Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
It wasn’t so long ago that my biggest problem in life was how to come up with the 300 bucks it costs to have the Botox doc zap my crow’s-feet away or to figure out how I was going to shed those last 5 pounds.
These days I’m worried about the adorable cotton-tailed bunny rabbit that ate my lettuce and the mama bear euthanized by the Division of Wildlife. I mean, how could these animals be so damned cute and be such deviant little nuisances at the same time? It’s confusing to my senses.
It appears as though the residents of the Seven Castles are mostly furry critters. I rarely see two-legged folk around – unless they’re dressed in light brown from head to toe and casting a fly rod into the river.
It was only our second week living in the A-frame when we were startled awake in the middle of the night by our barking dog, which never barks. See, that’s how we knew something was amiss.
So Ryan went downstairs to see what was going on while I lay in bed and pulled the covers up to my chin, my eyes darting back and forth in the darkness.
“Oh, my God!” Ryan screamed.
In all the years I’ve known my beloved husband, I have never heard him scream. He is a noisy guy, no doubt about it, and he never shuts up, but screaming is not something I’ve heard him do.
My heart leapt into my throat as I sat up in bed.
Ryan appeared at the top of the spiral staircase.
“There’s an effing bear. He was standing at the front door. He scared the crap out of me.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked, still afraid.
“I’m such an idiot. I left the empty bag of dog food out there. He’s just sniffing around, but I closed and locked all the doors, so it’s fine. He can’t do anything.”
“Oh, so that’s what those huge latches are for,” I said. I admit that when we first moved in, I thought about taking them down; they were so barbaric looking. Now I’m happy they’re there.
I’ve been face to face with a bear more than once in my life, and I know enough to know they’re not aggressive animals unless you’re unlucky enough to get between a mama and her cub. I know they are big and can do a lot of damage, so when I can still hear the bear rumbling around our patio, I have a hard time calming myself down enough to fall asleep.
After that night, I was literally scared of my own shadow. I was freaked out by the reflection in our windows at night and would close the blinds really quickly, as if they might bite. I was afraid the bear would pop up out of nowhere and startle me the way it had startled Ryan.
A few nights later, I heard the bear again.
“Honey, wake up. Hear that?”
I could hear the thump-thump-thump of the bear’s heavy footsteps coming down the stairs toward our front door and then a thwack when the grill on the front patio was slammed into.
“That’s it,” Ryan said, rising from bed. He walked out onto the patio off our bedroom. “Go,” he said in his Minnesota accent, a little more emphasis on the “o” than people from the lower 47 might use. “Go on, go!”
Then to me, he goes, “Honey, come see this!”
I joined him on the patio and saw a little bear cub trying to climb up our retaining wall. Seeing the bear did a lot to calm my fears. The bears are cute. They look like giant stuffed animals, even if the massive claw marks and gargantuan paw marks they left behind tell a different story.
The next morning, the DOW was parked up the street from my house and the mama bear was in a cage on the trailer behind the truck. Apparently, she’d gotten into the neighbor’s house. “What’s going to happen to her?” I asked one of the officials.
“We don’t know yet,” he said without making eye contact. I knew that pretty much meant he knew exactly what would happen to her.
Of course if a bear got into my house I would call the DOW, but seeing her in that cage made me sad. Are we not living in their habitat? Is it not our responsibility to protect the bears from us, not the other way around?
Now that there are no intrusive bears to distract me, I can hear the screeching of howling coyotes loud and clear. Their high-pitched whines sound like a cat being tortured, and signifies the arrival of darkness. “They’re smaller than George,” I keep telling myself. We saw one during an evening walk on the trail above our street and he stared at us for the longest time, as if he were making his mark.
We’ve seen plenty of deer, which is fine. They do tend to move with a start, darting through the woods from dead silence in a way that makes me jump every time, just because they’re so damn big. But they’re just deer, hello. Not scary at all.
Then I was running with George the other day and this horse from a nearby ranch came charging at us like it was going to attack us. I stopped and yanked on George’s leash, bracing myself when the horse stopped abruptly in front of a barbed wire fence. Crazy attack horse! Stay! Sit!
So this morning when I took George out for a walk he stopped, looked at me, and did a 180 back to the house. I’m standing there laughing, going, what does my dog know that I don’t?
I guess I really am a babe in the woods.
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