My first husband (aka #1) and I were married in 1984, next to a huge white rose-bush in his parents’ backyard. I was still allergic to religion, and he was heading toward an Eastern bent in his own spiritual path, so we wanted to avoid a non-secular ceremony. We got weak at the last moment though, and allowed the friend who married us to slip in a mention of Jesus, just to keep #1’s mother happy. (Everyone used to say that my Baptist mother-in-law didn’t have to be born again…she was born right the first time.) She seemed happy enough about the wedding, but she reminded us later that it didn’t make up for the fact that neither of us had been saved, so both of us were going to burn for eternity…but that’s another story.
My brand new husband and I went to Asheville, North Carolina for a week long honeymoon. At that time I’d never seen any real mountains, so I was impressed by the terrain and by the cute little cabin we rented. Like every new wife, I wanted to impress #1, so I cooked a big breakfast every day…bacon, eggs, french toast…the works. At night we grilled steaks or went out to eat, and our days were spent taking long walks, visiting the local attractions and, as we did everywhere we went, seeking out local book stores.
We enjoyed touring the Biltmore house…the grand 250 room estate that was built by the Vanderbilts in the 1890’s, but we really loved the Carl Sandburg home. It was cozy, and seemed like a real home, and we loved the goats that were everywhere. We took pictures with them and made jokes about moving to Hooterville to raise our own goats.
Our last day in the cabin was relaxed…I packed up our things as #1 cleaned out the car, in preparation for our drive back home. I was bringing a suitcase out of the bedroom when he came in through the front door, looking like he’d just seen a ghost!
“Do NOT go out there!” he half-yelled at me, slamming the door shut.
“Huh?” I mumbled, “What is it?”
“Honey, there’s a BEAR outside, and he doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere soon!”
“WHAT?” I gasped…was he nuts?
“I’m serious,” my apparently hallucinating husband rasped, “I snuck by him as he headed for the back of the cabin!”
I ran to the kitchen to look out the back door, and almost screamed when I saw that there was, indeed, a black bear looking right at me. It wasn’t huge, but that really doesn’t matter now…does it? I mean, it was a BEAR! The damn thing licked his lips and went back to slurping something…something obviously GOOD…off of the ground right by the back steps.
#1 followed me into the kitchen, a puzzled look on his face. “What in the world is he doing…is he licking something? What could he…..” My husband paused mid-sentence, his eyes turning to look at me…look through me…to the core of my being, it seemed.
“Honeyyyy….” he half moaned. Now, at this point, I felt just like Lucy when Rickie has figured out that she’s managed to write herself into the show again. I knew I must have done something wrong, but what in the world could I have….oh…lord….my internal Lucy let out a silent, “Waaaaaaaaaaaa!”
In my fervor to be the perfect breakfast-cooking wife, I had managed to single-handedly bait a bear, without even knowing it. It had never even dawned on me that dumping leftover bacon grease out into the yard every morning might not be a good idea…I mean, dealing with that stuff was new to my neophyte bacon-cooking sensibilities, and there was no liner in the tiny trashcan in the cabin’s kitchen, and what did the pioneer women do with their grease and…sigh. Busted.
We tried to wait that bear out, but the damn critter wasn’t going anywhere, so the rest of our pre-trip preparations were like an oversized, bizarre game of Russian-circus-style musical chairs. I would make sure that the bear was at the back door, giving #1 a signal when it was safe for him to run to the car. He would grab as many bags and bundles as he could carry, sprint like an Olympian to the car, jump inside and shut the door. The bear knew his part….he would lumber around the side of the house, heading straight for the car, certain that something interesting was going on. He would circle it and sniff and stare at the man trapped inside, and that was my cue to go to the back door and bang a pot to draw the creature back to the greasy leaves. Another high sign from me, and #1 would run back into the house. We had brought a lot of stuff, I guess, because it took at least 5 trips to get the car packed!
I don’t even remember my own (much slower) sprint to the safety of the car as we exited for the final time…I was probably worrying about my hair, or maybe I blacked it out to protect myself from the shame of being a bear baiter. I do remember, however, that we were unable to ever get a picture of that bear. We were pretty sure that no one would even believe our ‘bear story’…all we had to show for our adventure were pictures of an empty car and a bunch of goats.
I haven’t even thought about this story in many years, but today I got an email from ‘The Artist formerly known as #1’ (we’re now friends). He lives on the east coast and mentioned that he was planning to go to Asheville for business. I replied, “Oh, our honeymoon spot!”, and he said that he’d be sure to tell ‘my bear’ that I said hello. Suddenly, my bear baiting days came rushing back at me…a jumble of fear and breakfast and guilt.
Hi, my name is Tammy, and I clogged a bear’s arteries.