.


IT'S ALL BLACK & WHITE

by Alan A Sandercott

Short Stories

72 pages. Perfect bound. 5" X 8".
First printing 2008

ISBN 0-9685413-4-9

[Out of Print]

  • The Trophy Hunt
  • A Ficticious Book Review
  • Under New Management
  • What Is Evil?
  • A not so proud battle of yesteryear.
  • Unequal Partners
  • My First Car
  • That nasty little Pine Beetle.
  • Wide World Of Sports
  • Our Vacation
  • Outhouse Diaries.
  • Stress Management
  • The Happy Little Troll.
  • A Family Patchwork
  • Dreams
  • Have Oxygen, Will Travel.
  • My First Job
  • Living With Bears.
  • My Santa Letter.
  • Here We Go Again


  • NOTE: This previously published work is covered by copyright.
    No printing, copying or use by any means without written permission from the author.


     
    THE HARDLUCK TROPHY    by Alan A Sandercott

           The hunting season of 1985 wasn't that much different than other years, except for one local moose hunter. Cool fall mornings and fresh snow had Bull Moose snorting and pawing the ground signaling the beginning of the annual rut. Bulls were in prime shape and hunters were eager for the chase.

           That was the year Randy managed to shoot his moose early in the season. After letting the carcass hang overnight in his garage, he and fellow hunter Monty proceeded to quarter it up ready for butchering. That evening Randy and Monty took the remains out to the garbage dump along Francois Lake. However, rather than simply dumping the moose head in the container, Monty got the bright idea of propping it up in the trees overlooking the dump area. He deliberately went around the long way so as not to leave any tracks in the snow and carefully propped the head up against some bushes. From down below and especially from the road, it looked like a moose standing back in the trees. Happy with their deed they jumped back in their truck and headed home.

           No sooner were they back on the road, when they spotted friend Paul coming towards them. They quickly flagged him down and Monty asked excitedly, "Jesus, you're not moose hunting are you?"
           "Yeah," Paul replied.
           "Well," Monty said, "we just came up the road by the dump, and there's a moose standing on the hillside. If you hurry, it might still be there."
           It was difficult but both Monty and Randy managed to keep a straight face.

           Paul wasted no time heading for the dump. He slowed down as he approached the side road. After turning he cautiously drove into the clearing by the garbage containers, his eyes scanning the hillside for the moose. By then Randy had turned his pickup around and was following close behind.

           They waited quietly as Paul got out of his truck and looked around. Sure enough, he sees the moose in the dense brush looking down at him. Well, he couldn't believe his good fortune. Cautiously, he reached into the truck for his rifle, inserted the clip, and quietly injected a shell into the chamber. He slowly raised his rifle and peered into the scope. Framed in his crosshairs was a two year-old Bull Moose. All he could see was the head and part of its neck jutting from the brush. That was all Paul needed for a neck shot. All he could think of was bagging his moose on his first trip out, and so close to home, too.

           Taking careful aim he drew a bead on the moose's neck and slowly squeezed the trigger. The crack of the rifle reverberated throughout the valley, but when the smoke settled, the moose was still standing, or so it appeared to Paul. He stepped back, shook his head and pumped another shell into his rifle. This time he leaned over the hood of his truck and took extra careful aim. He fired. The moose didn't even so much as flinch. He stepped back, casting a confused look back towards Randy's pickup where two stone-faced men fought to retain their composure. Paul stared at his rifle, feeling the scope to make sure it was tight.

           For what ever reason the moose was still there so Paul pumped a third shell into the chamber. He took off his cap and set it on the hood, and then rested his rifle on it. Next he planted his feet firmly and took careful aim; right below the ear. Once more the sharp crack of his rifle thundered up the lake. This time he knew he'd hit the mark. The head suddenly fell over and slid down the snow covered hill towards him. That's when he heard the sound of laughter. Both Randy and Monty were standing outside their truck, just killing themselves laughing. It didn't take long for Paul to realize he'd been had.
           "I'll get even with you bastards," Paul yelled at them. "Just you wait."
           Luckily for the two pranksters Paul could take a joke, as he stood there red faced with the rifle still in his hands.

