Me, A Black Bear, And Justin Bieber

This story is not so much about conquering the personal phobia of being 2 feet from a giant black bear, but instead about the way my young son tried to explain the details of the story to one of his friends.
Camping in the scenic woods of Lake Siskiyou, just north of Shasta, for a week. It is a yearly trek, so we know what to expect and plan for. We pack our 15-year-old, giant two room tent, three inflatable mattresses, and thickly insulated sleeping bags. The excursion is more of a comfortable family trip than a true backwoods adventure. At least it was for the first couple of nights. However, this year, on the third night, the rangers were visiting the campsites warning campers of the local bear population migrating down from the mountains into the valley. Personally, I wasn’t too concerned since we brought Gracie along on this trip. Gracie is our family dog. Half Pit Bull half Boxer with a very mean, guttural growl and ferociously loud bark.
That night was particularly challenging because we had a intensely courageous day. One might readily believe that exploring the mountainsides, climbing over hazardous rocks, first while enduring blistering heat, then through the cold darkness of caves and lava tubes, that a person would be exhausted and sleep comfortably through the night. But not an autistic child like Matthew. The sensation of overly tired muscles vibrating throughout his entire body only serves to fuel the already acute apprehension he has sleeping out in the woods. Why do I do this to him? Why do I do this to myself? Isn’t that what dads are for though? Getting kids to push the edge of the envelope so the challenges of the real world are easier to overcome? Oh, that’s just my BS? Anyway. When Matthew doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps. His muscles are tingling; the emotional and physical toll only served to put him in a half tearful half irritable mood. Every 5 minutes he was either complaining about something, or missing home and crying, or simply mad at me for “making him do this!” 10:00, 12:00, 1:00, into the early hours I had to deal with his cranky mood and whining. About 2:00 am he finally started to settle down. God, I was thankful! I needed sleep too. Not only was I enduring those same treks earlier in the day, but who do you think was the first person up, cooking breakfast, prepping the gear, carrying the dog or helping the kids when they couldn’t make it over the ravine or up the rocky edge? Yeah, that’s right, it was this old guy! So, I was also in desperate need of sleep also.

On the previous nights we kept Gracie in the dog crate we had brought along. However, because of the earlier warning from the rangers, we put Gracie on guard duty at the front entrance to our tent. No doubt she would do an excellent job of warning us of any approaching danger. I had also packed all the food in our heavy-duty storage containers. Locked up tight and placed on the right side of the tent. Right next to where I slept.
Back to the late hour: 2:00 am. Both kids were asleep. Heck, the entire campground was asleep. That’s when I heard a subtle noise as if someone was walking right next to my head.
Now you realize that it was not only very late, but Matthew is unable to sleep unless we keep the lights on, even while camping. So, I can’t see anything outside the tent where it is much darker than it is on the inside. But I didn’t need to. As soon as I heard the sniffing sound so close to my head, I knew what it was. BEAR! Right outside the tent!
I jumped out of my sleeping bag, half on my knees, and yelled in the deepest, manliest, most savage sounding voice I could muster, “YOU GET OUTTA HERE!!!!”

Well, it worked. That bear ran away, knocking over our storage bins and revealing that he was not alone.
Next Gracie chimed in. Gee, welcome to the party Gracie. Barking her ferocious bark, she scared away the other, larger bear. Yeah, larger.
The smaller bear ran all the way back into the woods. Notice that I said “smaller”, not “little”. Neither of them were little. It just that one appeared slightly less murderous than the other. So, the bigger bear was not in as much of a hurry. He had found a little food and just wandered off about 200 feet away to relax and enjoy it. Buy this time I guess I had woken up the entire camp. The next morning they came to thank me for scaring the bear away, saying they couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Funny, I didn’t see any of them coming out to help me other than one of dads and a younger male camper. Wonder what would have happened if those campers that couldn’t sleep that night had heard the sound of my bones crunching in the bear’s mouth?

Anyway, the kids, the neighbors and I beamed flashlights on the large bear until he had had his fill and sauntered off. I felt I had done my fatherly duties adequately by scaring off a bear, so we all retired to bed for that much-needed sleep.

Remember when I said the story was not so much about me overcoming primal fears?
This is how my son Adi related the story to his friends when we returned home.
– “I was asleep, so I didn’t see the bear. I only woke to hear my dad yelling at the bear to get away.
It was like if you were in your kitchen and saw Justin Bieber trying to swipe some fresh baked cookies through your open window!”

Huh? What?
Someone, please explain that analogy to me. I heard it flow out of his mouth, and I just wrote it out right here, and I still don’t get it.
I thought I was pretty manly. How does Justin Bieber wind up in such a cool, heroic story?
I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

Later Adi and I had a conversation that soothed my cracked ego. He asked me: “Dad, is there anything you are afraid of?”
Yes, that comment did alleviate my weakened manhood.

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