A Journey with Yogi

When I was a still in diapers, my small world encompassed our little wood-framed house, and a backyard with a green picket fence that looked very tall to a toddler. It also included my brother, who entered the world 18 months before me, my mom and dad, and the milkman.

    Now before you read into that, you must know that we lived on a dairy, where my father was employed. One of the highlights of my week was when my mother would help me place a wire crate, filled with empty glass milk bottles, on the porch. Then magically, early the next morning, the crate would be full of cold glass bottles filled to the brim with fresh milk. I would excitedly announce it’s arrival to my mother, who would smile and come to the door to help me carry the small crate into the kitchen. She would place it on the table where I watched intrigued as she peeled back the pleated paper cap that acted as a seal at the top of the bottle. Usually, I couldn’t contain my excitement and I would try to help her with this process, and she would patiently oblige my little fingers in between her own. Then she would pour some of the milk into my cup and I would take my first sip. It was creamy and cold, and I could feel it flow all the way down to my round, little tummy. It brought pleasure and contentment, and expectation for more good things to come. 

        
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    I spent my days sharing backyard adventures with my brother. One time I looked up to him as he became superman and stood on the roof of the toolshed announcing that he was going to fly. It was quite exciting until my mother shot out the backdoor and yelled for him to freeze right where he was. She promptly removed him from the top of the shed and his dream of flying came to an end. I decided that she was the villain that day.

    My brother was my icon. He instructed me on the technical things in life, like how to climb a chair if you wanted to reach something higher than you, like the cookie jar, and how to open the door to the outside world by turning its round knob and giving it a good pull. He also taught me how to turn the bathtub knobs and make water come out the spout, and how to make things disappear down the toilet.   

    I learned how to walk by holding onto the back of my brother’s overall straps and toddled around the house behind him. One day he fell backwards onto me and I felt flattened like a pancake. I decided to navigate around the house by holding onto stationary items instead.

    One of our favorite morning television shows was Yogi the Bear. We sat on the living room floor together and shared in Yogi’s adventures, along with his smaller side kick, Boo-boo the bear. Soon my brother began calling me Boo-boo, so I decided that he must be Yogi since he was taller than me. Yogi was lots of fun to be with. He told me interesting stories about what bugs like to eat and how nice snakes don’t bite. I liked it when he called me Boo-boo and I wanted to be a part of his every adventure.

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    One day while mom was at work, and dad was in front of the house working under the car, my brother decided that we that we should go on a trip together. We would walk to town to get an ice cream cone and to pay our mother a surprise visit at the Ranch Boy restaurant, where she worked as a waitress. I loved ice cream, so I thought it was the best idea ever. One great thing about being the ages of two and a half, and almost four, is believing that all things are possible. You just decide to do something and you do it. So my brother hoisted me over the back fence, dropping me on my backside, and then climbed over it himself. We slipped away without dad seeing us, just in case he decided to spoil our plans by using the “No” word. My brother took my hand and we walked together down the dusty road that eventually lead us to a highway overpass. Town was a few miles away. 

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    We had walked a very long way and my legs were tired. My face felt hot and sticky. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to town to get ice cream after all. My brother said, “Don’t worry Boo-boo, we will be there soon.” I felt assured by his words. Then he said that we had to cross the big bridge to get to the other side of the road, because that was the side the restaurant was on. All I saw were a few trees and a long, long road.

    When we were about halfway across the bridge, my nose started bleeding. It dripped down my face to my chin and started dripping on my shirt. So my brother took off my shirt and wiped my nose with it. It was about that time when a big black car stopped on the bridge next to us. A pretty lady with dark hair jumped out of the car and looked very worried. She said we must get into her car with her so she could take us back to our house.

    My brother wasn’t going to have anything to do with that. He insisted that we were on our way to pay our mother a surprise visit at the restaurant. The lady took some Kleenex from her big purse and placed it at my nose instead of my shirt. Then she told my brother that we could not walk to town and we needed to get into her car immediately.

    “No!” My brother yelled. “We aren’t supposed to go in cars with strangers – and you’re a stranger!” I started crying. Strangers were bad, even if they were pretty.