           Paul would be a long time living down that little experience. Not only did the story spread through town like a wildfire but Paul was to become a celebrity for his deed.

           A couple months later at a Rod and Gun Club banquet, Paul found himself reliving that moose head caper. The Master of Ceremonies delivered the colourful and hilarious story of Paul's' encounter with the uncooperative moose at the dump. After the applause and laughter died down Paul was presented with the Hardluck Story of the Year Award; an imitation rifle. According to the presenter, it was not any old Elephant Gun, but rather an Effluent Gun, which accounted for the garbage bag stuffed in the barrel. As usual, Paul took the whole episode in good humor, the rifle he proudly displayed for years in his trophy cabinet at home.

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    JUST ANOTHER DAY AT WAR    by Alan A Sandercott

           Reveille shattered the frigid air at 4 am on that November morning. Sergeant Sean O'Reilly cautiously poked his head out into the morning air. Blowing snow from the still howling blizzard drifted tight, almost burying the rows of flimsy canvas tents of their company. Others appeared to have faired no better. The ground was coved to a depth of a foot to eighteen inches of the stuff. "It must be ten below out there," he told the tent's three other occupants still huddled beneath their blankets.

           Company "E" along with five other companies of their command were four days into a winter campaign. Orders to move out were forthcoming. Men and equipment fell into line and the long procession started to move off in three columns that seemed to stretch for miles. Axles squealed from the cold. Wheels crunched the frozen ground. The men clutched their heavy winter coats tight about them. And through it all the wind howled and ravaged any exposed flesh.

           As the day progressed the column trudged ahead. Officers moved among the men in a vain attempt to quell grumbling in the ranks. 'esprit de corps' was at an all time low. Many prayed the enemy would never engage in battle in such terrible conditions. At times the fog brought visibility to a matter of yards.

           No one complained when a halt was finally called. Confusion reigned with the order for 'Quiet' and 'Remain on the Ready'. Rumour spread rapidly that the enemy was close at hand. There would be little sleep that night. 'No fire' was the standing order as they were too close to the enemy. Bitter cold drifted through the encampment. Each man made use of what little cover there was to try and keep warm.

           As the eastern horizon brightened in advance of the rising sun it was General George Armstrong Custer who personally issued the command, "Boots and Saddles." A lone bugle sounded the 'Charge'. And, as the band struck up the General's favourite battle tune of 'Garry-Owen', over 700 officers and men of the US 7th Cavalry charged down the slopes. Below, along the banks of the Washita River, were Cheyenne Indian Chief Black Kettle and 75 lodges of his unsuspecting tribe.

           That was November 27, 1868 and the ensuing carnage would become the norm in the US Army's endeavors to eradicate the many Indian tribes of the American west.

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    BLIGHT ON MY WORLD    by Alan A Sandercott

           Once upon a time I had trees, healthy spruce, pine and poplar trees. Trees so thick they shielded our meager retreat on the lake from the intrusive noises of civilization, my own little forest in my own private world. Then came the invasion. Marauding hoards of voracious predators on the wing descended like locusts on the wind. Masters of stealth, they remained hidden within the depths of the forests. Undetected as they chewed their way into the hearts of defenseless pine trees. The dreaded Mountain Pine Beetle made its presence known.

           Years of misguided forest practices and antiquated laws set the stage for what would become a major resource disaster. In the beginning there were those who recognized the pending danger, but through politics and greed their warnings were mostly ignored. The window for intervention opened and closed drawing only muted uncaring interest from politicians. Year by year the devastation spread unchecked. More and more or our prime timber resource succumbed. The destruction soon overwhelmed even the best-intended actions.

           This year the telltale signs in my little forest are all too evident; the little beetle has taken its toll. Once vibrant green pine needles are slowly turning reddish brown, large chucks of infected bark peel away leaving ugly scars. Ironically, the needles take on a hue of beauty, reminiscent of fall when leaves resemble an artist's palette. However, I know all to well what next year will bring. There will be no new growth, no new needles, nothing but death and decay, a growing forest fire hazard waiting to happen.

