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Living on The Frontier

A while back I mentioned that, in all my eleven years at Faded Glory, I have never encountered a live bear. Here at the Inn, we live on the very edge of the Chattahoochie National Forest and see evidence every day of mans' encroachment on the wildlife population as civilization creeps forward into nature's woodlands. Living at or visiting the Inn is sort of like living on the frontier, although we are seldom reminded of it. However, we do take precautions

Isabel is very careful to limit her feeding of the wild birds to no later than April so as to avoid attracting bears and raccoons to her feeders. She has also had to be very careful to store my Purina 'stash' indoors, and feed me inside the Inn for the same reason. Micah Davenport and Matthew Tipton have always said, "Just because we don't see these creatures walking around, doesn't mean they aren't there and that they don't see us." They are actually a lot closer than you would think.

This fact became crystal-clear two weeks ago when the Cranes arrived from Jonesboro, GA for a few days of R&R with their two Weimaraners, Ying and Yang. Although well-behaved and socialized, these dogs are boisterous, energetic, and somewhat tiring for Betsy and Bill Crane; and the Cranes seemed most grateful for the use of our dog-friendly kennel at the rear of the Inn.

Although Isabel provides complimentary meals of Purina Chow at the kennel, the Cranes preferred to feed Ying and Yang from heaping bowls of their own IAM'S and off of the tailgate of their pickup truck that Bill had parked as close to the kennel as possible. Bill Crane's pickup was a nearly-new, luxury-version white Chevy half-ton equipped with a sleek fiberglass truck cap with generous windows to allow light in and a handsome chrome roof rack to carry his precious fishing rods and occasional kayak.

Because IAM'S is the creme dela creme of dog food, I personally made sure that no IAM's morsels remained on the kennel driveway after each feeding. Ying and Yang were not the neatest eaters I have ever seen. To them, eating is a fast-moving relay sport, and these dogs truly give meaning to the "wolfing down" of food. For me, and if given the chance, eating Iam's would become an art form; after all, IAM'S is not just another "ho hum" dog food!

It wasn't yet 6 a.m. on Saturday morning when I awoke to a strange banging sound. It sounded like the repeated slamming of a vehicle door, but it was accompanied by a sound similar to fingernails screeching on a chalkboard. Being a day in early May, the sun had not yet risen, and it was still nearly dark outside. I moved quickly to a partially open window in Isabel's personal suite, pushed the lace curtain aside with my nose, and immediately found myself staring into the eyes of a yearling black bear cub. I could hear the strange "chuffing" of a huge Mother bear as she effortlessly batted large pieces of molded fiberglass, hardware, and auto glass from the now unrecognizable backside of the Cranes' once-beautiful Chevy truck. Seconds later, she reached her prize, and the familiar (and highly coveted) five gallon tin pail filled with IAM'S tumbled out onto the driveway and virtually exploded open on impact. As a second cub materialized out of the near-darkness, the mother bear and her two hungry cubs descended upon a banquet of banquets; twenty-five or thirty pounds of doggy nirvana!

Still barefoot, Isabel ran down the stairway to the front vestibule with her open bathrobe flying behind her. Her first reaction was to block any guests or would-be onlookers from exiting the Inn or opening any of the doors for a better look. Isabel, and even I, knew that "it was the bears' show now," and any unwanted interference could lead to possible injury and/or bloodshed. Predictably, Bill and Betsy Crane, still in their nightclothes, arrived at Isabel's side and watched helplessly as the three black bears continued to ravage the contents of the overturned pail while taking an occasional swipe at their battered tailgate.

Amazingly enough, Micah's arrival in an old truck driven by Lynn Hilton, a long-time friend and early morning benefactor (Micah routinely thumbs a ride to work each day), caused the bears to retreat from the scene post-haste. Isabel was still very hesitant to open the outside doors, but Micah suggested that she do so to keep our unwanted guests from coming back. Micah was quick to point out that most black bears fear humans almost as much as humans fear them.

Two of our guests had retrieved their Poloroid Camera from their luggage and had snapped several flash pictures of the bears in action. Later. that morning, Bill Crane, in one of his more lucid moments, prevailed upon fellow-guest, Ms. Stephanie Mason, to take an additional shot of the wreckage of his truck to appease his insurance company.

Isabel and Micah estimated Mama bear to weigh about 350-400 pounds, with the cubs weighing somewhere around 200 pounds each. Because black bears have an incrediblly keen sense of smell, Bill Crane's truck embodied an open invitation to any (and all) bears that happened to be in the area at the time.

I later learned while the Cranes were filing a report (with none other than Ranger Flynt Timber himself) that black bears are primarily vegetarians, and, for the most part, don't pose a threat to humans unless they are guarding their cubs or are cornered. I was also surprised to learn that these bears detest -- and fear -- most dogs -- even little Poodles and Pekinese. I am most grateful that Isabel didn't know this prior-to, or during, the IAM'S Catastrophy because I 'sure as hell' wasn't about to go out there under any circumstances! I may be crazy, but I am NOT stupid.

When the Cranes left the Inn on Tuesday morning, they left at least 25% of their camper cap behind, reduced to small souvenir-sized pieces in our back kennel driveway. Yes, Betsy and Bill did look a little cramped for space in the front seat with Ying and Yang, but they certainly went home with a modern-day tale of The Three Bears.

Even today, if I search real hard, I can still come up with a tasty morsel of IAM'S dogfood in the vicinity of the front kennel door. Sometimes dining here on the frontier can be downright delightful. Bon appetit, y'all!

© 2010-2011 David Johnson, All Rights Reserved