The Bear

Michael David West

© Copyright 2002 by Michael David West 


Photo of Yellowstone Falls.

The sound came from deep in the forest, and getting closer with every beat of my racing heart. I knew it had to be a Grizzly. I came to Red Forest to save my sanity with the bear’s help. The bear was the only thing that could rescue me, I knew that so I waited. These great beasts had haunted me since I was an eight-year-old.

Years ago my parents took me to the Yellow Stone National Park. They had always dreamed of taking a vacation there. We visited Ole Faithful Geyser, and I watched it in amazement as the hot water shot into the blue sky at least a hundred feet.

That night Mom and Dad planned to see five of the at least ten large water falls at Yellow Stone the next day. Dad told me their names and said they are called off trail falls.

The next day we hiked to the five falls. At Hidden Falls we ran into trouble. It happened so fast that my memories still play tricks on me. Hidden Falls was the last fall we were to look at that day. With the sun going down the light began to fade. I was looking at the falls when I heard Mom cry out. I turned to see a large bear standing over her, and it was biting her neck. Dad ran to help Mom, but the bear heard him coming. It turned standing on its hind legs facing him. It stood seven feet, and with its paws raised it was a fierce sight. Dad didn’t slow down a second, he went right at the bear, yelling for me to run away.

The spectacle transfixed me so I couldn’’t move a step. Just before Dad got to the bear, he looked at me and yelled, "Run John, right now.” That was the last thing I heard him say. While I was running, I could hear the bear and my Dad battling. The fight did not last long, because I heard the bear coming after me.

I ran with every bit of my strength. I knew the bear was going to catch and kill me. The only thing I could think to do was, climb a tree. I ran for an oak with low branches and clambered up like a crazed monkey. Ten feet up and I heard the bear at the base of the tree.

The bear looked up at me growled and stomped up and down on its front legs. I felt the tree quiver and then shake. The bear stood on its hind legs and with its front paws banging at the tree. I thought, God, its going to shake this tree so hard I’ll fall. It stopped and just looked at me for what seemed two hours, but in reality was only about two minutes. The bear decided to climb for me, and it began coming up with little difficulty. I started climbing higher but knew I could only go so far.

When the bear climbed, the whole tree shook like it was about to fall. The bear was only ten feet from me when I began to smell its breath. It smelled of blood and something else I couldn’t make out. Even to this day I still haven’t determined what that other smell was.

Five feet from me the bear stopped and just looked for a second or two. I closed my eyes and prayed for God to take my soul after the bear took my life. Nothing happened so I open my eyes and the bear was still staring at me. It was breathing hard from the chase, and sniffing the air like it was trying to find something. The bear looking right at me gave a piercing growl and backed down.

I have never understood why it didn’’t kill me. I told the park ranger later what happened and he said, “No telling why it let you go. Just be thankful that Grizzly didn’t pull you down off that tree.”

I made the fire larger so I could see farther into the woods. The sound got closer and I could hear its breathing. I thought, What in the world am I doing sitting here in the dark waiting for something that can kill me? But of course I knew what I was doing even if it did seem unwise with my nemesis coming toward me. I’d lived with this fear and had to rid myself of it.

Ever since the death of my parents, and the bear chasing me I’ve had a fear of life. Every time I’d try to do something in school and right through my business life the bear has stopped me. It would always show up in my mind coming up that tree. Now it was the tree of life it had me up. I’ve gone to head shrinks for help and they would tell me I must forget the bear. Well I knew that already. I’’d paid them $200.00 an hour to divulge that so called hidden fear.

The sound was coming closer now, and it had to be right at the edge of my firelight. I strained my eyes trying to see something moving, but saw nothing. The movement stopped, but I could still hear the breathing. I called to it, "Come into the light and let me see you.” Nothing, just the bear’s breathing. ““Please come into the light I must talk with you.” The dry leaves rustled with its movement toward the light.

My God, look at what I wanted to come closer for a conversation. I thought to myself. It was huge, grander than the one at Yellow Stone, which I thought impossible. It stood there looking at me and then it growled with the force of an unearthly spirit. It sat like it was waiting for me to do something. The bear surveyed the small camp I had set up and then its gaze came back to me.

The Grizzly stood and started walking around the camp always making sure it stayed in the light. It started to foam at the mouth, and I thought, It must be hungry, but it made no motion toward me just slowly walking around the camp. It stared at me waiting for something.

The fire started to die, which made the circle of light smaller and of course the bear came closer. I threw some wood on the fire making the light a larger border again. But the bear didn’’t move away from me. I knew my time was running out with the bear getting closer. It must have been studying me making sure I had no weapons to hurt it. But of course that would have been giving the bear too much credit. It was just an animal doing what its instincts told it to do.

That’s when it came to me. The Grizzly back in Yellow Stone didn’t come after me, because where I was in the tree the branches were too small to support him. There was nothing else to it. The bear was just following its instincts that nature had given it. It was not a supernatural happening just nature taking an impulsive turn to my fortune.

At that moment the Grizzly growled at me, and then turned walking back into the forest. Was it the fire that made it leave? Maybe the Grizzly had done its job, and knew it was time to leave. I did know, that now I would be able to live my life without fear of the bear. The eight-year-old in me was at peace, because the grown man now understood.

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