pedaled far ahead. (This surprises no one who knows Jacob.) There are only woods and less than a dozen driveways along this road, so it wasn’t a big deal. Megan and I walked peacefully behind, Megan enlightening me about a mafia-type game she had played at the party.
While the gravel road to our friends’ house is off the beaten path, we are off a second, even less beaten path. When we reached our turn, I looked up the road expecting to see Jacob. Instead, a few hundred yards ahead, I saw what looked like two large black dogs. It took a moment to process that I was looking at bears, and I felt my stomach drop before the question really hit me: Where was Jacob?
I called Jacob’s name, but instantly wondered if that was wise. If he had already made it safely past the bears without seeing them, would he hear me and head back toward me?
He answered, but I couldn’t tell where his voice was coming from, or what he was saying. It could have been, “I’m at the end of the driveway, see you at home,” or “Help, there are bears sniffing me!”
Just then, our friends pulled up in their Suburban. They were also leaving the party. I stopped them, opened the back seat of their car, tossed Megan in (over the laps of their seat-belted children), and climbed in myself (scooting next to their seat-belted children).
“Jacob…bears….go!” I said, and they are good friends, so they understood, and drove.
We didn’t see the bears (although later I called the nearest neighbor, who looked out her window and said with annoyance, “Ah, yes. They are down by our swing set, the stinkers.”). By the time we got to the house, Jacob was walking in our back door. Although he must have passed within yards of the two bears, he never even noticed them.
This is not the first time we have encountered wildlife. We’ve heard bears making their cumbersome, crashing way through the woods, and even sometimes seen them from the car. A coyote once came right into the yard, but left as soon as it saw that our dogs were really as big as their bark. And once, I suspect that one of the dogs treed a cougar, but it was way down in the woods, so not a big deal. But let me tell you, when a couple of bears got between this mama and her Ja-cub, I was ready to rumble.
Now, on this non-rainy July day, my kids are hanging around inside the house. Normally I send them outside, tell them to go for a bike ride. Today, I think I’ll keep them in sight.