I can’t bear the thought of any bears

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

There’s someone in every organization whose antics and jokes can produce enough laughter to prompt the following statement: &uot;Where there is no fool, there is no fun.&uot;

That’s no problem in my office, evidenced by my fellow co-workers actions after seeing how scared – no, petrified – I was after learning that bears have been spotted roaming around my neighborhood.

When I first heard about bears coming out of the Dismal Swamp searching for food, it was here in the newsroom, completely by accident. Three weeks ago, Barbara Allen, Allison Williams and I were all in deep thought working on stories for the next edition. Suddenly, Allison asked Barbara, &uot;Are you working on that story about the bears being in Evelyn’s yard?&uot;

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That question grabbed my attention and I spun around in my chair. &uot;What?&uot;

Barbara’s initial reply was to Allison, not me.

&uot;I was trying to keep this story from her. You know how she worries.&uot;

Then they both told me about the bear sighting in Lake Kennedy, where I live, and other nearby locations. They told me not to panic or worry because the bears were harmless.

I sought to learn more about the behavior of bears. Aside from a few stuffed ones over the years, my exposure to them has been limited to movies. And in most of them, the bears – fat, fuzzy, growling creatures that are usually starving – are standing up on hind legs waiting to claw someone to death because dinner wasn’t up to snuff.

When I told this to my newsroom partners, they reassured me that the animal control and other news teams were saying that bears were harmless, that they would run away from you. They told me the animal control officer’s only warning: DON’T FEED THE BEARS.

Well, don’t worry.

Maybe they are confusing me with Grizzly Adams?

I can’t believe they had the gall to tell me not to feed them, knowing how scared I am of any animal on four legs. Everyone knows that whenever they decide to bring their four-legged friends by the office, I will put as much distance between us as I can. Even if their animals are caged or on a leash, my friends are not going to be successful at luring me into one of their &uot;sweet doggie&uot; traps.

About six ago, I actually jumped from the floor to the top of my desk in one leap as a previous publisher’s big black lab started toward me when he walked into the office.

Some people take their teasing a little further than others. Allison and Luefras Robinson both left funny messages is low, grumbling growls – made me think the grizzly was a little upset over his missing Thanksgiving dinner.

Earl Jones, in advertising, constantly teases me by saying, &uot;Make sure that if you see a bear, he is not a Booker T. Washington Bear.&uot; (My high school mascot)

Despite the teasing, the thought of bears roaming freely through my neighborhood has stayed on my mind. A couple of weeks ago, I asked my neighbor if he had seen anything suspicious or &uot;bearish.&uot;

Hoping he would say no was a jinx.

&uot;As a matter of fact, I did see one this week in my yard when I was feeding the dogs. He came out of some bushes in the back of the house and ran across the street,&uot; he said.

&uot;About how much do you think he weighed?&uot; I asked.

&uot;I think he was a cub,&uot; he said, estimating his weight at a mere 200 pounds.

All the information that was coming to me was more than I could bear (no pun intended).

So ever since that day, I’ve been trying to get home after my son so he can listen out for me. As I roll into the driveway, I hit the car horn so he can have the front door open and waiting for me to leap from car to house.

Just knowing that the Dismal Swamp is directly behind my house has had run my imagination running wild. I have a fear that I may not be able to get my key in the front door before coming face to face with a bear.

One night, when I thought my son was going to be home when I arrived, I stopped to buy groceries. But when I pulled up to the yard, there was no one holding the door open for me. In fact, there was no car, not even a light glowing on the front porch.

Meanwhile, my car was full of groceries, it was raining and a handful of worms were crawling on the sidewalk. I’d forgotten to throw the salt on the porch, so a few hideous slugs were relaxing up there.

But none of that was a problem. I certainly wasn’t about to go around back. After all, I wasn’t about to risk coming face to face with Gentle Ben.

So I put enough groceries for dinner into a couple of bags, slipped between the critters, opened the door and threw the bags in as fast as I could. My son was just going to have to get the rest when he got home – if he wanted any breakfast, anyway.

It is now a couple of weeks later, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Along with my other blessings, I want to give thanks to God that to date, I have not laid an eye on a bear in my neighborhood.

The newsroom had a business luncheon at Panevino’s at Harborview on Nov. 18, where Allison presented me with an early Christmas present because that it &uot;couldn’t wait&uot; until the holidays. So bravo, here it is: A beautiful, soft Beanie Baby stuffed black bear! Those of us at lunch howled – nay, growled – with laughter.

Hope you all have a &uot;beary&uot; happy Thanksgiving!

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and regular columnist for the News-Herald. She can be contacted at 934-9615 or via e-mail at evelyn.wall@suffolknewsherald.com