Bruce Keller and I had been gone just 50 hours from our home outside of Absarokee.
High Chaparral has been a family sanctuary for nearly a quarter-century. We’ve had raccoons, mountain lions, lynx, elk, deer and antelope, and of course plenty of mice, squirrels, voles, moles and skunks. (Nick, the male Yorkie, has been “deskunked” almost as many times as he’s been taken to the groomer.)
Had we been at home when our bear (or bears) visited, Nick and Nora would most likely have frightened him (them) away with their sharp, terrier warning barks.
Now please don’t accuse me of gender bias, but I’m going to call the intruder(s) Mr. Bear, to simplify the telling of the story.
We pulled into the driveway, and I trotted up the hill, as is my custom, to change the hoses, leaving Keller to unlock the place and unload groceries, our usual division of labor.
“Cooks,” he hollered (“Cooks” being a variant of “Cookie,” my nickname), “come here.”
“Can it wait?” I asked.
“Are you all right? Are the Yorkies OK?”
“Yes, but we’ve had a visitor.”
After a melt-down from seeing the destruction in the Log Room, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, guzzled the wine Keller poured and started compiling a list of damages.
I called 911 (only the third time I’ve done so in my life—the other two were medical emergencies for my two late husbands). Two deputies were dispatched and arrived from the Absarokee area, 28 miles away, in a speedy 25 minutes.
Before they pulled into the drive, we called our insurance company and reported the incident, still not sure if it were really and truly a bear, as Keller had speculated.
While the deputies investigated, we continued our list of damages: photographs, curtains, picture frames, walls, canvases of oils, a treasured lamp, several lampshades apparently flattened when Mr. Bear stepped on them. The woodwork damage was the most severe. All three of the rooms Mr. Bear intruded on bore his bear trademark: gouges, claw marks and buttery prints on windows.
When the law officers finished their investigation, they confirmed Keller’s suspicion: bear or bears, probably young (2 or 3 years old) and neophytes at break-in.
Mr. Bear did not go upstairs (thank goodness, no one was sleeping in our bed!), nor did he leave bear scat. He did urinate on the beautiful carpet, in several places—the Yorkies were fascinated by that.
Do we wish ill for Mr. Bear and his species? Absolutely not. He was being a bear. Period.
As Keller said, “We’re unhurt. The Yorkies are fine. Perspective, Cookie.”
And as my sister Olivia and my friend Ruth said, “It’s a helluva story, Cookie.”