The winter, over. Finally. It rained and rained and rained. A steady beat on a metal roof. The drops rushed down like a mad river. Outside the window the leaves gently jerked with each drop of rain that landed upon them.
In the distance a bear rustled the fresh new foliage. He looked for food. My cabin is food.
It was above freezing, but the dampness made it feel like the coldest winter night when the wind whipped through the pines like the hiss of a horde of demons on the prowl for souls.
The bear moved closer.
He’s familiar. Yes, the one chased away last spring.
I swung the door open to the stove and tossed three more logs in the fire. It’s a good fire. It’s gentle and warm. The crackle is like snapping fingers in time with the pulsating rain on the roof.
The bear approached the perimeter of my clearing as if it were his.
I grabbed the rifle from the case and loaded it. I slung on my coat and walked out on the porch.
“Mr. Bear,” I yelled out. “With all due respect, you have everything, but this clearing is mine. You have to go.”
The bear stood on his hind legs and held his nose high.
“I’d invite you in, but you can not behave and don’t pretend you can’t hear me.”
He fell to all fours and lumbered with a limp toward the cabin.
Frantic, I pointed the rifle over his head and into the skies. Bam!
The bear stopped.
“You can hear,” I said.
The bear limped slowly away.
“Burly,” I called out. “Why didn’t you tell me it was you?”
The bear stopped and sat.
I approached cautiously with my rifle slung.
It was Burly; a cub found two hears earlier. His mother was likely killed. I found him caught in a trap. I released the trap, bound the wounds, and nursed him back to health. One day Burly was gone.
There he was again with a trap on the paw.
“Burly, you must watch your step,” I said.
Burly held out the paw and I released the trap.
“I would invite you in, Burly,” I said, “but you smell bad and you’re wet. There are plenty of salmon in the river. You know the way.”
From a distance came a ferocious roar. I panicked and turned. The distant foliage rustled as if a bulldozer was making its way through the woods. Suddenly an enormous male grizzly appeared. Burly moved in behind me. Suddenly I stood between two behemoths of the north.
Burly was smaller and wounded.
The grizzly charged as if I was not there.
I quickly un-slung and raised my rifle. Bam! Bam! Bam!
There was a thud as the grizzly tumbled to the ground.
Burly moved to inspect the fallen foe. He pawed at the lifeless body. He turned to me and shook back and forth like a dog. There was a gentle sound as if one of approval and thanks. Burly limped away toward the salmon.
I walked back inside soaked to the bone. I called a native friend on the radio and told him I had some bear meat for him.
I sat next to the stove and listened to the steady beat of the rain on the roof and watched the gentle jerk of the leaves caused by the rain.
“Ahhh,” I sighed, “spring.”