Tanya And The Bear

Everywhere you looked there were warnings about the bears. Signs that shouted in big black letters, “DONT FEED THE BEARS”; other signs that warned, “STOW YOUR FOOD PROPERLY”. By the time you got to your camp ground, you were scared out of your wits you would fall prey to a “BEAR” before morning. Jeesh!

The scare tactics worked; at least on one of our party. Tanya, our fourteen year old, was afraid to leave the van. She insisted that her brothers, who teased her mercilessly about her bear paranoia, search the area thoroughly before she would step out of the vehicle. Troy and Jeff were happy to oblige. They set off giggling and punching at one another while Mom and I unloaded the van and started dinner. The people in the camping spot next to us had a van similar to ours and a big old hound dog that paced back and forth at the end of his chain and snuffled at us noisily as we went about our chores.

“Mom,” Tanya wailed from inside the van. “What are you doing? You can’t take food out there.”

“Oh, Tanya,” Kathy said, grinning, “We have to eat; quit being silly, and come out here.”

Tanya’s eyes got wide, and she said, “No way.”

I gave Tanya an eyeball roll and grinned. She saw little humor in the situation.

“Okay, suit yourself,” Kathy told her.

The boys returned and reported there were no bears in the immediate vicinity. Tanya peeked out, and after checking their faces for signs they might be setting her up, stepped cautiously out of the van. Jeff, standing to the side, waited until she had both feet on the ground, then roared, and pounded on the van with his hand. Tanya vanished back into the van, screaming.

“Tro… Ta… Jeff, quit that,” Kathy yelled at him. She turned away to hide her own smile.

Jeff and Troy busted out laughing, and were rolling on the ground before they got the fit of laughter under control.

Tanya even joined in and thankfully the episode served to ease her fear; she was even somewhat relaxed through supper. I think it was therapeutic for her to pummel Jeff’s arm every few minutes.

As dusk fell over the forest, Tanya’s fear began to resurface, aided by Jeff and his frequent, “What was that?” The boy was no help at all. With darkness came the night sounds; crickets, frogs, soft voices, laughter, and the snapping of camp fires filled the night. Tanya’s eyes glowed wide and fearful as she huddled between me and her mom and asked every five minutes if we had put the food away.

Bed time came, and the boys crawled into the tent. We were just dozing off inside the van, having assured Tanya for maybe the hundredth time we had left nary a scrap outside the van, when she said, “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“So go,” I said. “It’s right behind us, not twenty feet from the van.”

“No,” she whispered, fear dripping from her voice. “I’m scared.”

“Oh, good grief, Tanya,” her mother said.

I gave her a nudge, signaling I would handle this.

“Tanya,” I said in my most soothing of tones. “Listen. We’ve done everything we’re supposed to do. The bears won’t come near the camp unless they smell food. Now stop being silly.”

She was quiet for maybe a full minute, then said, still whispering, “Will you come with me?”

I was tempted to give in, but felt I had to make a stand. “No, Tanya,” I said, trying to sound reassuring. “Now go on.”

“I’ll just wait ‘til morning,” she said.

“Tanya,” I said, firmly this time. “Go.”

She made a pitiful little whining sound, sat up and glared at me as she said, “If I get killed, you’re gonna be sorry.” Her eminent demise upon my head, she pulled the door open.

She stuck her head out, searched first one way and then the other then put one foot cautiously on the ground. She’d gone to bed fully dressed, including shoes, prepared for a quick escape should marauding bears attack the camp. Alert for the sound of danger, she set the other foot on solid ground. Gravel crunched beneath her tennis shoes as she took a tentative step toward the rest rooms.

The hound dog in the camp next door decided to sound the alarm.

“BAAAAHHHH-ROOOOOOO,” it bellowed.

Tanya screamed and nearly destroyed the interior of the van as she scrambled madly into it and dove in between her mother and me.

Troy hollered, “Mom! What’s going on?”

Jeff added a, “Huh?”

I laughed so hard my sides hurt. Tanya had a death grip on my arm and trembled like a leaf as she stared into my face with a look that perfectly matched the horrified scream she had emitted. Her mother was laughing, but had her hand over her mouth in an attempt to muffle the sound.

The neighbor stuck his head out the window of his van and said in a loud whisper, “Shut up, Priscilla.”

I laughed even harder and managed to choke out, “Priscilla?” My laughter went completely out of control at that point, and Kathy gave up trying to stifle hers. Tanya started giggling, and finally she laughed too. Troy and Jeff were, by then, standing at the open sliding door, scratching their heads and looking sleepily at one another. Lopsided grins adorned their faces.

When I finally managed to get my laughter under control, I rose up on one elbow and said, “Boys, would you walk Tanya to the rest room?”


Tanya’s all grown up now with kids of her own, and I can’t wait to tell them the story of Tanya and the bear. (I think I just did…)

Copyright © 1997 C. Mashburn

1 Comment »

  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    I hope Tanya and her family see this!

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