Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)
TITLE: Beary Nice Yellowstone Memories
By Cyndie Odya-Weis
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Our family trip to Yellowstone, 1964, packed our summer curriculum. From geysers to greenery to grizzly bears, from feathered friends to Old Faithful, our days were filled with compelling facts and exhilarating experiences. I have special memories of listening to Ranger Ron as the sun set in the west, his voice darkening along with the sky. “Grizzly Bears are dangerous- they are evil foes of nature,” he boomed. Just then, I was sure I saw an evil foe- bear sitting in the audience. It must have been a grizzly-bearded dad.
“They’ve burglarized cabins, carrying off prized possessions,” he continued. I was sure that the most prized possession in our cabin was ME and that plans were in the works to carry me off in the mouth of a Grizzly.
“A Grizzly Bear can decapitate a man in one swipe of a sharply clawed paw,” he concluded, just as a mosquito darted toward my face. I was sure it was spattering blood from a recent decapitation.
Surely, those cute brown bears we had seen that afternoon were only a VERY distant shirt-tail relative of these Grizzlies the ranger spoke of. He could not possibly be referring to the cunning, puppy-dog-snuggly, furry babies we encountered. Why, they ate marshmallows from our hands- they WERE marshmallows themselves, those soft furry friends. They put very few scratches on our new Ford Country Squire station wagon- I knew they liked us and were trying to be careful. One man had even tried to pose one friendly bear with his wife in the front seat while he snapped a photo. Our bears liked Ritz crackers too- and red licorice. They could not possibly be the same culprits that Ranger Ron spoke of.
We left the ranger talk and nobody seemed too worried- except for me, age 10. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. As our car approached the cabin, dad gasped. Mom screamed. My sister laughed. There in front of our cabin was a Grizzly the size of five dads! Now THIS must be Ranger Ron’s friend sitting on the porch, eating dinner from our cooler, gobbling raw bacon by the pound and separating egg whites with long pointy claws. “Drive away, David,” said my mom.
“OOOOhhhh, let’s watch,” cried my younger brother.
“ I’ll race the motor and scare him away,” said my dad. He vrrrroomed and vrrrrrroooooomed. The bear looked up. Dad honked and tooted and flashed the lights. Seeming to appreciate the apparent applause and spotlight our horn and headlamps provided, the Grizzly continued his gourmet feast until he emptied the 10 gallon brown metal cooler. Then Mr. Grizzly lumbered into the woods, shaking his behind in a sort of rumba.
We cautiously exited the station wagon and entered the cabin, each of us clamoring to discuss our uninvited guest. I slept well that night….. and dreamed only of Goldilocks. Before I went to bed, however, I quickly penned postcards to all of my friends, for I had the best vacation story ever.
Now, 41 years later, I treasure Grizzly tales and calmer camping memories. Convening with nature, pleasantly “stuck” with family, relishing the simplicity of God’s gifts to us… that’s what camping is about…. that’s what life is about.
A generation after Yellowstone, a family of raccoons (not Grizzlies) ate the dehydrated baby food when we took our five-month old twins camping. With bellies full of baby flakes, they surely sought water and bloated up like balloons. We roared at the thought and giggle at our new spaghetti made from left-over tacos- spaghetti-rito, we call it. Flashlight games and ghost stories, (and bear stories) sparklers and camp fires- all are treasured camping memories. And on golden mornings anywhere, when the air is cool and my pillow warm and soft; when the sunlight beams like God’s special message to me; and the trees encode their message in shadow pictures, I remember camping. I flash a prayer of Thanksgiving to God for His exquisite gifts….and I glance behind me just to be sure the Grizzly has not returned.
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