Monday, December 31, 2012
The Day I Roped a Bear!
"You will not believe what I roped yesterday," Will said to me as I pulled my pick up truck into his yard.
"Knowing you, I am afraid to ask." I replied and then continued, "You are as big a liar as me - if that is possible."
"It was a bear!" He said slapping his thigh and laughing.
"No way! Where is Debbie? She will tell me the truth."
Just about then his wife, Debbie came out of the bunkhouse after cleaning it. She set down the broom and dust pan and came over to my truck as I was getting out. "So, did Will tell you what he did yesterday?" She asked.
"Is that really true? Are you two pulling one over on me?" I asked with both eyes squinted nearly shut.
In unison I heard 'em both say it indeed was a true story. I heard it over and over again even into the night around the campfire. There are two animals a cowboy would love to rope off his horse. One is a coyote and the other is a bear. Both are just about impossible. That night we three decided to camp out in the mountains on their property. Trixie was unable to come along as she planned to wash and wax her truck. So until the wee hours of the morning, Will must have told me the story at least a dozen times.
Here in The Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, we have lots of black bears. Us folks who live here respect them and know never to feed them and keep all food products locked up. Tourists are a different story. Some of these moron, city people think they are pets and actually try to throw out food to the bears. What happens is that the bears, who are naturally afraid of people, lose their fear when fed. They associate food with humans. Then they get too close and the Park Rangers have to dart 'em and re-locate them after tagging their ears. If the bear returns again, it is is killed. So when you feed a bear, you are leading it towards its death!
So anyway, I was thinking about Will roping a bear as I sat near the fire long after they went to bed. Early the next morning before daylight, an idea hit me (or 'ideal' as some people say here). 'If he could do it, so can I', was my thought as I left the campsite and tip-toed toward the horses. I saddled his mare and the two of us walked out of camp. About an eighth of a mile later, I mounted and rode into the mountains. Fog can be quite heavy early in the mornings. This was one of those days. My shirt was damp from the fog and the mist lay heavily on me and Will's horse. I couldn't see anymore than about twenty five yards ahead. Then it happened!
The mare's ears first shot straight up and then laid back. I felt her tighten beneath me as I squeezed my calves to prod her along. We came over a knoll and there is was! A full grown bear was about ten feet away from us downhill. She was so busy eating bugs from a dead fallen tree that she did not hear or smell us. The sounds of me freeing my rope seemed to echo off the canyon wall below. My adrenalin was racing my heart, I was rapidly breathing in excitement as I put a big loop in the rope, swung it overhead and fired away!
It was a perfect hit for the unsuspecting animal and I immediately dallied it around my saddle horn and spurred that mare! Off we went, racing back up and over the knoll to the path that led to the gravel road and into camp. That bear was snorting, growling, and rolling trying to right itself so it could run. The mare was blowing, her ears were laid back and she was fighting trying to drag the bear along the road. Me, I was snorting, howling, and laughing all at the same time! I was so excited. Then it hit me.
'What the heck was I going to do with this bear now that I roped her?' I figured Will and Debbie would never believe me in a million years that I also roped a bear. So I thought I'd drag that sucker back into camp and let go of the rope right by the fire pit. I imagined a huge wreck and lots of excitement. I was crackin' myself up at the very thought.
I felt a heavy tug and then another against my right leg from the rope. The bear righted itself and was now trotting along behind me and my horse. 'This is too funny,' I thought as the three of us pranced towards camp. A bear has claws - really big claws! They will shoot out like cat's claws, when it wants to attack or climb a tree. With no warning that bear charged up even with us and began to climb the rump of that mare. Its claws were ripping into the horse and it proceeded to climb up where I was sitting! The horse was kickin', turnin', crow hoppin' and screamimg in pain as the bear began its mount! I had no choice but to cut that rope and dive off!
A big rock broke my fall! It also broke my glasses and the heel off my left boot. My eye was sealed shut and stinging with pain. I squinted to see that bear riding away on top of the mare into the fog. 'Holy Crap!' How was I going to tell Will I gave a perfectly good saddle and horse to a bear? I was limpin' down the road towards our camp when off to my right I heard something crashing down through the timbers. I looked up with with my one good eye and could not believe what I saw!
That bear was a ridin' that mare, sitting square in the saddle, and had a loop built in my rope. Yep, it was tryin' to rope me!
If this story isn't true - one day it might be.