I had a close encounter with a black bear after lunch one day when I was camping in the Smokies. I was reaching into the bed of the pickup, to move the food box and the cooler into the cab (to avoid bear problems!), when suddenly, from the other side of the truck, a bear leaped into the pickup bed, its nose a foot away from mine. Needless to say, my nose — and the rest of me — did not remain in proximity to the bear for very long at all. Moving to keep the truck between me and the bear, I called out, “Bear!” to alert my partner, Nancy, who was just down the hill a ways, near the tent. Actually, she reported later that it was more like shrieking than calling out. And that I repeated it numerous times. And with a great deal of emotion. The bear, meanwhile, was unimpressed. Astutely assessing the situation, it observed that I hadn’t yet completed my task of hiding the food box. It casually helped itself to a loaf of bread, and was on its way to the woods to eat it when Nancy arrived to see what the commotion was all about. As I was stuttering my explanation, the camp ranger from down the road arrived on the scene — apparently my volume level had been sufficient to get his attention as well. The ranger asked for a description of the bear. After I finished what I considered a perfectly adequate description — “Big! Black! With teeth! And claws!” — he gently coaxed more details out of me, then concluded that our bread had been stolen by “Round Ears”, whom he described as a small bear who frequented the camp, though usually at dusk. Small. Yeah, right. I had inspected that bear, albeit briefly, from much closer up than the ranger ever had, I was sure. But what I really found striking was that this monster had a name: Round Ears. Almost made him sound cute. Almost.

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