After reading my previous entry, a long-time reader wrote saying, “Yo, Danger, that bear story sucked compared to that other one you wrote. How about re-posting that one?”
Fair enough. I guess. Still, I’m not sure which one he was talking about. I mean, I’ve done bruin entries about:
Watching a bear get catapulted into a pond by an SUV that hit it at probably 40 mph, only to see it reemerge from the water, shake off the mat of algae, and contine on its way…
Reflexively crapping my pants when I crawled headfirst into a rock cleft near my house and almost bumping noses with a bear cub who was awaiting the return of his mother…
Watching my little welsh corgi chase a bear deep into the woods, only to have the beast turn on him and launch him 30 feet down the trail like a furry helicopter with a paw strike…
Spotting a Volkswagen Beetle parked in the middle of my street one night that turned out to be the largest black bear I’ve ever seen in my life…
Our neighbor who discovered in the spring that a bear had been hibernating all winter under her front porch when she spotted it while planting bulbs…
Another neighbor who left a bag of groceries in her car and realized it when the bear who tore the car’s front door off to get them got his butt jammed against the horn…
And NewWifey(tm) running down our driveway banging on a pot to scare away the cub that was about to tear apart yet another one of our trash bins:
Then spotting Mamma Bear and 2 more siblings coming up the street to join the picnic:
Before wisely deciding it wasn’t worth trying to save another 27-dollar trash bin, and retreated. (Notice the unconcerned neighbor in the background. He knows my trash smells better than his so he has nothing to worry about.)
There are a lot of bears where we live.
As if New Jersey wasn’t already dangerous enough.
The point is, I’ve had occasion to write a fair number of entries over the years regarding encounters with our local mega-fauna. So this reader has left me rather adrift by requesting a reprint, but not specifying which.
Knowing him though, it was probably this one. It was called:
Bear With Me
This is not going to become a golf blog. I promise. But this particular entry is about golf. And bears. Who may or may not golf.
Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about golf. I’m adding some helpful notes for the non-plaid-pants wearing public (ie: you), and have every confidence you’ll be just fine…..
On the way back from work Friday I stopped at my local Golfsmith to see if they were running any one day sales. They were: a clearance special on a number of used clubs. One caught my eye: a Cleveland CG12 60-degree for 19 dollars.
Nineteen dollars! (Helpful Note #1: They’re normally more than that.)
Woo hoo! I had been toying with the idea of trying one of these lofted wonders (HN #2: a club that hits the ball very high, but for only a short distance.), but didn’t have the $$ for a Wishon (HN #3: brand of clubs I play.) to match my irons. This used Cleveland looked in pretty good shape, including grip. Just in case though, I brought it back to the club maker counter and asked the guy if he thought the head/hosel/shaft (HN #4…you know what? Fuck it. You’re on your own from now on. Just Google anything you don’t understand. Jesus.) looked ok. He was very nice, gave it a good look, and pronounced it fit (not that I wasn’t gonna buy it for 19 bucks anyway, but still…). Then he said “gimme a sec” and ran a re-grooving tool on it. Next stop: cash register.
Had family over, so I couldn’t try it Saturday. But Sunday they left and and we had a bit of a warm snap, so I grabbed the Cleveland, set up my net and…really sucked. Really, really sucked. Seriously, I should have spent those 19 dollars on a softball bat and just beaten myself over the head with it. The effect would have been the same: instant headache.
But after, I dunno, 5 or 6 thousand swipes I finally forced my fat middle aged body to stay down long enough to get the club to hit the bottom of the ball for once (popping it over the net in the process), and began to see marginally better results after that. I don’t think I’m gonna add it to my bag yet, as my “success : suck” ratio is still about 1 : 384. But I’m not toying with the idea of exchanging it for a used softball bat any more either.
Anyway, after about an hour of “swipe…skull. ..swipe….skull….swipe …fat….swipe….skull” I saw, out of the corner of my eye, my little orange cat come tear-assing around the side of the house and dive into the woods across the street.
“That’s odd” I thought. “She normally doesn’t rouse herself for anything but food.”
I ambled over towards the side of the house to investigate.
I’d only gone about 10 feet when all of the sudden the cuuuutest little bear cub appeared from around the corner, heading towards me.
