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Leland Waldrip

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Joe’s Bear
By Leland Waldrip
Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Leland Waldrip
· Bluebird Farm 1
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           >> View all 11

Black bears own the night. And some hunters know it.

A Friday in Early November in Virginia:


“I want you to come over here and help me with a problem.” The voice crackled from half-way across the county.


Joe's eyebrows lifted. He had been hunting deer on Mrs. Tower’s farm for four seasons and she’d never made any demands.


“Of course, Mrs. Tower. What’s the problem? I didn’t leave any gates open did I? I’d be glad to help round up any stock that might’ve —“


“No, no! Nothing like that, Joe. You’ve been good about such things. No, I’ve got this darn bear that keeps sneaking in some mornings before dawn and licking up loose grain from the horse troughs — scaring them to death. I’m afraid he’s going to make one of them get hurt trying to get out of the stall. And last night he got the feed room door open and tore into a couple of hundred-pound sacks of sweet-feed. Spilled it all over the place. He’s just getting to be a big fat nuisance. I called the Game & Fish people, but they’ve got all their bear traps busy somewhere else. Won’t be able to do anything for almost a month. The way this is going, I don’t think we can wait a month.”


“My Goodness. That is a problem. I’d be glad to help out. But bear season’s not open. It would be illegal to kill a bear now, Mrs. Tower. How big a bear is this anyway?”


“I haven’t seen him, but Art said he’s really a big one. I’ve got to have something done right away. I can’t afford to have a $40,000 horse break a leg because of this dumb bear. They love people -- they're like dogs following people around, but they don't have much use for bears.”


“Yes, ma’am. Uhh, there at first I thought you were talking about the bears foll-- Well, I…”


“Well, when does the season open?”


“I think it’s Monday, ma’am. Yes ma’am, it’s Monday.”


“Well, can you come on Monday?”


“Well, ma’am, he’s probably coming and going before daylight. I won’t be able to see him in the dark.”


“Don’t you have a flashlight, for Goodness sake?”


“Yes ma’am, but it’s illegal to shoot before good daylight, using a light like that. They call that jacklighting.”


“Joe, I’ve let you hunt here for a long time. Now I need some help. Besides, Art saw that bear well after daylight the other day, ‘cause he came in and told me about it right after. Of course you’d need to be here well before daylight to keep from spooking ..." Her voice trailed off. 

“Joe, are you afraid to go after this bear? That’s it, isn’t it? You’re afraid of him.”


“Oh, no, ma’am. It’s just that in the dark, they’re black as soot, you know. You can’t see them. They could be anywhere.”


“Yes, I suppose so. They could even be here when you’re deer hunting. So I don’t suppose you’d better be out there in the dark anymore going to your deer stand, huh?”


“Oh, no, ma’am. It’s not that. I can be there for you. Sure, I’ll be there.”


“So you’ll come over here Monday morning?”


“Yes, ma’am. At oh dark thirty. I’ll be ready if he comes anywhere near the barn. Those round hay bales stacked there at the corner of the horse paddock will be a good blind to hunt from.”


“Probably. You can just go through the paddock. You’ll be careful of my horses won’t you? I’d hate for you to make a mistake and do one of ‘em in. That would cost us both.”


“ Yes, ma’am.”



Monday morning:


“Joe? Is that you?”


“Uhh, yes ma’am.”


“Was that you doing all that shooting this morning? God, I thought it was World War III.”


“Yes ma’am, I reckon that was me, ma’am.”


“Well, you didn’t stop at the house. Did you get him? And where are my two horses. They were in the paddock. Now the boards are down all along one side there and my horses are gone. What’s going on, Joe?”


“Well ma’am, I didn’t see the bear.”


“What in tarnation was all the bang bang banging about then?”


“Well, my gun went off and I just came on home. Wasn’t much use in waitin’ for the bear after that.”


“Your finger must have got stuck on the trigger then. You didn’t shoot my horses, did you?”


“No ma’am. I think I just shot into the air — straight up, you know.”


“No, Joe. I really don’t know. Not unless you tell me. This is all pretty bizarre. Maybe I need to let somebody else hunt here. You don’t seem to be too up front with me anymore.”


