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The Midnight Bear
By Cherry Hill
North Forty News
Larimer County Colorado
October 2007

It was the last Wednesday in August when the cricket moved into our house.

We were just headed to bed when I heard a loud chirp on my side of the bed. Richard and I looked behind and under everything in that corner for the elusive cricket but finally gave up about 10:30. Around midnight when we were just into that wonderful deep sleep, I surfaced because of an odd noise that didn't fit my dream.

Quite matter-of-factly I said, "Richard, there's an animal in the house." Groggily he replied, "I heard it, too, but thought it was you stomping crickets."

He got out of bed and grabbed the flashlight from the nightstand. A minute later he came back reporting that the front door was wide open and the remote controller bin near my recliner had been knocked over.

"One of the cats probably came in, knocked it over and got scared."

For 20 years of warm months, we've slept with our solid doors open, inviting in the cool mountain breezes through the screen doors. On a gusty night, a screen door could blow open, but on this particular night, it was perfectly still.

"How did the door get open and why would a cat head to that specific spot?" I wondered.

Then I heard it again. Richard rolled out of bed more with the interest of an explorer. After a minute or so, I tiptoed out to see what was going on. He said in a hushed tone, "You gotta see this…" and for 10 minutes, like two CSIs we combed the living room and dining room with flashlights uncovering clues: front door wide open again, screen shredded, saliva on the recliner, controller with one button popped out, hair and seeds on the TV table, muddy tracks on the Wall Street Journal, scrape marks and bite marks all the way through my movie notebook and into the top of the wooden table next to my chair.

These calling cards most definitely said a bear had been to visit - twice in the last half hour!

wooden bear fetish carvingAs we went to work with the cleaning supplies and vacuum, I realized that my Native American horse fetishes that were just inches from the bite and claw marks were exactly as I had left them the night before. A fetish is an animal hand-carved out of stone by a Native American artist, typically Zuni. Fetishes are said to embody the spirit of the animal.

What's odd is that just a few days before, I had purchased my first non-horse fetish - a bear that I placed on a book to stand guard above the horse herd. That bear was now lying on his side on top of the book "The Wisdom of the Native Americans." Could it be that the midnight bear knocked over the bear fetish on his way out the door? Or that the bear fetish, using all of his power and strength to push the midnight bear out of our house, was now so exhausted that he just had to lie down and rest? Well, I'm sticking with that last version.

Once we got all the slobber wiped up, we went back to bed. This time we closed and locked both doors.

The next morning, I inspected the back door and saw the bear's paw marks there, too. It was lucky he wasn't able to get in the back because that's where our freezer, spare frig and pantry are located. What a mess that could have been!

I also noticed that on the front door there was one perfect left paw mark in mud on the glass. I could just picture the bear standing on his hinds, balancing with his left paw on the glass as he shredded the screen and pulled open the door with his right. I said to Richard, "Let's leave that one print there for awhile. I like it."

Also with the clarity of daylight, we realized that the bear had been so drawn to my recliner area by chocolate and caramel calcium chews I keep in a small drawer. Maybe it was a bear with osteoporosis.

It was time for our morning cup of tea and a piece of that freshly baked banana bread…but where was the loaf? I distinctly remember putting it on the dining room counter before we went to bed. Ah…that's what he came back for. We chuckled and knew that forever after, in our house, it would be known as bearnana bread.

We know we were lucky. We've heard of entire house doors ripped off their hinges, refrigerators and freezers ransacked, furniture shredded, and lots of smashing and crashing as a bear desperately searches for food or panics trying to get out of a house.

Most visiting bears are not so discriminating or polite as was our midnight bear.

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