Another bear story.....I read last week that Sarah Palin has morphed from a pit bull (with lipstick) to a mamma grizzly. While I fail to ever understand the Republican fascination with her (maybe it’s the fascination of watching a train wreck), I’m here to report that Sarah Palin has nothing on my mother, God rest her soul. My mother had about 50 years on Miss Sarah and in her lifetime, she didn’t shoot a grizzly from an airplane. She went hand-to-hand combat with one.
When my daughter Sherry was a baby, we lived in Wyoming for a while. My parents came through on their way to Yellowstone (we went there several times on family vacations). After spending the night with us, they left the next day for Yellowstone with Sherry and I accompanying them, my brother Vance, and cousin David Winans, both seniors in high school.
We stayed in a cabin in Yellowstone close to Old Faithful. I can’t remember the name of the lodge or cabins but when my mother and I visited about eight years ago, it was still there in all its rustic glory. I do remember what the cabin looked like on the inside and there’s one thing I can guarantee--with my father making the reservations, it was the cheapest there.
Our cabin was rather basic: two double beds with a wood-burning stove in between. I don’t know where the boys stayed. I guess they had another cabin or Daddy made them sleep in the car!
There was a table and chairs also. No air conditioning in those days and it was actually cold in Yellowstone in June. Our cabin had a wooden door and a screen door to let in the breeze and keep out the flies.
We fished that day and surprisingly, caught something. Daddy fried the fish for supper. Surely he didn’t use the wood stove, but I don’t remember another kitchen stove, so maybe he did.
In any event, the men got up early the next morning to go fishing again. My mom and I slept in. I was awakened by the yells of what I thought were children playing. I remember opening my eyes when I heard a gentle “woof, woof.” It was a big, fat Yellowstone bear, sniffing around the stove between my mom’s bed and mine. I guess he was looking for some of my Daddy’s cutthroat trout and had nosed his way into our cabin by the unlatched screen door.
As he sniffed around, my Mom sat up in bed and said, “Scat. Go on. Get out of here now!” This was accompanied by a wave of her hand.
The bear turned around in the narrow space (I could smell it) and ambled out the screen door. Just as the bear got to the door, it turned around and let out a loud growl at my mother as if getting in the last word. By that time Mom had already turned over to go back to sleep.
I got up and latched the door and crawled back into bed myself. The male members of our little group didn’t believe a word about the bear until Daddy noticed the imprints in the fish grease congealed in the frying pan. It’s a wonder that bear didn’t toss the place like a kick burglar.
But my Mom gave her orders and expected them to be followed. She didn’t run for office, make speeches, or have an expensive wardrobe. But she could order a mamma grizzly out of her room and not make a big deal about it. She also taught me to play fair, that you didn’t have to pray in school, that gays weren’t bad people, and that a woman’s body was her own.
My grandson Carter had heard the family story about “Grandma Bea” and asked me to recount it and other stories the other day.
I told him this story and also told him that my mother, who would be 96, was the antithesis of Sarah Palin and largely responsible for who I am today.
I swear I’m gonna quit watching national news pundits. I’m just going to worry about what is happening right here in Fort Bend County. I promise.
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