Well, It Could’ve Been A Bear!

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Well, It Could’ve Been A Bear!

James R. Aist

“Things aren’t always as they seem!” – Carl Hurley, Kentucky Humorist

The background for this short story is that, just a few weeks before this happened, a front-page article gave an account of a young woman who was camping in a national park out west when she was attacked by a large bear and partially eaten…alive! The report was gory and very frightening, so I’ll spare you further details. And, wouldn’t you know it, when we arrived at our campground destination in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, a forest ranger warned us that there had been a couple of bear “episodes” in this very campground within the past couple of weeks! So, it was with a bit of trepidation that we proceeded to pitch our tent and set up camp that evening.

Now, we were not yet fully apprised of the wiser ways of setting up camp when in the presence of hungry black bears that were accustomed to to being at the top of the food chain. So, we foolishly left a latched basket of our food on the picnic table, along with a locked cooler of meats and other goodies placed on the ground. But, just in case, I did make sure that I had a hatchet in the tent with me. The first night came and went without any troubling encounters, save for a few sounds of, apparently small, harmless night creatures pausing briefly to check out the possibilities for sustenance. But, that was about to change.

On the second night, we had just drifted off to sleep when we were awakened suddenly by much louder, and sustained, sounds of something trying to get at our food, something obviously much larger than a small, harmless night creature. Moreover, we were sure that we could even hear breathing and some muffled, snorting sounds, such as might be expected if it were a black bear! So, “What do we do now?”, we wondered out loud. At first, we were going to just ride it out and hope that, whatever it was, it would give up and go away. But, alas and alack, that was not to be.  The noises just kept on getting louder and louder, and, we surmised, more violent. Then, assuming it must be a black bear, I realized that I had no choice but to go on the offensive, as I was determined to go down fighting!

I don’t know how I thought I was going to fend off a black bear with only a hatchet in hand, but that was all I had in terms of weaponry. So, I firmly gripped the handle of the hatchet, took a deep breath, quietly unzipped the door of the tent, and then burst forth, hatchet held high, to confront this massive beast, with at least the element of surprise going for me. At first, I wondered if I had scared him away, because there was no such beast in sight. And that’s when I saw them: two, little, masked, ring-tailed, would-be bandits just trying to survive. One was trying to get into the basket, while the other was working on the cooler.

These darling little raccoons, quickly recognizing that they were out-manned, scurried off into the night, leaving us to have a good laugh at ourselves before retiring for the remainder of the night. Alright, laugh if you will, but hey, we both know it could’ve been a bear!

(To read more of my short stories, click HERE)

The Corn Flake Camouflage Caper

English: Oatmeal and cornflakes Christmas cook...The Corn Flake Camouflage Caper

James R. Aist

When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, there were five or six of us kids in the household at any one time, and two parents. We were relatively poor, but never destitute. Poor meant that where food was concerned, nothing was wasted, not even stale, soggy corn flakes. Now, corn flakes was just about the cheapest dry cereal available at the time, so Mama would buy several of the over-sized boxes of them at a time, especially if they were on sale. This was a successful strategy to stretch our precious few dollars, but it contained the seeds of its own destruction. The breaking point came after we had been offered nothing but corn flakes for breakfast for about three or four weeks running, and it was made clear that it was going to be only corn flakes until our stock of the golden morsels was depleted. Mama was trying to use up her stockpile of corn flakes before they got too stale and soggy. We kids were sympathetic to her cause, but the thought of corn flakes again was more than we could stomach…literally. And it was already too late; the corn flakes were now officially stale and soggy. It was time to take a stand.

So, we kids talked it over and, with great trepidation, we “announced” to Mama at the next breakfast that we were not going to eat any more corn flakes for the foreseeable future, and especially not stale and soggy ones. I think that Mama was a bit amused that we would conspire to rebel over such a seemingly trivial issue, and so she purposed in her heart to feign compliance while all the time plotting to turn the tables on our little rebellion. The challenge had been issued and Mama was more than happy to take us on. This trivial dispute was to become a friendly competition thoroughly enjoyed by both sides as the drama unfolded over the ensuing weeks.

Suddenly we were enjoying other choices for breakfast and were becoming convinced that our solidarity against the powers that be had been wonderfully rewarded. Then we began to notice something a little strange about some of the side dishes at our family meals. Could it be that there were now corn flakes, of all things, in the meatloaf? We compared notes with each other, and sure enough…corn flakes in the meatloaf! We laughed out loud. That really was clever of her, albeit thoroughly sneaky. Now we were engaged in a game of subterfuge and camouflage with Mama, and it was delightful. So, in a spirit of levity, we declared “OK, we’re on to you; there’s corn flakes in the meatloaf, and we’re not eating any more cornflakes!” With a sly, coy smile, Mama replied, “We’ll see about that.”

And that seemed to be the end of it. That is, until the cornbread looked a little funny one day…but what is that? What are those strange, yellowish, orange things in the cornbread? Aha! Corn flakes in the cornbread; don’t anybody eat the cornbread! And on and on it went: first, corn flakes in the meatloaf; then, corn flakes in the cornbread; then, corn flakes in the oatmeal; then, corn flakes in the cookies; and so on. It was a fight to the finish. Mama was determined to make us eat the stale, soggy cornflakes, one way or another, until they were all gone, and we were equally determined to sniff them out and refuse to be outsmarted, until dear old Mama ran out of clever and creative ideas to disguise them. Finally, Mama called for a truce, and we all shared a hearty laugh or two over the corn flake camouflage caper. Truth be told, I kind of hated to see it come to an end; it was fun while it lasted.

(For more articles on TRUE TALES, click HERE)