Friday, January 21, 2005

The ride home

It was a slow night at work. I started for home about quarter to midnight. It was cold but the sky was bright in Peshawbestown. When I got home there was a mostly clear sky with a 3/4 moon.

The first time I saw something move in the road I sat up straighter and scolded myself. Seeing things that aren't there is a symptom of being too sleepy to drive. The second time I realized that I was seeing real things. Rabbits were out and running around. They come out on winter nights and eat bark from the trees. In the morning we will see their tracks in the snow. A few weeks from now I will start to hear owls mating when I come home at night, but right now the rabbits think they are safe.

A few years ago I was driving home and got to the dip by Belanger Creek. I thought I saw something in the road, so I slowed down. I couldn't make out what it was: it looked first to be a pile of old clothes, or maybe someone sleeping or lying in the road. As I slowed it moved but I still couldn't tell if it was a person or an animal. Finally it slunk off, furry, hunched over, and looking over its shoulder with beady eyes. I told myself that was the ugliest dog I had ever seen.

A few weeks later in the breakroom someone made a comment about a bear. Just hearing talk about a bear brought back the memory of my "ugly dog" and suddenly the pieces all fit together. In the old stories bears are always changing into people and back again. I've never seen a dog look like a man in the headlight's glare, but it makes all the sense in the world that a bear could do that.

Since then there have been a couple of "nuisance bears" in the county. Last spring a beekeeper had to kill one that kept smashing hives, doing $10,000 damage a night. It is accepted that they are around, but usually shy. If I see one again I hope to know what I'm seeing.

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