Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Campground Do-Si-Do

Judy DiGregorio


Swinging its head from side to side, a large black bear shuffled toward my husband, Dan. Perched on the bench of a wooden picnic table, he was blissfully unaware of the approaching visitor.

It was a crisp, cool July evening in Yellowstone National Park, and the smell of burning pinon filled the air. We had just returned to camp after a fishing trip to Yellowstone Lake where the mosquitoes were biting, but the trout weren't. We decided to play slapjack to distract our two nephews and niece from their empty fishing poles.

In our week camping out, we hadn't seen a single bear, and we eagerly looked forward to the experience. I did not expect it to occur right at our campsite. As the bear waddled nearer, I watched mesmerized with fear, the only one at the table who had noticed the bear. The others continued playing cards, intent on being the first person to slap the Jack and win the game. Finally, I unloosed my frozen jaw.

"Buh - buh - buh - bear," I stuttered, as I stood up and pointed behind Dan.

"Yeah, right," replied Dan, as he turned sideways and saw the bear about ten feet away.

"Help," he screamed as he leapt from the picnic table spilling cards right and left. He gestured at us to follow him toward our green Volkswagen parked nearby. In our panic, we scattered like leaves in a windstorm, intent on getting as far away as we could from the bear. The bear completely ignored us as it sniffed around the table and found nothing to eat.

Finally, it meandered down the asphalt path towards the camp bathhouse. We followed at a safe distance. By this time, other campers had noticed the bear, and the campground sounded like the Tower of Babel as shouts and screams interrupted the quiet evening.

"Look out!"

"Bear coming down the path."

"Run!"

"Call the ranger!"

An elderly, gray-haired woman with cold cream on her face soon exited the bathhouse door. Evidently, she had not heard our warnings. She wore a loosely tied, pink chenille bathrobe with matching fluffy slippers. Large gray metal curlers covered her head giving her an alien-like appearance. With a towel carefully draped over one arm, she daintily carried her toiletries in a pink cosmetic case.

Suddenly she and the bear were face to face. I don't know who was more surprised. The bear stood up on its hind legs and squalled; the lady threw up her arms and shrieked. The rest of us howled with laughter at the sight. The cosmetic case crashed to the ground scattering soap, toothbrush, and unused curlers. The woman's robe slid off one shoulder as the wet towel slapped her in the head. She flung the towel aside, spun around, and wobbled away as fast as she could.

The panicked bear also changed direction and galloped off the opposite way around the bathhouse. The pair met again on the other side like two square dancers. A
cacophony of sounds filled the night air as the lady fled to her campsite, and the bawling bear sprinted for the woods. I doubt if it returned to that campsite for some time.

After the excitement died down, we sat around the campfire savoring each detail of our adventure, including the look on Dan's face when he realized the bear was almost upon him. The bear grew larger with each telling, and we grew braver. Everyone agreed that it was thrilling to finally see a Yellowstone bear - especially one that could do-si-do.

This story appeared in Senior Living, June, 2001.

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Judy Lockhart DiGregorio was recently nominated by the Tennessee Arts Commission for inclusion in SouthernArtistry.com, an adjudicated online artist registry spotlighting outstanding Southern artists. Judy is a monthly humor columnist for Senior Living magazine and has published more than 100 essays, columns, and humorous poems in The Writer, Army/Navy Times, Episcopal Life, New Millennium Writings, CC Motorcycle Newsmagazine, Church Musician Today, and other publications. Judy is a frequent workshop presenter. She has lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, since 1969.

© Judy DiGregorio

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012