Bears and Stars

by | Sep 30, 2022 | Cowboy Bob

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A Blog by Cowboy Bob

My gal and I took a boat trip on the Missouri river a short time ago and the beauty was stupendous, cliffs sliding down to the water, towering mountains above us, and all kinds of wildlife. When we put in, the bulletin board had bear warnings, a few more posters than usual and I thought well, better keep an eye open, never know, the Griz have migrated down out of the Rockies and occasionally seem to hunt some of the river bottom country we were in.

The first night went well, a great meal, some fancy hamburgers cooked on the grill and as the boat swung at anchor, we sat on the deck looking at the night sky as humans have for thousands of years, breathing in the silence and the canopy of sky with the milky way brilliantly painting in a swath from north to south. Soon the night chill drove us in to our small cabin, where she lambasted me at Scrabble as usual. We made up our bunk and readied for bed, Cody, the wonder dog, got the treat of being in the berth with us; he usually sleeps in a kennel at home. Snug as a bug in a rug the three of us settled in while the water of the Missouri lapped at our hull playing a musical melody of light slaps and gurgles. I got a nudge in the back, and she asked, “Are we sinking, what is all that racket?”

I roused and said, “Just water, it is outside the hull, and all is well. Go to sleep.”

She said, “Are you sure? It sounds awful close.”

“It is on the other side of the hull, we are good.” This response got a nice snuggle and soon she and Cody both were sawing logs, and the lapping sounds were drowned out by the sounds of snoring. But I decided to check the bilge (that is where water collects if you are sinking} because sometimes she is right and I would hate the thought of saying, “Well, you were right, we sank.”  I crawled back into the bunk after checking the (dry) bilge and next thing I knew it was morning, I made the coffee, cooked bacon and eggs and we started upriver.

The Missouri is a lake in this central part of Montana, and we were cruising upriver toward the Gates of the Mountains and the scenery was overwhelming, we were in deep canyons and spent the day puttering along at 5 mph watching eagles and antelopes, a few deer and spied a mountain goat. As the day wound down, we stopped at a campsite that had a dock, that said paradoxically, “No Camping on Dock,” well, I ask my expert word-meister, “What does that mean?” 

She scratched her head and said, “I have no idea.” So, we tied up, got off the boat, and walked to the camp, more bear-warning signs warning to put food in the metal lockers and a lot of other advice. We walked back to the boat and Cody was sticking mighty close; I didn’t know he could read, but he sure was spooked. My gal said nothing, and we sat on the back deck and watched the shadows creep up the canyon walls, eventually clothing us in darkness at the bottom of the canyon with the black sky overhead full of stars. We had our libations, my NA beer and her Cabernet and talked of small things and when the evening chill hit, we retired to the cabin. She beat me at Scrabble again, not so bad this time, but humbling nevertheless.

A bark woke me, followed by a frantic hug, “What was that? Something is out there,” she whispered, and Cody followed with a low growl deep in his throat. Shaking the sleep out of my head, I listened and heard nothing except the wind had come up and we were bumping against the dock. But I could smell something, something a little “gamey” and thought, well maybe Griz is visiting. The small craft we are on is made of fiberglass, not bearproof material that I know of. So, I climbed out of the bunk, grabbed my Randall survival knife and silently made my way to the cabin door, listening for the “woof, woof” of a Griz. I peered over the deck and saw nothing, then turned on the million-candlepower searchlight and panned around the dock area and adjacent campground and saw no signs of a large carnivore. In my underwear I got on the dock and re-tied the boat, looked around and then saw the scat of a raccoon right at my feet. I thought, there you go, only a raccoon. I went back, secured the cabin, put away my knife and crawled into bed. To my surprise, I was met with the same bedtime soliloquy as last night. While I was out defending my loved ones, they were sound asleep, not even waking up when I crawled into bed.

Next morning, I took Cody for a walk into the campground and when I crossed a trail, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. There was the biggest Griz track I have ever seen, and it was fresh.

Sleep well Pilgrim. Cowboy Bob

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