bear

B Collision

You know…the road is a dangerous place to be, especially 107 in Mountain Rest. Dana and I were headed to Burrell’s Ford for a weekend of trout-fishing and hammocking. We were working our way up the winding mountain road, racing against nightfall and almost to our turn-off when a big black image rocketed into my peripheral. I hit the brakes, thinking I could avoid a collision but alas, I was too late. Our ears resonated with the sound of bumper and fender giving way to what apparently was not an unstoppable force. With my heart punding in my ears, I brought the truck to a stop and watched the reckless teenager spin around in the road and tear back off in the direction from whence he came. We were startled to say the least. “Did you…?” “Was that…?” And yes, it was….a bear.
I’m not sure what exactly started this adolescent bear on his trajectory but he was running out of the woods at a speed I thought un-natural for a critter. He definitely did not look both ways before crossing the street or he’d have seen two glaring headlights “bearing” down on him. Wearing an expression of true bewilderment, he went down with one paw outstretched and spun around. I’m sure our faces carried a similar expression. Astonishingly, he seemed no worse for the wear. When I inspected the truck for damage I was just as surprised to discover little evidence of the impact…other than a smear of mud.
Needless to say, Dana had to summon a little more courage than is usually necessary to walk the 15 minutes in the dark and sling her hammock between two trees. I have to admit I heard echoes in my brain of comments made by friends, “That hammock is just a pinata.” “It’s just a meat bag for a bear.” Our courage and resolve were strengthened, however, by the presence of our trusty trail guide Scooby (who seemed be recovering nicely from the stun of being thrown against the back window of the truck) and Dana’s new charge Frodo, a shih-tzu (pronounce it how you like) puppy.

Once the bear bag had been hung and the coals from the campfire had burned down to embers, we zipped ourselves into our pinatas for a cozy nights rest…that never came. This night we discovered the value of a good sleeping bag. We do not own good sleeping bags. We own inexpensive sleeping bags made by Ledge, that provide almost zero warmth. Now, it does need to be said that weather.com registered a 26 degree low in Mountain Rest that night but ours were supposed to be 20 degree bags. They’re not. Dana said the only way she could “bear” (okay, I’m done) it was the minimal warmth provided by Frodo. I must admit, I had considered putting Scoob in the hammock with me but thought better of it due to weight, fur and funk concerns. So, around 3:30 a.m. I rose to boil water which I poured into my Nalgene and used as a bed-warmer to cut the harshness of the chill. It wasn’t much but I was able to cop a coupla z’s before the sun came up.
Sunrise found Dana on the river, landing her limit of beautiful trout while encircled by 8 cute little kids, seven girls and a boy. (Along with their 5 dads they were our neighbors for the weekend.) Not a bad haul considering. Since I slept in every piece of clothing I owned it didn’t take a lot of self-talk to convince myself to leave the “comfort” of the hammock, revive the fire, boil water and enjoy a breakfast of instant grits, a toasted peanut butter sandwich and some strong, black sumatra. In the midst of my groggy, morning ritual I was approached from behind by a little girl…one of the 8:

“Hi, my name is Helena. What’s your name?”

“Hi Helena, I’m David.”

“David? I know who David is. I learned about him in Sunday School. He’s a Great shepherd and a Great king. My Daddy’s name is Mike. He’s a Great Fixer.”

“Is that right? What does your daddy fix?” “Oh, he fixes houses and cabinets and dressers. My moma is a Great RSDO. What sort of RSDO are you?”

“Uh, I don’t …I don’t know what you…what do you mean?”

About this time Helena’s dad walks up with the most genuine grin I’ve ever seen. It’s obvious he loves this little girl. Helena does the introductions and leaves her dad and I to talk. As our coffee lost its heat to the morning chill we discovered we had in common our professions as well as our faith. He invited me to visit the co-op he runs just a few miles from where I work and he used a phrase to describe his wife’s employment that clarified Helena’s question: She owns an Art Studio…rather than an RSDO. Oh.

Funny thing is I still don’t really have an answer. I’m a Great…a great…I’m a Great…big mess, maybe. But something I’ve learned and maybe you learned in Sunday School…He is Great. And hidden in that is the answer to the other. As Dana and I drove back down the mountain (ever alert for bear), I was grateful for Helena’s question posed in perfect Junie B. Jones fashion and the journey I’m on to find the answer.

Thanks Helena.