General Fiction posted November 27, 2017

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An Urban Legend about a close encounter with a grizzly.

Ranger Bob

by Sharon Meda

This story was told to me by a co-worker and he had it on good authority that this close encounter between a park ranger and a grizzly is true and really did happen, just as I am relaying it to you now.

It was inevitable that little Bobby would grow up to be a Park Ranger. From the day he learned to walk the family had to have locks at the top of every door in the house to keep him inside. Once he was tall enough to maneuver a chair and climb up to unhook the lock over the door, it was impossible. Every morning his parents awoke wondering where they'd find their wayward son on this day.

He was never hard to find though, as they lived next to a tiny wooded park and he would always be there in his PJs, talking to the birds and squirrels as he threw them pieces of bread he'd pilfered from the breadbox in the kitchen.

As he grew up his love of the outdoors and the animals that he befriended there did not diminish, but rather it developed into his career working for the state parks branch and his position of Park Ranger. His duties included everything he loved about interacting with the animals and he went to work with a smile on his face every day. Lucky guy.

His position came with a book of guidelines and a few important rules, one of which was to never attend to a large animal without assistance. But, as we all know, rules are meant to be broken, or at least bent a little bit, and this is how Ranger Bob found himself face to face with a full grown male grizzly in close quarters.

It was the tail end of a Friday, much like any other, when Bob was driving his park assigned pickup into town to leave it at the compound for the weekend. He had just picked up an empty bear trap from one of the local ranches and it still had a hunk of raw meat in the cage. He'd have to remember to clean that out before leaving the truck in the compound or he'd have a rank job cleaning it up on Monday.

His plans for tomorrow included spending a full day with his daughter Lizzy, something he didn't seem to have time to do very often these days, and he was really looking forward to it.

He was daydreaming about his planned Saturday when he got a call from one of the locals. The complaint was common, a bear disturbing his cattle. The fear of these big predators caused the cattle to run off valuable fat and caused all kinds of grief, not to mention the fact that they would sometimes take down a precious calf. The ranchers often took it upon themselves to shoot the offending animal, usually wounding it and compounding the problem, so Bob was glad to get the call, even this late in the day.

As procedure dictated, he called on the two-way radio for a 'bear assist'. Not surprisingly, there was no response, everyone was anxious to get their weekend plans underway. Bob picked up the microphone to repeat the call and then deciding against it, he hung the mike back on the dash of the truck. The bear would likely be gone by the time he got there, and he'd be wasting someone else's Friday night along with his own, so he'd take care of it himself. Maybe Johnson would offer him a cold beer for his troubles, and he smiled as he turned the truck around and headed back out of town.

Upon arriving at the Johnson ranch he found the owner in the house with his two big dogs yapping crazily. This could be a sign that the bear was still around. He waved for Johnson to come out and they talked about where the bear had been seen last, not hard to find with the paw prints crossing the yard. The bear was bold considering the yard was patrolled by the two big shepherds.

He jumped in his truck and followed the track out across a hay field and down to the creek where he backed in and slid the big trap off the back of the truck. He checked that the piece of raw beef was at the back of the massive cage and propped the gate open. Then he drove back to Johnson's house to see about that beer.

After a couple of cold ones and an hour of good gabbing, he decided to swing by and check on the trap before he headed back into town. He'd have to write a report tonight so that the weekend kid would know where to find the trap so he could check on it. They never let a trap sit unattended for more than twelve hours because an animal could be trapped and suffering without water.

As he pulled up to the cage he could see that the door was down and there was movement inside. 'Great' he thought, 'there goes my Friday night.'

He made another call on the radio for an assist and wasn't at all surprised when this call also went unanswered. The boys would all be at Joe's Pub and Grill by now.

Well, he'd have to tranquilize the bear and then go for Johnson to bring his tractor to load the cage with the heavy bear into the back of the pickup.

He pulled the rifle from behind the seat and loaded the tranquilizer dart, took careful aim through the slats of the cage and fired.

He waited for the usual ten minutes before checking that the bear was out and breathing regularly. He peered into the cage through the wire door and could see that the bear had slouched against the back wall of the cage with his head twisted backwards. Gurgling sounds were coming from the bears twisted throat and the gasps were weak and far between.

Without giving it any thought, Bob opened the door and pulled on the bear's hind end to try to take the stress off the neck. A full-grown grizzly is not a light weight and he was unable to move the big animal. So, he leaned into the cage to try to move the bear's head. Even the head was too heavy for him to budge from that angle and he could tell that the breathing was becoming more erratic. The bear was in trouble.

Bob leaned in over the bear's rump and put all his weight behind pulling the big shoulders to one side and at last the big head plopped to the cage floor and the gurgling sounds picked up and then became regular breathing. Relieved that he had been able to maneuver the huge animal enough to save its life, he turned just in time to see the gate crash down on the end of the cage.

It took a second or two for the panic to set in. He knew he was too far from the house for anyone to hear him hollering. The cage was built so that it could not possibly be opened from the inside. He was trapped in there with a 600 plus pound grizzly.

He rummaged through his inside jacket pocket and pulled out the only weapon he had, the Leatherman Lizzy had given him for Christmas last year. He looked miserably at the blade on the tool and back at the now snoring bear. He lay himself over the bear's massive body, grabbed the fur under the neck and started sawing, praying the whole while.

You say you've heard this story about a different ranger, another park, in Canada and various States. Maybe so, but I have it on good authority that this really did happen to Ranger Bob.

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© Copyright 2018. Sharon Meda All rights reserved.
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