           I can't help feeling both sad and angry as I watch the blight overtake my little forest. I curse those who ignored the warning and took no action to stop the carnage. It is an example of man's ability to turn a blind eye in the pursuit of greed and personal ambition at any cost. The Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in this province may not stack up to man's more monumental atrocities worldwide. It pales along side the Sudan's starving masses, genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans, and the casualties of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. It commands no attention from the United Nations or world leaders and, unfortunately, little attention from our own politicians, past and present, federal and provincial.

           What would I do if I only had three months to live and didn't have to face the consequences of my actions, I'd probably take a page from the book of greed and remove the blight from my own world. Through consultation with the real experts on the Pine Beetle I would change the forest practices code to ensure the conditions that led to the outbreak are controlled. Forest fires, which are as natural and necessary as fire itself, would be left to burn where ever possible. I would arrange controlled burning of the devastated timber areas on our terms. For the future I would ensure controlled logging was allowed in Provincial Parks and that the Pine Beetle's favourite pine species were never used in replanting programs.

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    HAVE OXYGEN, WILL TRAVEL   by Alan A Sandercott

    (Ficticious Newspaper ad in the Personal's Column)


           Elderly gentleman seeking younger woman with money for security and companionship.

           My likes: I like being taken for long wheelchair walks in the park, sitting on the deck listening to music, TV, bird watching and regular naps. I love to travel at others's expense.

           My dislikes: The evening news and the world's problems, doctor's waiting rooms, medication schedules, being forgotten out on the deck when it rains, little dogs sniffing my leg and prostate tests.

           The right woman must enjoy the finer things in life; good food, good drink, great sex. She must have an appreciation for Viagra, adult diapers, oxygen tanks, early bedtimes and my teeth in a glass by the sink. She won't mind dressing me at times and, most importantly, cutting my food at the restaurant.

           All replies answered as memory permits.

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    THE HAPPY LITTLE TROLL   by Alan A Sandercott

           Once upon a time, there lived a mischievous little troll by the name of Ulf. He was born long, long ago in a forest cave that overlooked a beautiful Norwegian fjord. Ulf's father spent all his time in the cave guarding a fabulous treasure. Ulf's uncle was a mean old troll who lived under a big stone bridge. It was always expected that young Ulf would someday relieve his father as protector of the cave and its treasures. However, Ulf had other ideas.

           Like most trolls, Ulf was very short with a big fat tummy that hid his overly large stubby feet. His big wide ears stood out from his head like ice cream scoops. Two beady little yellow eyes with black spots sparkled in the light. He had a long thin Pinocchio nose that stuck way out in front of this face. When he smiled or laughed his four white teeth shone brightly against his otherwise dirty face. Ulf's hair was dark, long and scraggly and spilled down over his back. He had a long dog-like tail with a tuft of hair matching that on his head. His only clothing was a pair of grubby trousers held up by a single strap over his shoulder and fastened in the center of his chest. He was indeed a strange looking little fellow.

           Ulf often disregarded the warnings of his father and wandered down the path to the hamlet by the sea. His favourite spot was sitting on a big mushroom on a hill above the local school where he could watch the children playing at recess. Sometimes, when class was in, he would sneak down to the school and climb up onto the window ledge. He would make faces at the children and make them laugh. When the teacher would look towards the window, Ulf would quickly duck down. Ulf thought the children were lots of fun.

           Some of the children in the hamlet had pet dogs. Whenever the dogs saw Ulf they would bark because he would steal their food. He thought it was fun to tease the dogs untill they chased him. He would hide in the human's flower gardens where the dogs could not find him. While the dogs were searching, Ulf would sneak back to the dog houses and eat their food. Then, just for fun, he would leave burrs in their beds to tangle in their fur.

           Ulf discovered lots of animals living in the forest. Squirrels were more his size and he loved to play tricks on them. He would wait until the squirrel left its nest and then sneak in and steal nuts that had been stored for food and leave rocks in their place. Then he would hide behind a tree untill the squirrel returned home. Pretty soon he would hear the squirrel chattering as it packed the rocks out and added them to the growing pile outside.

           Another of Ulf's amusements was to wait untill mother birds left their nests to hunt for food. Then Ulf would climb up to the nests and switch the chicks around. After he would hide and wait for the mothers to return. He would soon find himself running down the forest path with angry mother birds swooping down at him.