    The lady swooped me up, then took my brother’s hand and pulled him into the back seat of her car and plopped me right next to him. He was hopping mad. I wailed. After some pleading by the woman, my brother finally relented and told her where we lived. Soon we were back on the dusty road and heading toward the dairy where everyone was searching for us.

    When we arrived, dad hugged us tight, then took us inside the house where he changed me and cleaned the dried blood off my face and arms and chest. We took a nap with dad in his big, soft chair, and he wrapped his arms around us tight.

    Mom says that dad left her an apology note explaining the horror of his day. When she arrived home we were still sound asleep in his arms, safe, and unaware of the danger that we had been in that day, and of the urgent prayers spoken for our safety.

    Our adventure didn’t turn out as we had planned, and we were disappointed that we didn’t get to eat ice cream, or surprise momma. But even at a tender age, I learned a lot on our long journey that day. I learned that you can make good plans, but bad things can happen along the way. I learned that there can be goodness in someone that you aren’t so sure about, and that if you lose your way, you can still find your way home. Sometimes it is with the help of others.    
 
    I cuddled up against my father’s chest and I felt safe and secure with his big, strong arms around me. My journey in life had just begun and there would be many more adventures, and seasons of disappointment and tears, and those of contentment and joy. Yet in that moment, life was about bonding with those who loved me, and of hot oatmeal for breakfast with raisins hiding in the middle and brown sugar melting on top. It was about the weekly magic of finding filled milk bottles on the porch at sunrise. It was about daily adventures with Yogi, and it was about being in a place where I felt safe and content and loved.

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Run!

                                                                                                                  

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I am always up for an adventure – especially those that promise an adrenaline rush or two. So, exploring new territories, and close encounters with the wild, hovers near the top of my priority list.

When I was growing up, summertime meant family camping trips, exploring national parks, and swimming in whatever body of water we could find. So it was inevitable that I marry an outdoor type of guy who grew up doing the same sort things. Camping has been a summer event for our own family for many years and has included several state parks.

Traveling to Canada and spending some time where the wild things are was on our “Gotta do it” list. So when our friends invited our family to join them on a camping excursion to a remote area of Canada, we were thrilled. We carefully planned our three week adventure and before long it was time to hit the road.

After a two day journey northward, we arrived at Moosehorn, a small, private camping area in British Columbia, with our travel trailer packed with enough food to feed an army for a month. No one would go hungry.

We echoed “Ooo’s” and “Ahh’s” as we scanned the beautiful lake that curbed the secluded property.  We peaked into the windows of the few rustic cabins that dotted the lakeside and we watched the Loon’s flap their wings and glide across the water.

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Then we set up camp and settled in.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed fishing on the lake and taking rides in our small, aluminum boat. The lake provided the perfect perch to view the abundance of wildlife that shared the territory with us. I snapped my camera at nesting bald eagles, coyote, and deer drinking at the lakeside.

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Then we spotted a couple baby grizzly bears frolicking on the hillside. My husband steered our boat closer to shore for a better view, stopping about a hundred yards from the shoreline. I felt safe with a large span of water between our boat and the baby grizzly show. Although I have to admit, I wondered where the momma grizzly was hiding and if she could smell our fish cooking in the evenings.

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There were no septic hook-ups, so we had to use the grounds facilities, which were somewhat primitive. There was a flush toilet in the wash house across the campground, but our friend’s directed us to an outhouse which stood conveniently at a stone’s throw away from our campsite – if you had a good arm. It was also hidden by a large overgrowth of trees and bushes. This made me a bit nervous, but I decided not to be a wussy and use it anyway.

While inside, I contemplated the possibility of a grizzly meandering by and discovering the wild berry bush next to the John. I wished I had not come alone. I considered yelling for my husband to come and get me, but I thought I might sound like a wounded animal that would make the perfect no-cook meal. I also knew that my husband would not let me live it down. So instead, I pressed my face up against the splintering wall of the latrine and peeked through the tiny cracks of the wooden boards. When it looked like all directions were clear, I swung the door open and sprinted toward our campsite. Once I was in the clearing, I did my best to do a casual stride into camp. No one knew the difference. From then on, I walked the further distance to the flush latrine that was situated in a large clearing, stating that I preferred toilets that flush versus those which look like bottomless pits. That seemed to work.

