Back in the 1990s the movie “Dances with Wolves” came out and my dad, who loved to mess with titles, called it everything but its real name. “Foxtrots with Wolves” was a favorite of mine. He had messed with the title so much that when he and my mother went to see it he – in all seriousness – went up to the ticket window and asked for “Two for ‘Waltzes with Wolves'”. So in honor of my dad, I call this story “Waltzes with Bears”.
We were sitting in the woods eating our breakfast bars when – in a tone of voice one might use to comment on the weather – Prairie Dog said, “There’s a bear coming.” (South Dakotans! Does anything rile them?!)
We stood up and I swung around to see what she saw: a big black bear heading our way. It saw us. It saw us seeing it. It kept coming!
The first dance I did was the hokey pokey. “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” It slowed down but didn’t stop. So I upgraded my dance to the 1960s song “Shout” as in “Raise your hands up and shout!” which I did with gusto. It stopped, turned to the side and began to lumber away. Then stopped. A second verse of “Shout” was employed and it kept moving along. Phew! So much dancing so early in the morning!
We’ve seen a half dozen bears at least on this trip but the only other time that involved a dance was back in the Shenandoahs. I believe you might call it a waltz.
It was midafternoon when I came wheeling around a curve in the trail to find mama bear and her two cubs eating berries. (Up, 2, 3. Back, 2, 3.) I stopped Prairie Dog from barreling into me and explained to her the situation.
Up, 2, 3. She hadn’t moved. Side, 2, 3. Back, 2, 3. We watched as she treed the two cubs. Not much bigger than the size of your teddy bear as a kid, they climbed up while staring over their shoulders at us. So cute!
We wait. They climb down. We wait. Then – up, 2, 3 – oops! She hadn’t gotten them across the trail yet! She puffs at us and paws the ground! Side, 2, 3. Back, 2, 3. The cycle repeats! Back up the tree. So cute! Back down the tree. Wait. Wait. Wait. Up, 2, 3. She’s gone…sort of.
We walk on to find her just down the trail at the next berry bush. Oh my! One more waltz and the dance floor empties. Seems she didn’t like the waltz that much.
May all your bear encounters be with the teddy kind.
Blessings on the journey, Dragonfly