Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bear with me while I grow a brain

The more I think about it, the more amazed I am my friends and I never landed in the emergency room.
OK, well, a couple of us did, but considering all of the stupid stuff we did, the ER-to-stupidity ratio is stunningly low.
Reading a story about bear sightings triggered a memory of one such act of stupidity.
I was dirt bike riding with a buddy of mine named Rob. We were 14 years old, invincible, wise beyond all human understanding and had way more testicular fortitude than brains.
The way we used to ride should have been enough to warrant several interactions with someone in the emergency medical field, but somehow we managed to escape every situation unscathed.
From clipping a cow at 50 mp/h and walking away – after I was done tumbling through the field that is – to being run over by my own motorcycle, there was no shortage of situations that should have ended badly.
So what does riding a dirt bike like an immortal have to do with a bear? I'm getting to it.
You see, one of our favourite riding activities was exploring. We would find an old trail, path or logging road and see where it went.
On this particular warm summer's day, we were several kilometres deep in the bush and had not seen another human for quite a while when we came across the wild version of Winnie the Pooh.
This was not some cuddly, loveable bear. But a wild beast, and a fairly large one at that.
We roared up on our bikes, the bear saw us and immediately took off into a tree-filled gully.
We stopped our bikes and watched the beast smash its way through the trees.
We looked at each with the same look: wow, is that ever cool.
Then one of the dumbest ideas of my life formed and was quickly spoken: Hey, let's see where he went.
I know, I know – pure stupidity.
We hopped off our bikes and began working our way up the gully. We could not hear the black beast anymore, which meant it has run far enough away we could not hear it, or it had stopped moving and was somewhere ahead of us.
Now, I have never claimed to be overly bright, as I am sure this tale is validating, but even my teen aged brain had a moment of reason.
About 50 metres into the woods, we both stopped, looked at each other and agreed this is one of the dumbest things we have ever done.
Suddenly, bravado was replaced by near panic as we made out way back to our bikes. Slowly at first, then running as fast as we could as we were positive the creature was only a few feet behind us, angry at the intrusion and thirsting for our fresh, teen age blood.
The bikes were sitting at the side of the road and we jumped on them, pulled out the kick start and prepared to make a fast getaway.
Except for one slight problem: my friend's bike would not start.
We were dead. That's it, the bear was going to come out and get us both because my buddy's Honda decided it did not want to come to life.
He jumped on the kick starter with a ferocity I had never seen before. Sweat was pouring out of his helmet as we both kept a close eye on the forest around us.
Kick after kick, the bike would not start – until he noticed the engine kill switch was engaged.
He flipped the switch, the bike started and we took off like a couple of escaped criminals.
It was years before I told my dad about the bear story, and he looked at me with the same look I am sure many of you had throughout this tale of idiocy.

Did I mention I have never claimed to be overly bright?

Copyright 2015, Darren Handschuh

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