Chasing The Bear While Almost Bare-Naked

Kurt Schmidt

© Copyright 2023 by Kurt Schmidt

Photo by the author.
Photo by the author.

At 6:30 A.M on a late July morning I chased a bear in my underwear. I sleep in Fruit-of-the-Loom boxers and had no time to get dressed. I’d opened the bedroom curtains and caught him staring at one of my bird feeders. I tapped on the window and shouted. He saw me but didn’t budge. In thirty seconds that feeder would be down. I raced through the house onto the deck, shouting and waving and heading right for him. It was probably a stupid thing to do, but I could always reverse course if he came for me. But the bear rambled off down our back yard, moaning softly, presumably because he resented having to abandon his breakfast. I hoped my lunatic appearance and behavior had scared him off for the last time.

A month earlier I’d woken to discover this huge bear sprawled on the lawn with his long tongue swishing around inside a tubular bird feeder. Snapped poles, chomped feeders — what a mess. The metal screen around one of the feeders was bent in the shape of a jaw. Since the damage had already been done, I grabbed my camera and photographed him through the window. Then I got dressed and shouted from the deck, causing him to ramble off, moaning some indecipherable bear swear. I repaired the feeders and began bringing them inside at night, a pattern that displeased the chickadees, who were awake earlier than me in the morning and voiced impatience as they fluttered around my head while I returned the feeders to their poles.

I submitted my bear photo to the local newspaper, which publishes local wildlife or sunsets each Tuesday issue. But they printed it on the front page of their Monday paper, and suddenly everyone was confronting me about “my bear.” One gentleman who lives at least five miles away across forest and swampland, sent me his photograph of the bear, saying, “It seems we may have a visitor in common.”

A neighbor who lives up the road called to say he’d seen bear scat in his backyard the same morning as my intruder. I was glad the bear had not pooped in my yard, because I’d seen bear scat in the form of large pancake-type mounds and really didn’t want to deal with them.

Then one day as I started on a walk with my wife, I glanced across the road at Kitty’s lawn. And there it was — a mound.  Even from a distance, I could tell the bear had pooped on her lawn.  My bear. I walked on the lawn for a closer inspection. There were sunflower seeds mixed in with the deposit. It would have been gentlemanly of me to remove it from her lawn, but, damn, he wasn’t my bear. Not my responsibility.

I mean, what could be so tasty about black oil sunflower seeds anyway? Were they enough of a delicacy to compel the seed thief to return again and risk the wrath of a lunatic in boxer shorts? Who knows?  Bears are not easily dissuaded once they’ve memorized a hot feeding location.

I decided to keep bringing the feeders inside at night until the first snow, when the bear would be tucked away in his den for the winter. Almost three more months passed until a small snow one night in late October. So the next night I left the feeders out. I awoke to see that the bear had returned and dismantled the feeders again, hauling one into the woods. I followed his tracks for a bit until I saw where he’d dropped the feeder, the one with the metal cage around it, which now looked like the remnants of Jaws 2.

My neighbor Richard phoned later, around 8:30 in the morning, and said, “I didn’t want to call too early, but your bear was around last night.”

My bear.

Kurt Schmidt’s memoirs and stories have appeared in the
 Boston Globe Magazine, Bacopa Literary Review, Barzakh MagazineDiscretionary LoveEclectica Magazine, the Adelaide Literary Award Anthology, and others. He is the author of the novel Annapolis Misfit (Crown). He lives with my wife in New Hampshire and last year overcame anxiety to fly in a small plane piloted by his son, although he was nervous that his son was newly licensed and inexperienced. He is currently finishing a 30-year memoir about parenting a risk-taker, who is now a husband, owner of a greyhound dog, and software engineer for aviation

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