Stupid pet tricks in the Sierra |

Stupid pet tricks in the Sierra

I guess the first time I ever saw a bear was when I was eight at the Atlanta Zoo.There were kangaroos, gorillas, lions, alligators and bears. Despite their obvious physical superiority, they were all well-caged and deep ravines often separated visitors from the animals, so I wasn’t really scared.I think maybe I even made fun of them, holding out popcorn to them and saying something teasing like, “What’s the matter? Can’t come out and play?”But they would just stare at you with round, sad eyes, having long ago given up the fight.Growing up in a mostly urban setting, the most fearsome creatures I ever encountered in the wild were wasps, snakes and scorpions, none of which rank highly on my own personal food chain.One time I was just walking on a deck when my steps disturbed a nest of wasps shacking up underneath. Fifty of them swarmed all at once and engulfed my body, stinging me multiple times and nearly sending me to the hospital.I could see it now, like a scene from E.R.:A nurse and doctor wheel a young boy on a gurney through a tight hospital corridor.Doctor: Nurse, I need a CBC and chem seven for this patient. He has multiple POBSs.Nurse: What are POBSs?Doctor: Don’t they teach you anything at nursing school these days? POBS. Pissed off bee stings. It’s quite serious.OK, so I don’t really know what a CBC or chem seven is, but I always hear Anthony Edwards saying it and sounding rather cool as he does.I think I inherited a fear of snakes from my father, who once used a shotgun and a slingblade to kill a snake which had the misfortune to get into our garage. Surprisingly, it was the slingblade which did the most damage.I’m certain the snake was probably harmless and less than a foot long, but at the time it seemed like a fanged Anaconda from the depths of the Amazon, the kind they make really stupid movies about these days.I didn’t ever encounter many scorpions in my day, but I remember having to check my sleeping bag at Boy Scout camp to make sure none of them had crawled in to cozy up with me, so I grew to fear and detest them.When I grew up (OK, so that’s a relative concept), I saw a program on A&E or Discovery that showed Middle Easterners eating fried scorpions.”Kind of salty. Tastes like chicken,” one of them said through a translator.”Heh heh,” I chuckled, exacting vicarious revenge on the little minions of Satan.So I don’t know if I was really prepared for my recent encounter with a bear. Driving home from San Francisco two weekends ago, we stopped in Cisco Grove to get gas. As we pulled off 80, I noticed a hulking creature slowly ambling through a field and heading toward the Chevron.I think I said, “Look at the big dog,” or something to that effect before realizing it was a black bear.Being the ace photographer and outdoors editor, I grabbed my camera, though I knew the sun had set and the use of a flash might be a, well, let’s say a bad idea.I walked over to the edge of the parking lot overlooking the field expecting to see the bear still down there. I guess bears can haul butt when necessary.Not more than 10 yards ahead of me stood a large California black bear, hungry for the contents of the dumpster directly to my left. I stood still, not sure whether you’re supposed to wave your arms or be still around this breed. I’m later told my hunch was right.Without fear, I quietly snapped a few photos. They say when you nearly die you are very calm. Do me a favor: if you want to find out, just come ask me. Don’t walk up to a bear like an idiot.Turns out his name was Cisco, apparently named for Cisco Grove, rather than any resemblance to a Mexican bandito’s sidekick or his penchant for high alcohol content beverages.As I turned to go, he jerked his entire body forward as though to come at me. But he stood his ground. It was just a polite, but not-so-subtle warning. Ever seen a man jump out of his skin? You would have that night.By the way, a day later my photos came back. Total darkness. No signs of a bear at all. I guess that was Cisco’s own little way of saying, “What’s the matter? Can’t come out and play?”Jamie Ball is the Sierra Sun sports editor.Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.comVisitors Guide | News | Diversions | Marketplace | Weather | CommunityCopyright, Materials contained within this site maynot be used without permission.About… 

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