Posted by: highmountainmuse | May 2, 2009

The homestead bear


Pole Mountain on the first day of May

Pole Mountain on the first day of May

Spring has come at last to the high country. Heralded in by the song of the frogs, the rumble of rocks letting lose from the walls of the surrounding mountains.  The air is alive with the constant roar of brown waters, the melody and harmony of all these birds.


I used to say I can tell the season by my hands. Yes, it’s spring.  A blister from shoveling, a blood blister from pliers, a torn cuticle from a hammer, a cut finger from barbed wire,  scratches from Malakitty, and more. My hands are swollen in the mornings when I wake.  I like that feeling.  I know they have worked.  My hands are my tools.  Their idle time is over. My wedding ring no longer fits.  I managed to squeeze it off, rather painfully, and now I awaiting to see if we can have it stretched to accommodate the swelling.  I miss the feel of the simple metal band, no longer there on my hand where I expect to feel it.


The final sign of spring is yet to come… the waking of the bear.


Living off in the mountains has given me the opportunity to experience my fair share of bear stories.  Most of which, I really can not tell you… but here’s one that is rather appropriate.  It involves bears… and gardening!  The Homestead Bear.


I used to garden a lot.  Big gardens, enough food for an army… or at least, a children’s camp. With a long growing season, good irrigation water, and a surplus of horse manure, growing was a dream come true.  You could grow anything there!  Anything!  So I would often get a bit carried away, and plant far more than we needed.  Enough for the bear, I’d say, and wouldn’t be too upset when he’d trample parts of the corn patch to steal a few ears.  Not too upset.


But the bear was also my regulator for ripeness.  A bear will test it’s product before consuming, and only consume at the peak of ripeness.  At least, this bear did. 


I’d been keeping an eye on the watermelons and would see a few claw marks where the bear took a swipe but was not yet satisfied.


Alas, the morning came when I was certain it was time to harvest the melons.  I took the truck down to the big garden in anticipation of filling the bed full of boxes of luscious ripe melons.  Ah, the anticipation of biting into a fresh, juicy, sun sweetened melon… picked at the peak of ripeness… (Yes, I’m loving this memory.  Because gardening here at 10,000 feet, growing a melon is but a memory…)


So, me and the dogs get to the garden and go in the front “deer proof” gate… only to find the bear. Still there. Euphorically dancing through the melon patch swiping and scrunching and crushing and killing my watermelon!


Now, what would you do if you saw a bear messing with your watermelons?  You know you’re not supposed to run away.  And you’re sure as heck not just going to stand there and watch.  Maybe, just maybe, you’d do what I did.


I grabbed the nearest tool, a pitch fork (hey, I know all about what damage one of those can do – I put one clear through my foot a couple years earlier… oh, excuse me, that’s yet another story…).


Yes, I grabbed that pitch fork, and ran after that bear!  You bet I was mad.  Pitch fork in hand, I ran like a mad woman after that bear, through the watermelon patch, past the corn and tomatoes, beyond the beans, all the way out the back gate.  I chased that bear into the woods, up the hill, and finally to a small quiet clearing. 


So there I am, standing alone in this clearing, looking around to see which way the bear went.  And suddenly, my senses return.  Starting by noticing all the bear scat around me.  I was definitely in her turf there.  Then by noting that my two big brave dogs had bailed on me, and apparently ran back to the safety of the truck. Then remembering all the horror stories I’ve ever heard about bears (yes, I know, I still think people are far more frightening than bears, and people are also terribly clueless about bears, but when you’re out there alone in the woods like that, common sense is not always one of your strengths). Then, finally considering the fact that I’m a rather small sized human being. And feeling smaller every minute out there. 


I’ve no doubt I looked like a crazy woman running after that bear with the pitch fork held out like a spear.  Sure scared that bear, in any case. I know I’d have been scared if I saw me.


With my tail between my legs, and my head turning back with every other rapid stride, I made it back safely to the garden, back to my dogs happy to see me return and unaware of their failed duty, and back the rest of the melons to harvest the remainders.  Those that the bear did not get to – thanks to my very foolish act.




A few end of week updates:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


I put another post of the frogs on YouTube. They are really singing now! I don’t know if anyone else finds them as truly amazing as I do, but just in case…


Karen & Ron – if they are still singing when you visit, I would love to hike up there with you and peek over the hill above the little pond.


Remember the story about Alan and the dog door?  Well we’re going on four months now, and he still has not had to wake me up in the middle of the night to be let out… through the dog door. Nope, not once!


And finally: Good luck to our friend Marvin who is racing today at the San Luis Valley Motor Plex in Mosca.  Bob and Forrest are there to cheer him on. I’ve never been to a car race, but if you’re in the Valley, you may want to head over there for the excitement. The race beings at 2.


  1. Love the bear story! You painted a hilarious picture in my mind. Do you guys get many bears at your elevation?

    I can’t wait to hear the frogs in person!

  2. Gin -Thanks. It’s a wonderful memory. Carol just called up the toads on her I Phone. Forrest will be proud.

  3. No, not a lot. Not much to eat in this high dry country.

  4. You’re the one who reminded me! For better, or for worse…
    Glad you guys are figuring out the i-phone thing. I’ll have to try it out some time.

  5. My cheeks are still hurt from grinning so hard. You make the mountain come alive beautifully and who can resist a gardener with such ferocity and wisdom? Love it!

    How is frankenkitty? Hoping all is well…cats are so resilient.

  6. Thanks, Ruth. I think what I lack in wisdom I make up for in ferocity.
    Thanks for asking about Frankenkitty. He’s doing super. Looks pretty funny, but acts like nothing is wrong. Loves being “sick” because I can’t figure out how to drop the meds down his throat, so I “hide” them in a little tuna instead. One happy kitty.

  7. Great story. I have a big grin on my face imagining it. I wonder how many gardeners would be inspired to do the same if their watermelons were threatened. A good watermelon just might be worth a bear scuffle…

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