           Perhaps Ulf was not as serious as his father or as gruff as his uncle, but he was enjoying his life. He was a happy little troll. Each morning he would sit on his mushroom impatiently waiting. Soon the school bell would ring signaling the start of a new adventure.

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    MY SANTA LETTER   by Alan A Sandercott

    Dear Santa,

           I hope my letter finds you and Mrs. Claus high and dry at the North Pole. I understand the polar icecap is melting due to climate change brought on by global warming, none of which I am responsible for. On the bright side you'll soon be able to trade in your aging herd of reindeer for a fleet of modern kayaks. In that way you could better utilize those lazy elves as paddlers.

           My wish list this year is simple; I'm asking for the same gift that I asked for last year, and the year before that. There was obviously some sort of communications meltdown. While your gift of a sweater and new underwear were appreciated, they paled in comparison to the laptop computer I had asked for. Needless to say I was disappointed and perhaps my comments about you at that moment were a little rash. I'm sure your mother was both human and a lovely lady.

           In hindsight I suspect your decision to ignore my wish list was based on the unfortunate incident of the previous year. I had hoped that was behind us. As I mentioned before I would have offered to pay for the damages but I still don't believe it was my fault. Besides, it's your responsibility to carry the proper insurance.

           I was just as surprised as you when the dog's barking spooked the reindeer. Although I still think it was that goofy looking lead reindeer with the red nose that was to blame. If it hadn't tried charging the dog, the whole team wouldn't have slid off the roof. And who would have expected the sleigh, that normally glides through the air like a feather, would crash to the ground with such impact as to spill presents all over the place. And wasn't I right there to help pick things up? I must admit though, I was a little hurt when you accused me of snooping. It's not my fault that your elves do such a poor job of wrapping. It felt good though to be able to phone the neighbour and tell him what he was getting for Christmas, even before you reached his house.

           Anyway, Christmas is almost here again and you should know that I've been reasonably good for the better part of this last year. If your elves tell you anything different please don't believe them. Everybody knows, elves are sneaky and can't be trusted. Help yourself to a snack if you wish when you're here. I'm not leaving out any more cookies and milk as you never touch them, not that the dog minds.

           Merry Christmas

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    OUTHOUSE DIARIES   by Alan A Sandercott

    [ True Story ]


           Friday 27, 2006. We woke up to wet snow falling. No big deal, but as the day progressed it became clear things were about to get a lot worse and we prepared for a possible power outage. Lights flashed off and on all day. We had to make multiple trips out onto out front deck to clear snow from our satellite dish. Thankfully the dish is still in a temporary location at ground level (if one can accept five years as temporary).

           At 8:10 pm during the seventh inning of the World Series game the inevitable happened; we lost our electricity. We sat in the dark for awhile on the slim chance the lights would come back on, but no.

           Out came the flashlights. Luckily we still had telephone service, and that indicated the lines to town were still up.

           My wife Ann decided she may as well go to bed. Gina, our faithful husky dog, and I remained in the dark living room. I muttered continually at not knowing the outcome of the World Series. At 10:00pm I took Gina out for a pee and it was still snowing as hard as ever. I phoned BC Hydro's emergency number and a nice young lady advised it would be noon the next day before our power would be restored. With that I crawled into a sleeping bag on the couch for what was a long sleepless night, listening to the eerie sounds of trees breaking and crashing to the ground.

           Saturday morning we could see the extent of the damage around our home; two feet of sopping wet snow covered everything. Trees and shrub bushes were broken, bent and flattened under the weight. The temperature at that point was right at freezing prompting us to start a fire in the fireplace. Our water system is electric so all we had was the pressure left in the tank. Using our emergency Coleman stove Ann prepared a pot of porridge and hot coffee.

           It was still snowing heavily as I shoveled a path out into the yard for Gina. Not wanting to use the indoor toilets I shoveled a path over to our outdoor biffy, a hold over from our home construction days. You can't imagine how cold that toilet seat was!

           I've lived in this country since the early 1950's and I have never seen anything like this! It was extremely difficult to fight our way through the snow to survey the damage. Gina was still not satisfied with her bathroom arrangements so I had to dig a path out to her compound. By now every muscle in my body was screaming at me.

