Su Lum: Slumming
Aspen, CO, Colorado
I live a relatively quiet life in my old miner’s shack on the east edge of town. The more deaf I get, the quieter it becomes, literally. I don’t wear my hearing aids when I’m alone.
Now that I’m retired, it’s early to bed and late getting up, completely unaware that all hell has been breaking loose at night in the alley.
The only reason I know about the alley activity is that I get reports from Doug, who moved this past spring into my back shed, which has a window facing directly onto the alley.
Doug freaked out when he saw the first bear and ran in screaming like a girl, “Shut the dog door! Shut the dog door! There’s a bear in the alley!”
“Bear in the alley!” was the alarmed cry for a couple of weeks, and then everything changed: Doug became an ursine nut case. He was crazy about bears, he loved bears, and his night wasn’t complete without a bear sighting in the alley.
Flashlight and camera at the ready, Doug would lurk in the dark of the shed listening for the telltale sound of rattling Dumpsters and the cracking limbs of the apple tree across the alley.
He would throw open his window, shine the light, aim the camera and shout, “Bad bear! Go home bear!” at which the bear would lumber away and Doug would get a muddied shot of its butt. “I have a ton of bear butt photos,” he’d say as he posted them on Facebook.
Meanwhile, I never saw a bear or heard a bear – the only evidence was the overturned bear-proof trash can and occasional piles of bear scat.
“I saw three coyotes in the alley last night,” Doug reported. Foxes. Raccoons. Stellar’s jaybird. Police on bear patrol. Helen Keller (me) toodling around in the miner’s shack in blissful ignorance while drama reigned outside.
Doug, who at first was afraid of running into a bear, was now running after them to get a better look. Several times he flung open his window only to find himself nose to nose with a bear as curious as he was.
He named a regular visitor George. George had made a nesting place for himself in the apple tree. In the wee hours, Doug would be alerted by the snapping of branches and would run to the window or brazenly into the alley itself (here a full moon helped) to watch George chomping, burping, napping and snoring.
Doug visited the Schneegas Wildlife Foundation, the bear-rescue place downvalley, and sports a bumper sticker reading, “The bears were here first. If you don’t like it, you leave.” He is a convert.
A bear came into the yard and knocked over Doug’s grill. Doug rebuilt the fence and was pleased to find baby paw prints on it the next day. Another night, he was thrilled to see a mama bear and three cubs going at a construction Dumpster.
Here’s a guy who looks forward to spring even more than I do because spring means bears, bears, bears. If the warm weather keeps up, he might get his wish all winter.
Imagine my surprise when Doug burst into my place a few weeks ago, screaming, “Help! There’s a mouse in my house!” If it were a bear, he would have cuddled it.
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