You Gotta Be Kidding
was minding my own business at the office in Ketchikan one day…………
Sitting here thinking about this I could start many true stories that now are hilarious but then downright terrifying. This one has a mix of goofiness and bravery above and beyond. The goofiness, I must confess is all mine and that led to bravery above and beyond for those I enlisted to help. Hey…, the State paid them for their time so I guess you could reason they were mercenaries to a degree, sort of…
I get a call from KPD (Ketchikan Police Department) about a black bear “problem” at Neets Bay, just north of Ketchikan. The report was of two black bear cubs that had been orphaned and the cubs were getting into the USFS Mess Hall in the Forest Service compound and eating and disturbing the Forest Service workers. No……., not eating Forest Service Workers, just eating and then disturbing….., well you get the picture.
I chartered a Temsco airways Beaver, for all you non aviators, this is the loudest round engine bird in the world, right close to the J-79 engines of an F-4 and I’m sure I’da had to charter an F-4 if there was one on floats anywhere in the free world.
Anyway, back to the eating, disturbing bears and the USFS workers in the mess hall in the compound in Neets Bay. I coerce Alaska Airlines out of a medium sized, remember this, PLASTIC dog carrier and I’m off for the great bear roundup. Temsco pilot and I land, are met at the dock by excited, innocent, don’t know much about it, loggers and I start asking where the bear compound is and can I use a truck to get there.
A very pleasingly shaped young lady seemed to have the most……, er, information AND the keys to a USFS truck so I followed her closely. Turns out the USFS dweebs left about 40 minutes before I got there and she didn’t actually know who I should contact about using their truck as after all, she was the daughter of a logger who’s job it was to bench press Sitka Spruce out of draws and ravines when they had trouble getting an 80 ton drag line hooked up close enough. I took careful note of that information and checked, once more, to see if my sidearm were loaded and I had pockets full of speed loaders slap pack full of .357 Magnum ammo. Bears ya know, dangerous things they be.
The babe and……., err, the helpful maiden and I headed for the bear hall. We arrive, I sing out to alert anyone who may be there and no one jumps from hiding. We search for the cubs and then she tells me one of the cubs may be dead as she thinks it was killed by that same outlaw, she can’t remember his name, who killed the mother bear. That’s sow in game warden talk but I let it slide.
I figure if I’m to catch this bruin I’ll need some bait to lure it. I find a nice golden delicious apple lurking behind some furry, fuzzy substance in the USFS Mess Hall refrigerator. The substance appeared to be a food like thing that had missed getting pitched into the bear proof trash bin outside. I also found some maple syrup. I sliced up the apple and put it in a bowl. I then slathered it with maple syrup. Who could resist that?, even I was getting hungry.
The innocent young lady and I went outside and begin a search and miracle of miracles, the bear shows up trying to get the sliced apple. I had the babe get the PLASTIC, remember that word? Dog carrier out of the truck and position it so I might lure the bear inside. After several futile attempts I just grabbed, GRABBED? The bear and tried stuffing it in the kennel. I still have scars and teeth marks. I wire the door shut and we head for the dock.
I convince the pilot this will be a piece of cake so we load the kenneled bear in the back of the bird and we jump in the front seats. We push off and then the pilot makes a grave error, he starts that loud radial engine. PLASTIC, keep that forefront in your mind. The bear starts going ballistic and is nearly successful in destroying the kennel and escaping. Picture this. A totally freaked out black bear that is almost graduated from the “cub” stage of it’s life, loose in a 6 passenger airplane with a freaked out pilot and a game warden that has totally lost his sense of humor. The pilot and warden are armed but do realize the likely hood of disaster increases twenty fold when bullets are fired from the INSIDE of an aircraft. The pilot is adamant, if he escapes, he will shoot one of us and he starts loading his Glock. We get airborne and I get my float coat off and find a blanket. I cover the kennel and climb in back to check the PLASTIC hold downs on the kennel. The bear bites and claws me a few more times and we land at the north end of the channel by Ketchikan. We do a high speed taxi (step taxi) to the northern Temsco facility and pitch the kennel out of the aircraft on the dock.
If you would like to meet that bear, she resides at the zoo in Hershey, Pa. With a picture of a Dehaviland Beaver and an Alaska State Trooper in her cage. They feed her a dog kennel every so often so she won’t get homesick.
I actually volunteered for that job ???