When you hear the word bear, what image comes to mind for you? A favorite threadbare teddy bear, cuddled in the arms of a young child before bed? Christopher Robin, deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, playing with his friends Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and most of all, Winnie the Pooh? Or do you see the Tinman, Scarecrow and Dorothy, with terror on their faces, walking through the woods... lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Rural life in Pennsylvania means living with the Pennsylvania black bear. Ursus americanus. Ursus is Latin for bear. It can also mean a type of Icelandic vodka or Romanian beer, either of which I might have enjoyed relaxing with after encountering a bear on the farm.
Bears like our farm, even though we take all the necessary precautions. We store our bird seed and dog food in metal containers, clean our grill after each use, and take out our garbage on the day it is picked up. But when you live on a farm, be it a small one, certain features of it will attract bears. Like a corn field. Or misplaced watermelon rind. It can't be helped.
Several years ago, my youngest daughter and I sat on our porch on a warm summer night, treating ourselves to large slices of a fat, juicy watermelon. It was deliciously sweet, and we engaged in our usual seed spitting contest off the porch. Because we were tired, and lazy, we left the rind by the maple tree near the porch, to take to the compost bin later.
We turned on a movie, living room windows open to allow in the breeze, and forgot about our abandoned rind. Soon, we heard a sound outside the window... a deep harrumphing and grunting. We looked at each other and whispered, "Bear!"
The living room is on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen porch and the discarded rind. As we sat quietly, the grunting sound disappeared, to be followed by a commotion on the porch. A clanging and banging, heavy walking, heavy panting, heavy harrumphing. Then all was quiet.
My daughter and I sat wide-eyed, unmoving, waiting. Soon the quiet and our curiosity got the best of us. We had to look outside!
We crept into the kitchen and peered out the kitchen door window. Our porch furniture had been turned topsy-turvy. But there was no bear on the porch.
I flipped on the floodlight on the post behind the house and opened the door a crack. Just then our neighbor came around the bend in the road in his pick-up truck. We saw him slow down and stop before he came to our driveway.
In the middle of the road, illuminated by his truck headlights, sat a massive black bear, our watermelon remnants surrounding him as he enjoyed a juicy late-night meal!
Photo by Getty Images/AwakenedEye.