My Forty Years Scribblin's
Just Another Bear Story

Originally written in 1956 as part of a longer account of the Bar UC's first commercial pack trip and published in the Montana Outfitter Magazinein 1960, which Mildred later made into three separate stories. This one appeared in the Seeley Swan Pathfinderin 1987. Mildred and Allen clean up after a bear raids their camp.

Our first outfitting season in the South Fork started out well enough except that when we arrived in camp with our second load of supplies, we found the place to be a wreck, thanks to a grouchy old bear. Now, I had been prepared to deal with hungry hunters, and cold, snowy mornings. I hadn't given much thought, though, to having a tent-wise bear as a neighbor. After we unpacked that second load of supplies, it was my turn to stay alone with the camp while the rest of our outfit went over the mountain to retrieve our guests. I'll admit I was a little nervous, but if we were going to pack hunters I may as well get used to it. I wasn't quite alone—my dog was with me, and he made a ruckus at the slightest indication of trouble.

I didn't spend much time sleeping during that first night alone. That old bruin had obviously developed a yen for camp fare, and nobody—including the dog—had been able to run him off. I spent the first night mostly running out of my tent with gun and flashlight in hand to see if he needed shooting. There was no doubt about the latter. But I didn't, and still don't, intend to tangle with any bear at night, alone—unless he makes it necessary.

The second night I had a brainstorm. We had built a lodgepole lean-to, which we called a "meat house." It was made of corner posts and cross poles on top. We hung our wild game from the cross poles. On top of these poles, we used to put little green jackpines to provide shade for the meat.Several years of bear encounters led to the development of a bear proof system of storing the camp food.

"Now," I thought to myself, "if I put my bed on top of that, I just might get that pesky critter. Wouldn't that be a feather in my hat!"

It was a rainy fall, but the clearing sky promised me an October moon. I needn't be afraid of that bear up on the meat-house. The closer that black bandit would come, the harder I'd shoot! So, throwing my bed up, a piece at a time, and taking my old 30-40, a pocket full of shells and the flashlight, I climbed atop my perch in the gathering dusk. I was tired from constantly searching the dark the night before. I promptly went to sleep, but I didn't dream for long.

The yipping of the dog and the brush-cracking marauder brought me upright After that, at each small sound, I popped up like a jack-in-the-box. The bear and the dog went at it for hours in small circles around the camp. I know, because I listened to dog-chase-bear all night. The old codger never came close to the tents, though.

I never did get a shot at that pesky bear. All I got was cold! At daybreak there was a half-inch of frost over everything, including me. I climbed down from my meat-house perch. I was stiff and disgruntled, and definitely cured!