           The snow load on the garage roof was critical so I set to work pulling off snow. Within an hour I was sweating profusely and I could feel my heart pounding. I knew I was gambling with a heart attack and kept promising myself a return to the house and a rest. Then Ann returned from her inspection of the driveway and told me several trees were down and the road was completely impassible. Our small tractor/snow-blower could never handle the wet snow, plus it was obvious we stood no chance of getting plowed until the trees were removed.

           As much as I wanted to go in and rest I located my power saw, filled 'er up with fresh gas, said a silent prayer, and to my amazement the saw fired up. Clearing the trees was hell! A logger I'm not. Trees were all over the place, bent, broken off, some hanging, others buried under the snow. Several hours later a very tired Ann and I made our way back to the house confident our driveway was ready for plowing. Problem was a hundred other driveways were waiting for plowing as well. The main road was still not plowed so we would be trapped for days. Back indoors we changed into dry clothes. We stoked the fireplace and soon had boots, snow pants and jackets draped near the fire in hopes of drying them. It was passed noon.

           By three in the afternoon we accepted we would be spending another night in the dark. That meant hauling more wood for the fireplace. Our neighbour called advising they were unable to get home to care for their two dogs locked in their kennel. I agreed to release the dogs so they could make their way up the road to another neighbour who would care for them. Just before dark I bundled up and fought my way through the bush and now waist-deep snow to rescue the dogs. Once out they were free to head for the other neighbours, but no, they sat waiting for me. I figured if the dogs would break trail I could follow them out to the main road. Unfortunately, their driveway was in worse condition than ours. I trudged along until we reached the tangle of trees. While they crawled under, I had to fight my way over through tangled limbs. It was almost dark when we finally broke through to the highway, still unplowed! We then followed the road until we were in sight of the other neighbours. That's when the dogs bounded off through the deep snow to the waiting neighbour. I waved and turned for home.

           The snow finally ceased around 3:00 pm and streaks of blue sky off to the northwest were a welcome sight. By now BC Hydro was saying our power would be restored by 6:00pm. As I collapsed exhausted into my easy chair Ann made a hot supper of wieners boiled in snow water and tea.

           After eating I phoned the Hydro number and was told Burns Lake would have power by 8:00 pm and crews would then start working out into the rural areas. After a few phone calls we discovered no pickups with blades would get through the now freezing wet snow. I then called a neighbour who is a logging contractor on the hopes they may have a piece of equipment capable of doing the job. They did, they had skidder but it would be rough. "We don't care," I replied, "We just need an escape route." They agreed to do our driveway the next day. I breathed a sigh of relief while sitting in the dark. The flickering of candles is a great reminder of just how much we depend on electricity. Outside we could hear the familiar sounds of a grader working on the main road, things were looking up.

           Sunday morning dawned a cold minus 10C and almost as bad inside. Ann was up first and started the fireplace while I watched from my cozy sleeping bag. Then it was quick dashes to the outhouse. I made a point of outlasting Ann so she had to go first. A phone call to Burns Lake confirmed they had received power at 9:00 pm the previous night. That's when we learned that places like Burns Lake and Houston had received four feet or more of snow.

           After eating breakfast by the fireplace and while enjoying a second coffee made from melted snow, I called Hydro for an update. It would be 8:00 pm that night they promised. I managed to hook some flashlight batteries to an old scanner radio and we were soon monitoring the progress of the BC Hydro crews.

           By 10:00 am the sun was out in full force and blazing through our living room windows. The room temperature soon soared to 18C and the fireplace was allowed to burn out. We had been without power for close to 40 hours and it was time to worry out our fridge and deepfreeze. We have a portable generator for emergencies and I soon had it up and running and the fridge plugged in. We covered the deepfreeze with an old sleeping bag while it waited its turn.

           Around 12:30 Jim Peebles arrived at our driveway with his skidder. You have no idea how good it felt to see that big machine powering its way towards us. In no time at all we were once again connected to the outside world and Jim moved on to help other stranded neighbours.

           Darkness was again closing in and temperatures were dropping when I called Hydro for an update. Well, image my surprise when the lady advised they had no record of a power outage in our area. After politely reporting that, no, our power was not on; she asked when it had gone off. She seemed really surprised that we had been without power for three days and said she would submit a trouble report.

