I usually am a tough one to be talked into things I’m unsure of. I like to evaluate, consider the risk, then make a decision. If the unknown is greater than the known, I play it safe. Some of my family and friends consider me conservative and smart, the rest, I’m quite sure, think I’m just boring.
On our first trip to Alaska, a shore excursion off the cruise ship to see bears sounded exciting. I assumed we would be with a guide carrying a big gun in case things went terribly wrong, so I agreed to go. I should have known when my friend Norma said she didn’t really want to leave the ship, something was up. But then again, she makes me look like the Crocodile Hunter.
Norma’s husband, Gary, and Jim Brawner planned the trip on the advice of one of our dinner waiters from the Philippines. These were his instructions: “Take a cab to the city dump at dusk and ask the cabbie to come back in an hour. Then just wait. But remember this; don’t mess with a momma bear with a cub. There is nothing more dangerous.”
Had I known the full extent of these plans, I would have chosen to stay on the ship and read or play shuffleboard. Honestly they planned a trip based Philippino bear information like he was the conciegere? Do bears even live in the Philippines? I learned all this as the cab driver was waving saying, “See you in an hour at the bottom of the hill.”
No bears in sight, the guys decided we should walk through the dump. Looking back you would have thought I’d been drinking to do what I did. We climbed over mounds of paper, empty containers, left over food and diapers. Still no bears. It was an odd feeling hoping to see some, but praying we didn’t.
Just as I began to relax I came up over a large hill of stuff and there was a bear, ears perked up, staring at me. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the bear. I knew not to make eye contact and to not run so I backed down the hill slowly. Jim and Gary were scrambling to take pictures while I was running a mental inventory of where I could go. Down the hill to wait for the cab sounded good.
I inched away and began to walk slowly out of the trash heap. As I got to the road, I looked up on the ridge and there she was ... a momma bear and her twin cubs. When I yelled to Gary and Jim she stood up on her hind legs and looked at me. I think she knew I was a momma who understood so she went on about her business.
Waiting on the cabbie I realized this: I was much braver than I ever imagined and that the protective mother instinct is possibly one of the strongest known forces. And I sure hoped Jim and Gary knew what to do in case of a bear attack.