They were soooo cute! Fwuffy widdle bearkins with big black eyes and widdle black noses and….
And I was scared shitless.
Where there are baby bears, there are mommy bears. And every nature documentary I’ve seen about bears always takes great pains to point out that mommy bears tend to err on the side of extraordinary violence if they think their cubs are in danger. I didn’t want to hang around long enough to find out if that was just media hype.
The problem was, the 3 cubs were now midpoint on the line between me and my front door. And Mrs. B. was due to round that corner any moment I was guessing. Should I charge past the cubs and chance a face-to-face with her before I made it to safety? Should I join my cat? Run around the house the other way and risk ramming mom from behind?
Actually, none of those options crossed my mind. My mind had left the building. All I did was drop my new wedge and bolt. Towards the door.
I don’t even remember the trip. Funny about that. I know I either had to have weaved around, or leaped over, one – or more – cub, because the next thing I can actually remember was being halfway up the stairs to the door.
I’d made it!
At the top landing I stopped and looked down, just in time to see Mamma Bear rounding the corner. She saw her cubs ahead, sniffed the air, stood up, and sniffed the air again. She was probably as tall as me when vertical, but with a set of 4-inch steak knives at the end of each paw. She dropped back on all fours and shuffled across to her little ones.
Bears are actually simultaneously cute and majestic when hanging around as a family doing bear stuff on your lawn. Yeah, their poops are as big as a Smart Car and smell like rotting salmon and slow hikers. But other than that, it was fun watching the cubs tussle and yip while mom plopped down at the base of a tree and kept an eye on them.
So cute! (Have I mentioned that?)
And then one of the cubs spotted something shiny in the grass and trotted over to investigate.
My club! My new 19 dollar, never to be found at that price again, Cleveland CG12 60-degree wedge!
THAT I FINALLY MANAGED TO HIT A BALL WITH!!
To hell with cute and majestic. I was pissed.
I almost started to scream “No! Bad bear! Bad! Go away!” when I spotted all the other bears, including mom, heading over to check out the bright sparkly thing too. Discretion being the better part of survival (bears can climb porch stairs, I’m pretty sure) I shut up.
At first, like for maybe 3 seconds, the cubs just sniffed at it. But then one of them grabbed the club head in his mouth and started running around in circles with it. My new Cleveland wedge!
Well of course the other cubs immediately wanted in on that action. They piled on and fought to be the one who got to run around in circles carrying the magic stick in their jaws. All I could do was watch.
All Mamma Bear did was watch too. But after a few minutes of what to her was probably another in a series of silly kid fights over a tree branch, she turned and started for the woods. Halfway across the street she turned and gave a loud grunt, and the three cubs immediately stopped their play and trotted after her.
With one of them still carrying my club in its mouth!
Fifteen seconds later a mamma bear, her three cubs, and a Cleveland CG12 60-degree wedge disappeared into the 6,000 acres of Wawayanda State Park that surrounds my home.
And I didn’t go after them.
I may be a golfer, but I’m not a SCOTTISH golfer. I’m not mean enough to face down a family of bruins on my own and demand they hand over their new toy.
That’s what wives are for. And mine’s Irish, which is close enough. I’ll just tell her that one of them stole my club AND called her fat, and she’ll be out there with a Bowie knife and a snarl before I can yell “Fore, right!!”
Hmmm. On the other hand, if something should happen to her I wouldn’t have my laundry done for weeks.
Maybe I’ll just wait for the Spring thaw and see if they’ve dropped it somewhere along the trail by then.
Or maybe I’ll see one of them at my course later, hitting ’em close from 30 yards. You never know. They’re a talented species.
Well there ya go. You made it. Not too painful considering it was about golf, now was it? And if it was, don’t worry. I’ll make up for it next time with a rollicking tale of sexual mishap and public humiliation. Yes, again. But until then….
That was the story as originally written. However, there was a postscript added later:
The following fall a hunter came across the club deep in the woods, and since I put name/address labels on all my shafts he dropped it off at my house on his way home. There were a few scratch marks up and down the length of the shaft, and the rubber grip looked like it had been hit by a cheese grater a few dozen times, but the club was otherwise relatively undamaged. In fact, I had it re-gripped, and still play it to this day. I mean, it’s never gonna look like a brand new club after going through an ordeal like that. But it’s not unbearable….