Hank’s Bear Scare


The telephone rang and I answered. It was my friend from Oregon, Hank, inviting me on a fly-fishing trip to northwestern Montana. I declines as I had promised my wife I would to go look for work this week.

Good thing, too.

Hank had purchased a new RV and was setting out for ‘Big Sky’ country. He had found a little lake he had visited a few years earlier and had always told himself, once retired, he’d go fishing in it.

The closest parking spot to the lake was about two-and-a-half miles away, so Hank, being no stranger to hiking decided he’d do jus’ that. The following morning found him with his hip waders over one shoulder and a fishing pole in his hand.

Within the hour Hank was ankle-deep in the cold lake water, flicking the end of his pole back and forth waiting for that first strike. As he stood looking out over the expanse of water, he heard a crashing sound behind him.

As he turned to his left, he saw the largest bear he’d ever seen exploded from the bank at him. And before he could react, the beast knocked him several feet backwards into the lake.

Hank struggled to get his feet underneath himself as the bear continued to charge. By this time his waders were water-filled and there was no place for him to go but deeper into the lake.

Soon gravity took hold and Hank sunk into the vegetation line below the lakes surface. Above him he could see the bear, paddling about, looking down on him.

As fast as he could he stripped the waders off and using the vegetation as cover, edged father away from the animal. By this time his lungs were burning and he rapidly surfaced, gulping as much air as possible.

The bear saw him pop up and immediately turned towards Hank. The speed and agility of the bear surprised Hank, who thought he might be able to out pace the bear across the surface of the lake.

Thinking better of it though, Hank dropped below the surface again and headed for the vegetation. By this time he was thanking his lucky-star this particular bear had not learned to dive for a meal from it’s’ mother.

Had that been the case, Hank knew he would’ve been done and there would be no one around to find him for several days or weeks, if at all.

Knowing he’d have to surface soon, Hank clawed his way parallel to the bank and slowly surfaced. He stayed in the water, watching as the bear as it circled around and around looking for his would-be prey.

It was about this time, Hank decided to slip onto the bank. He belly crawled from the gravel lake bed to the sandy shoreline, then quietly and slowly made his way into a thicket of brush on the bank.

Hank sat there, shivering from both the fear of the attack and the chill of the water. He watched as the bear also made its way to shore and up the bank.

The bruin stood up on his massive hind-legs to see if he could find the man. Satisfied the man was gone, the bear huffed, dropped to all fours, turned and wandered across the meadow.

Hank, still using the brush as cover, watched as the bear disappeared into the tree line. Then and only then, did he leave his ‘hiding spot.’

He retrieved his fishing pole and half-ran, half-sprinted up the trail in the opposite direction of the bear and towards his RV. Once inside the vehicle, Hank looked himself over in the mirror.

The bear’s massive claw had swiped him, tearing through his shirt, from his upper left shoulder to below the right side of his stomach and leaving a two-inch scratch mark jus’ below his left collar-bone. Other than that and being shook up, Hank decided he was fine.

Last night, Hank called me from his Oregon home to say he was having trouble sleeping because of nightmares. All I could do was listen and selfishly think, “I’m glad I said ‘no’ to his offer to go fishing.”

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