“Well, no ma’am, it’s not that. It’s just … well, I’ll tell you then.”


“Okay, Joe. You tell me. Seems like it’s pulling teeth to get anything out of you these days.”


“Okay ma’am. I got there way before daylight. I came into the yard with my lights off and parked and got my gear on and went down the path toward the pad —“


“All right, all right, you got to the paddock. Dammit! Then what?”


“Well … umm, I sneaked the gate open and went in and … ma’am, it was awful dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.”


“It was before daylight, for Goodness sake. Of course it was …"


“Ma’am, you know how soft and dry that dirt in the paddock is.”


“I ride through there damn near every day, Joe.”


“Okay. Well, I was walking toward the corner there where the hay is and … and …”


“It’s all right, Joe. What else? Oh, for God’s sake, come on. Out with it!”


“Okay, I’m getting there, ma’am. It’s just that, you know how soft a horse can walk in that stuff? And you know how a horse will sometimes blow through its lips and make that Godawful fluttering sound?”


“Yes, yes! Happens all the time. They’re just clearing their nose. What of it?”


“Well ma’am, I was sneaking along, looking to try to see the bear and I didn’t know there was any horses loose in the paddock. I thought they were all in their stalls.”


“Yes, I had left that old sorrel and Ginger loose last night. I left their stall door open so they could go out into the paddock.”


“Well ma’am, one of ‘em snuck up behind me and did that thing right in my ear. Blew snot all over the side of my face and neck.”


“Oh, my God! I’m sorry. That must have startled you.


"Yes ma'am. Real bad."


"Is that when your gun went off?”

“Yes ma’am. I guess I was lucky.”


“Lucky? Why?”


“Well, by the time I got the gun pointed toward where that horse was, he wasn’t there anymore. And the gun was empty by that time, anyway. I think he was going through the paddock fence, cause there was a lot of clattering there for a while. I hope he’s all right.”


“Why in the hell didn’t you come by the house and tell me about all that? I could have at least sent Art out to look for the horses.”


“I guess so ma’am. But I didn’t want to wake you up.”


“Wake me up, hell! What do you think that automatic high-powered rifle going off like that did? I’m not deaf, you know.”


“Yes ma’am. But I needed to get on home. I didn’t want to talk to anybody right then.”


“Well, for Heaven’s sake, why not. You talk to me all the time.”


“Well ma’am, it’s just that you wouldn’t have wanted to talk to me.”


“And why the hell wouldn't I want — ? Joe! I’m sorry, Joe. Okay. Maybe you can get some of your hunting buddies to come and get the bear. Art and I will round up the horses.”


“Okay ma’am. Thank you, ma'am.”


“You have a nice day, Joe. Bye.”


She hung up the phone and turned, wagging her head, a thin smile edging across her lips.


“Art, we’re going to have to find those two horses this morning if they don’t come home on their own.”


“I thought you said you were going to make Joe do it?”


“I was. But he’s home doing his laundry today and cleaning up the seat in his truck. And don’t look for him to be doing any more bear hunting for us. That old sorrel fixed that.”                



© 2007 R. Leland Waldrip




       Web Site: Rappahannock Books

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Reviewed by Tom Hyland 3/21/2007

THOROUGHLY ENJOYED! Can't help but wonder what version of this "bear story" ole JOE will someday tell his kids?

Reviewed by Regis Auffray 2/18/2007
A fine story, Leland. Enjoyed. Thank you for sharing it. Love and peace,

Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 2/11/2007
This is great....I think I woulda done the same...and my laundry woulda been VERY messy!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Ronald Hull 2/11/2007
Just what I thought! Glad it only turned out funny. It's a keeper in the store of bear stories.

Reviewed by Alexandra* OneLight*® Authors & Creations 2/11/2007
Oh, I loved this, Leland, LOL! The clever old lady... what a great politician she would make, huh? Isn't this how they get poor "Joes" to hunt all those... er... bears? And then, of course... let them clean their s.... AND apologize, too! LOL! You're wonderful, my dearest friend!
More bear {{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}} and lots of love,
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 2/11/2007
Ho Ho! I guess some guys like doing laundry and cleaning trucks better than hunting!
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor 2/10/2007
Good story.


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