           I then drove east along Colleymount Road noting house after house with the dim candlelight emerging from their windows. When I reached the Francois Lake ferry landing the power was on. Power also appeared to be on for Southbank across the lake. What I didn't see was any sign of Hydro's emergency repair crews. They were all gone for the night leaving Colleymount Road in the dark, despite what BC Hydro was reporting on the phones.

           That night I couldn't help thinking of the seriousness of our situation. Our home is well insulated but you can only go so many days without heat before your house and everything in it begins to freeze!

           Monday morning was just as cold. We had now gone 56 hours without power. Once again Ann rose first and started the fireplace and then made her way to the outhouse. Gina was determined she need her morning walk so Ann bundled up and went with her.

           Breakfast consisted of cereal and warm milk. Then came the task of hauling in more wood and starting the generator. I placed a small electric heater in the bathroom to warm the plumbing. What we didn't have that morning was the bright sunshine streaming through the windows. By now I had memorized Hydro's emergency number and when I called they hoped to have our power back on by 4:00 pm. We hoped so too.

           Having nothing else to do, I once again drove to the ferry landing. Guess what? No Hydro crews! It was 9:30 in the morning and they were nowhere to be seen. I expected, given the seriousness of the situation, they would have been out at the crack of dawn. Driving back home in the daylight I could see the extent of the damage. There were trees down all along the road; wires were torn from the poles. Repairs would be time-consuming to say the least. Hydro's promise of 4:00 pm seemed unrealistic.

           By 2:00 pm it's still -5C outside. The sun never did come out from behind the clouds. Damn, the generator then ran out of gas with darkness only two hours away. The scanner was very silent so I jump in the car and go looking. I had heard them earlier and suspected they may even be past our home. My pulse began to recede when I spotted the crews down the road a ways. I knew they couldn't turn on the power until they reached the next main switch that is a couple miles past us. I return home feeling better that they're still out there.

           It's now 3:00 pm and I'm sure I'm sounding a little desperate but after 66 hours without power can you blame me? So I place another call to Hydro who now tell us we'll have to wait until 11:00 pm. Gee, what a surprise. It's off to the woodshed again while I can still see. We know they're still out there when we see a helicopter flying low over the power lines near our house, but they may be too late as darkness is closing in fast.

           Just before 4:00pm Ann and I are sitting in the living room when a light comes on. At first we look at it in disbelief and then decide we can start turning things on again. After the outage we had thrown breakers for anything with motors such as the deepfreeze and fridge. All the electronics had been unplugged to protect against power surges. First we check to make sure the heat is on in all rooms. Next in priority is the water pump and soon as the pressure is up I flush both toilets. Then the appliances are turned on, the water heater, and I also replace the battery in the living room smoke alarm that was pulled when using the fireplace. During the next half hour as we feel the house warming we go through our check list. That's when the lights flicker and then the house plunges into darkness. Muttering a string of curses I fumble in the dark for a flashlight and then turn everything off again. It was great while it lasted, all 45 minutes of it. On the bright side the house is now warmer and we have water. Listening to the scanner I hear the repair crew trying to figure out what happened, a missed tree, a phase problem?? We relight the fireplace and settle in to wait.

           At ten minutes after six the power comes back on. Do we turn things back on?? No, this time our priority is to make something hot for supper. The rest can wait.

           The next morning it's -10C but after a good night's sleep in a warm bed life doesn't seem so bad. But the problems are far from over. After a normal breakfast I survey the snow load on the house roof. There's about two feet of snow piled up and while we've had more up there this stuff is wet and way heavier than normal. With forecasts of more snow I'm not taking any chances. Three hours later I was only half finished the roof but my body was totally finished. The lure of a hot shower was over-powering. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered all the snow I had pushed down was blocking the entrances! More shoveling, only now it was packed and freezing

           I was prone on my recliner chair with both the heat and vibrators going full blast when Ann got home. I didn't move far from that chair for the rest of the day. Tomorrow would be another day. It was dark outside and fortunately I could see the snow clouds heading our way.

