Lions and Tigers and What is That?

I was driving home from rehearsal the other night. Yes, Rumplestiltskin is the neverending play. Actually we had two performances for the grade school kids in town. Two nights of rehearsal and two performances wasn't bad at all. It was really fun to see everyone from the cast again. Anyway, I was driving home at about 9:50 p.m. With the blasted time change (I know that everyone complains about daylight savings time, but I despise it. I feel like I should be cocooning in my bed by 5:45 every afternoon. The doesn't make my nights very productive) it was PITCH black. We live on a dirt road in the mountains so there isn't much light anyway. But my brights weren't even bright enough that night. I was singing along to the radio and admiring the warm glow from the lights in our house when these two VERY large objects jumped onto the road in front of my car. We live across the street from a meadow and these large black objects emerged from the usually dry streambed that separates the meadow from the road.

My first thought was that this was a Sheepdog of Unusual Size and its slightly smaller SUS offspring. Then the fog cleared from my brain and the headlights focused in a little better, and I realized that this was in fact a black bear and her cub. They were scared to death of my headlights and my car and running at a good pace. I slammed on the brakes, skidded on the tiny gravel pebbles on the dirt road and slowed the car down to a crawl to keep them in my headlights. I was quickly approaching the corner where I needed to make a sharp left-hand turn (almost a switchback) to get to my driveway. The bears did not keep running straight as I assumed they would, but turned up my road. They looked like cartoons characters trying to keep up with their feet as they stopped 250 lbs. of weight on a dime to turn this sharp corner. I kept expecting to find skid marks on the road the next morning. The mother bear pushed the baby up a steep incline that is the side of my neighbor's property. She nudged him up into a pine tree with her head. When he was safely up the tree, she put her two front paws up on the trunk so that she was in a standing position and froze. My headlights were directly on them as I turned the corner.

Is was amazing! I didn't sit there very long because I could tell that they were terrified and a bit disoriented. I'm sure Momma Bear didn't expect to step out of the streambed and into someone's brights. If I had to guess, I would say that the mother was upwards of 250 lbs., and the baby was the size of a large Saint Bernard. As I pulled the car into the driveway I noticed that I was breathing heavily.

Now I've seen plenty of bears in my day. I've hiked with grizzlies in Denali. I've seen black bears in the Smoky Mountains. We even had a neighborhood bear when we lived in Colorado the first time. On three different occasions we saw him walking down our road at 5 a.m. This was different though. This was one of those moments in which you call yourself lucky. Of all of the times that those bears chose to step onto the road. Of all the nights that I was driving home in the dark. I was lucky enough to be in the exact right place at the exact right time. Otherwise, I would have missed them. It was one of those moments when I remember why I had to move back to the mountains.

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