Following the precautions given to us, I restricted my daily exercise to walking or jogging around the large field behind our campsite. I kept an eye on the surrounding forest and wondered if a grizzly with poor eyesight could mistake me for an over-sized jack rabbit. I hopped a little faster.

After a few days of running around in restricted circles, I told my husband I needed to expand my horizons and go on a long walk – on a straight road. He agreed to walk with me. We reviewed bear safety rules as we walked away from the open field and along a dirt road that led toward town. It felt good to have a change of scenery. We were about a half mile into our walk and were joking about what we would do should we encounter a grizzly. My husband said, “You know you’re not suppose to run.” I wondered just how fast I could run if death was chasing me. Then he added, “But if you do run, you better make sure you’re faster than the guy next to you.” He looked at me and grinned. My husband is a runner – and qualified for Nationals in the 800 meters while in college. I decided that it was time to head back to camp.

We walked briskly and spoke louder than usual as we made our way back down the road, hoping to ward off anything that lurked in the woods. I wondered if a grizzly was capable of sneaking up behind us and I wished I had a rearview mirror attached to my head.

When I saw the Moosehorn sign I was relieved. “Looks like we made it!” I said.

“Yep,” my husband replied, “Looks like we’re not going be a grizzly’s dinner tonight!”

I laughed nervously and looked over my shoulder.

We rounded the bend onto the Moosehorn property and started chatting about other things. It was then that I heard a low, guttural grunt come from the thick bushes to my right. The little hairs on the back of my neck pricked up like quills on the back of a porcupine. I kept my pace and I looked over at my husband. He was looking at me wide-eyed. “Did you hear that?” I asked in a hoarse whisper. “You mean that grunt sound?” He whispered back. We both looked over our shoulders and quickened our pace.

“Whatever you do, don’t run!” He said in a louder whisper. His teeth were clenched.

“You don’t run either!” I whispered back. I noticed I was having to double-step it to keep up with him.

Just then there was a loud crack about 30 yards behind us. It sounded like a small tree being snapped in two. I restrained a scream, but a stifled sound that mimicked a cow in labor made it’s way through my pressed lips. I won’t repeat what my husband said.

We both hit Olympic speed walking pace, with a few hops thrown in. Buns tight. Tails affright. Our feet were forward, our bodies faced each other, arms pumping, and our heads were whipping front to back. I wondered if the paddling Loons on the lake would think we were an odd species doing a mating dance.

Another loud whack came from behind us. I shot off like a steel marble in pinball machine. It was survival of the fittest. I was in front.

I heard my husband’s panicked voice hit high tenor, “Don’t run!!”

He passed me and took the lead.

“You are!!” I shouted and I reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt.

We both stumbled. I struggled to keep my legs from entangling with his, but held my grip.

“Ahh!!” He let out a labored yelp, “Let go!!!”

It’s strange what one can do when they face possible death. I gripped the back of his shirt with an iron hand.

“No way man! If I go, you go!” I shouted.

My feet bounced and skidded over the dirt like a bare-footed water skier. My husband’s shirt tail was my tow rope.

He burst into grimaced laughter. I joined him.  We struggled to keep in motion, and our laughter quickly progressed to wheezing with intermittent squeaks. I could feel my grasp on his shirt growing weaker. I envisioned doing a cartwheel off the side of the road and becoming human toast.

We came around a curve in the road and I saw the first cabin. I wondered what the occupants would do if a half-crazed couple came diving through their front door. I looked over my shoulder to see if our would be attacker was in sight. The road was empty. “No bear coming!” I gasped. My husband slowed his pace and I skidded to a stop. We stood solitude, hands on our knees and catching our breath.

We figured the grunt we heard was our warning to move on – which we did with enthusiasm.

“You ran.” I said.

“You did too.” My husband answered.

“So, who’s faster?” I asked.

“You held my shirt.” He replied.

I guess we’ll never know.

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