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.
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
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 - bear," I stuttered, as I stood up and pointed
right," replied Dan, as he turned sideways and saw the bear
about ten feet away.
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.
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.
coming down the path."
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
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.
story appeared in Senior Living, June, 2001.
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.