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Johnny and the Bear Essentials

Life In An RV Story Submitted by Lu Swart:

It was mid August 1988,  my sons, ages 8, 7, 6, and I were camping at Hungry Horse Reservoir near Glacier National Park in Montana.

The boys loved huckleberries Filling their buckets and their mouths was a pleasant fun family activity. We were picking and enjoying the quiet of the morning. Suddenly, I felt an uneasiness that we were not alone. I glanced around the small area where we were picking, but did not see anyone else. Shrugging my shoulders, I went back to picking. The uneasiness grew. My youngest son, a reddish blue stain around his mouth and fingers, sampled another handful. My oldest son was picking the huckleberries one at a time while he carefully held the branch with his other hand. He was determined to beat his brothers’ take today. Nary a huckleberry had past his lips. In front of me, my middle son, Johnny was sitting on the ground busily picking off the lower branches, talking up a storm.

“Mommy, after we take these into the Huckleberry Patch do you think we will have enough money to go to the water park? It is essential I go down the big slide.”

I smiled as I heard him use the word “essential”. It was a word that he had won the spelling bee with. He used it as often as he could now. I looked up at him then froze as I saw the huckleberry bushes just past him moving back and forth. I knew he was not moving them!
Carefully I raised up from my crouching position and found myself looking at a young adult black bear eating huckleberries just past where we were picking. I knew the quiet of the morning could erupt at any moment into disaster.

How was I going to get all three of my sons safely 500 feet down the hill to the car without alarming the bear? Luckily the bear did not seem interested in any of us as yet.

My youngest son is visually impaired. Keeping my voice as normal as I could. I asked him.

“Hey, how about some ice cream to go with those huckleberries?”

He nodded his head.

“If you can go quietly and quickly to the car, get in, close the door very softly. I will buy you a banana split.”

He was off down the hill almost before I got done speaking. Johnny was still talking away.

“Look Mommy, I essentially have almost three fourths of a bucket picked.”

I knew the bear could hear him as the bear was closer to him than I was. His nonstop conversation did not seem to be bothering the bear …. yet. It would be extremely important to not cause Johnny to scream.

I turned to my oldest son. Quietly I said.

“We need to go now! I need you to go very quietly down to the car, make sure that your youngest brother is in the car then you stay in the car with him. Promise me you will do that.”

My son’s pale blue eyes looked at mine. I prayed that the fear did not show in my face or voice. He did not question me just nodded his head and started on his way. I breathed a quick prayer and turned to my biggest challenge.

Johnny was now explaining to me that his brothers were never going to get as many huckleberries as he did because they were always going back to the car and dumping their buckets before they were full. Thankful that he had his back to the bear and had not seen it. I slowly started up the hill towards him. Johnny called out as he started to get to his feet.
“Bring your bucket up and get those ones up there.”

He pointed up towards the bear’s head and I urgently called to him.

“No! You come down here and help me!

I do not know if it was the fear in my voice or the sound of the car door shutting, but suddenly the bear stood up fully on his hind legs.

The taste of bile was filling my mouth as I knew I could not reach my son before the bear did. My heart was pounding as I desperately tried to control my voice.

“Johnathan, move very quickly and quietly down here.”

I ordered. Maybe it was the full use if his first name, but for once in his life my middle son did not question me. He bent and picked up his heavy bucket and started towards me. The bear dropped down out of sight. Fear that it would be charging overwhelmed me. I told Johnny.

“Leave your bucket! Run to me there is a bear!”

I could not believe what happened next. Johnny stopped and turned around to where the bear suddenly reappeared busily eating huckleberries again. Then he said,

“You are not getting my huckleberries you mean ol bear. It is essential I have them!”

With that said, he grabbed his bucket and marched past me to the car.

I will never know why the bear never attacked perhaps it was as Johnny said once we were all safely in the car.

“Essentially, Mommy, the bear was just getting his bear essentials for breakfast!”

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