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    LIVING WITH BEARS   by Alan A Sandercott


           Perhaps a clarification is in order. We don't actually live with the bears, but rather we co-exist with them. Our choice to live along rural Francois Lake places us smack in the middle of wilderness, home to many species of wildlife, one being the Black Bear. We concede the bears were here first and experience has taught us how to 'get along'. Bear bells attached to clothing are standard when they're around. Whistling or singing while in the bush helps alert them to our presence. The last thing one wants to do is stumble across a bear unannounced as they can be very inhospitable and dangerous.

           Shortly after moving to the lake I was digging post holes for our fence. In those days we had to fence out free range cattle. I suddenly noticed a bear was watching me dig. It showed no signs of aggression so I carried on, always with one eye on the bear. Then suddenly I heard a sound behind me; another bear showed up to watch. I didn't mind the one, but two, that was one too many. I jumped on my golf cart - that's what I used to run around the property - and retreated to the safety of home. After that little encounter I always had a rifle close by when working in the bush.

           The bears continued to keep an eye on us all during the home construction period. They seemed fascinated by our work and we grew accustomed to seeing them close to our house. We made a point of not cutting down the brush that they used for cover and left all the wild berry bushes to them. They didn't bother us and we didn't bother them. A sign on the post at the end of our driveway reads, "Warning - Area Patrolled by Bears". Most visitors think it's a joke, at first.

           Our dog is very defensive of our property and is always controlled. She is either on lease, her long rope or in her large fenced-in compound. The bears know this and stay just out of her reach. Drives the dog crazy. On the bright side we always know when a bear is around.

           We learned the hard way when it came to gardens and fruit trees. We tried to out-smart the bears and deer by planting our fruit trees and berry bushes inside our dog's compound fence. We figured the stuff would be safe in there, wrong! One night a bear climbed over the compound fence. Our dog was in the compound that night, asleep in her dog house. The bear proceeded to raid the raspberries and then went to work on the apples Tree. Suddenly, the crack of a branch breaking woke the dog. All hell broke loose and the bear did a fast exit over the fence with the dog's teeth snapping at its butt.

           As long as the bears stay back in the bush and not in the yard we get along fine. However, when they wander out onto the lawns or get too close to the house, as one did by climbing up onto the front deck, we create a little noise and they usually retreat. There are exceptions and one day a bear got a little too close to the dog's fence while eating Saskatoon berries. It ignored the dog's barking and my attempts to scare it away. So I got out the 4-10 shotgun and fired a shot into the air. That didn't even phase the bear and it looked at me as if to ask, "What's your problem?" In executing 'Plan B' I got my rifle and sat on the dog house roof until the bear was finished eating and wandered away in its own good time.

           There's nothing like waking up a night to find bear cubs playing on the front deck or the sound of a bear sniffing at the bedroom window. We can spend hours watching their antics, like a small cub rolling on the lawn with an old piece of carpet. Bears can be a little messy, though. Contrary to belief, bears don't always crap in the bush.

           One afternoon, when visiting a friend, I told him about all the time I had to spend cleaning up piles of bear poop. I knew they had bears as well and expected a little 'Been there, done that' sympathy. But he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't pick up bear shit, I just spread it around with the lawnmower."
           "You do what?" I ask, a quizzical look on my face.
           "It makes great fertilizer and the lawnmower spreads it around very nicely."
           Made sense to me.

           A few day later following an overnight visit from a couple bears I discovered several piles of fresh berry riddled bear poop on the lawn. Remembering what my friend had said I decided to test out his practice. I dragged out the trusty lawnmower and fired it up. Thinking ahead, I cut the lawn all around the piles leaving them for last. After removing the bag from the mower I cranked it up as fast as it would run and drove right over the biggest pile of crap. Well, the result was not what I expected. Wet, sticky, smelly bear poop blasted out from under the mower, spraying everything in a 20 foot radius. My wife's precious flowers were suddenly speckled with brown crap. She wasn't impressed! Being closest to the discharge, my shoes, socks and pant legs were dripping in the stinky ooze. The remaining piles of poop I cleaned up as before; with a shovel.

           When I told my friend what had happened he laughed and laughed. Then with a big grin he revealed, "Maybe I forgot to mention, I have a ride-on mower, my feet don't touch the ground."

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