Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Just Bear With Me

Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos'd a bear!
—Wm. Shakespeare
Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene 1

But what if the bear is real?

The front page of yesterday’s Roanoke Times featured pictures of a bear running through downtown Roanoke on Wednesday. Finally the tranquilizer darts worked. The captured bear—a female who was likely pregnant— was sent to Virginia Tech, where it became number 103 in a VT’s captive bear study. More news here.

In rural Virginia, we have bear in the neighborhood. One recent morning, my cousin-in-law saw one cross Novelty Road less than a half-mile from my house. A logger working on my cousins’ farm—not far from the other bear sighting and still close to my house—also recently saw a bear. While he worked, his little dog started to bark angrily. The logger looked up to see a black bear less than a hundred feet away. He grabbed the dog and got in his truck until the bear left.

The owner of the farm next to our Polecat Creek farm has game cameras on his property. He’s gotten pictures of a bear and a bobcat. He’s even found bear poop on the dock at his pond.

A few years ago, the last beehive on our Union Hall farm was demolished. Parts had been dragged over forty feet. A large pile of bear poop remained.

Also, a few years ago, a woman on her way to buy hay from us, was crossing Owens Branch in her pick-up when she saw a bear stand on its hind legs. This is close to my Polecat Creek farm.

Two years ago, a man down the road told about how a relative hunting on his property saw a bear and three cubs come by. He stayed in his deer stand until the bears were out of sight.

So, I’ve got bear all around me. But I haven’t seen any since I’ve lived here. I’m wary of them now, ever since the news reports of a kid dragged from his tent one night and killed by a black bear. That was a thousand miles from her. But still—

I’ve seen other critters, though—a couple months ago I saw a coyote run through the cow pasture less than a mile down the road. My cousins report coyotes running through their pastures this summer. A couple of deer seasons ago, neighbors spotted—right across the road from my mailbox—a big coyote eating deer parts left behind by the local rednecks. Two years ago in March, elderly Jack and baby Maggie ran a coyote on the Union Hall farm. That run was Jack’s last coyote chase and Maggie’s first. Last year—late one night—by the light of the dusk to dawn light, Maggie and I saw a coyote walk down Novelty Road. She wanted to chase; I held fast to her leash.

On the trail where the dogs and I walk, years ago I crushed a copperhead with a rock. I also once killed a small one that the cat brought into the garage. I haven’t seen a live copperhead or rattler for several years, though.

I also haven’t seen the panthersmountain lions—that were allegedly released on Turkeycock Mountain years ago. I know someone who’s seen tracks, though—big round tracks with no claw marks. (Retractable claws mean no claw marks in the tracks. Cats have retractable claws.) And I know the story about the man killed by a panther in the late 1700s in the Ferrum area. He came out of his cabin one morning, and the big cat jumped from the roof onto him and bit his head. I haven’t even seen the bobcats that are in the neighborhood.

I’ve watched a fox stare at me. I stared back.

I’ve seen lots of deer up close. Except for the doe that jumped over the hood of my truck several years ago, I haven’t had any dangerous encounters. Last month, however, my neighbor’s truck suffered deer damage when a deer ran into the side of it one night. A few weeks ago, a woman down a Dinner Creek had her side window broken by a deer. At least the glass blew past her and the deer didn’t jump all the way into her vehicle. I often see dead deer along the roadsides.

Turkeys, like rabbits, are plentiful this year, but they take off when startled. Many years ago, a mama turkey—no doubt with young nesting nearby—attacked a relative who was trail riding. She beat the turkey off, but her horse would tremble every time she saw a wild turkey. The rabbits in my yard are nearly tame—I have to wave my arms and yell to chase them away from the stalking Camilla-cat—but I’ve never gotten close to a turkey. They leave at the first sight of me.

Because of all the logging for the new houses, shopping areas, and the big power lines, habitat has decreased and animals seek new homes. They're moving closer to humans.

I haven’t yet seen a bear around here. When I drive the roads at night, though, I’m surprised how much the bushes look like bears.


Blogger Amy Hanek said...

Bear... right? lol! Nice post Becky! I loved the Caption on the front page of the RT, "Lost its bearings"! You've gotta love newspaper humor. Very "punny"!

Frank brought me a bat today. I LIKE those, they kill the mosquitos.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

I saw a bear in the backyard when I lived in Ferrum. We also saw two dead bears, hit by cars, recently. One was when we were going on the pony hunt.

4:44 PM  

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