By Charlie Place (Host Charlie)
The bear's large angry eyes were no more than a foot from my face. Its lips
were curled back, saliva dripped from its long pointed teeth. I could barely look
at the magazine cover. Even after two fishing trips to Alaska without so much
as seeing a bear, I was still nervous. I was going to Maine in a week. Foremost
on my mind was the possibility of encountering a bear. Little did I know that my
fear would become a reality.
My good friend Ernie and I arrived in the town of Bruinn about noon. Even though
it was a nine-hour drive, our modus operandi was to rush to our reserved cabin, grab
an adult beverage, unload, and head for the stream, without actually unpacking. The
point was to catch at least one landlocked salmon apiece before the other half of our
foursome arrived. If we were successful, they would be stuck with the supper dishes.
I dropped Ernie off at his favorite pool and drove about a mile downstream. We figured
splitting up would give us the best chance of avoiding the dreaded dish detail. I picked
a small isolated pool that I had fished before with good results, parked at the edge of
the paved road and walked the last fifty yards through the woods. Fishing was slow.
Two hours passed without even so much as a hit. Having driven a long way and
skipped lunch, I was getting the munchies. I searched my vest for some crackers
or a candy bar left over from my last outing. I found a Snickers. The chocolate
was melted and the paper was stuck to the gooey mess, but with some careful
unwrapping I deemed the bar edible. Just as I took a bite, a salmon hit my fly.
I had left the Black Ghost swimming about thirty feet downstream while I salvaged
the sun-baked sweet. The salmon bolted across the stream, taking up the slack
fly line and getting himself on the reel. The half bitten chocolate bar hung from
my mouth, as the hooked speedster left the water for the first time. Twisting and
turning the startled fish came down on its side, slapping the water, soaking the top
of a nearby rock. After two more jumps and a long run the bushed fighter was
ready to be landed. I reached around to the back of my vest and grabbed my
net. Extending the bungee, I slipped the net under the silver twenty incher. Suddenly
there was an enormous splash! The net was ripped from my hand. Confused, I
quickly wiped the cold water from my eyes. A crazed raccoon had leaped from
the riverbank on to my fish and started downstream, almost pulling me over. As
fast as I could, I grabbed the stretched cord and pulled. The net came loose from
the masked thief and shot back hitting me in the head. Dazed, I took a step toward
dry land, spun around, and fell back, half in the water, half out. I must have passed out.
Still groggy I became slowly aware that something was licking my face. Eating the
mashed chocolate bar! I squinted my eyes open. It was a bear! My nightmare!
My heart was pounding! I didn't know what to do! The bear kept on licking.
Panic-stricken, I reached up, grabbed the hungry bruin around the neck, and put
the biggest sloppiest kiss on her that I could. Startled, the bear dug in its feet and
tried to pull away. I let go. The surprised chocolate lover stumbled back a few
steps and fell on her butt. I jumped up and rushed out into the stream. I stood
there, mid-river, slightly over my waders with coldwater running down my legs.
The dumbfounded bear and I looked at each other for a long moment. Finally,
she snorted, turned, and ran back into the woods.
Completely shaken, I walked upstream a few hundred yards, cut across somebody's
lawn and circled back to my car, all the time wondering how I still had my fly rod.
On that long walk I decided not to tell my buddies about the bear encounter. It
was a cinch they wouldn't believe me, and all I had to show for it was chapped lips.
I touched my sore lips. How long was she licking them anyway? Back at camp I
took a hazing for falling in the river. After I did the dishes, we played cards for a while,
tied flies and told fish stories. Ernie asked me what happened to my mouth. "It's
all red," he said.
The next morning Ernie wanted to go a place called The Falls. It wasn't too far from
where I had met the bear. "Ah, What the heck," I thought. "It couldn't happen again."
Besides, I didn't have any more candy bars. We no more than stopped at the end of
the short dirt road leading to the falls, when my car began to bounce up and down
violently. I looked in my rear view-mirror. There was a bear, much larger than the
first, with its two front paws on my trunk, pushing on my car. Ernie and I exchanged
frightened looks. The huge bear stopped, walked around to the driver's side, and
ook a swipe, knocking my antenna off. Then he walked to the front of the car, lifted
his leg and relieved himself all over my hood. The king-size fur ball then walked a
few feet away and with his hind legs sprayed dirt all over the wet present he had
just left. Then he strutted off and disappeared into the thick undergrowth.
We sat there trying to compose ourselves. After shaking several minutes, Ernie
broke the fear-soaked silence. "Geez, I've never seen a bear that mad before."
he quipped. "He acted like you were messing with his girl or something."
~ Charlie Place
Lighter Side Archive