Davis L. Bigelow
To the both men’s surprise, the bear’s entire body seemed to become fluid. Right in front of the riveted and reluctant spectators, the bear’s thick cinnamon-coloured coat began to shimmer surreal silver. The grizzly’s massive head swung back to the north and the large carnivore barrelled up the trail. In seconds, it vanished from sight.
Both men breathed a sigh of relief. “Glad I went to the bathroom recently!” Glen muttered, “Or I’d probably no longer need to!” Glen cracked a fleeting smile before looking skyward. “Thank you Heavenly Father!” Several hot tears pushed their way from the corners of the small man’s eyes and trickled down his ruddy cheeks. “It appears that I’ll survive for at least a little longer.”
“Why did the bear run?” Stan questioned in the silence of his frenzied mind. “Would the bear have actually run away from a small, limping hiker?” Stan frowned and furrowed his dirty brow. The fact that the big bear had come from the direction of Maple Creek was especially disturbing. The big man pictured Glen on the bank of the mountain creek being stalked by the mighty carnivore. “Steady Stan!” He scolded himself. “You don’t know what really happened out there.”
The helpless hiker mulled over the scanty information did knew for certain, but he couldn’t help but speculate. “Glen went to Maple Creek for water. He’s been gone for a long time. With a bear in the area, Glen might be waiting until it’s safe before he returns.” Stan nodded to himself, scratching an itch on his arm. Then a darker thought crossed his mind. “Perhaps a second, even larger bear killed Glen and just rousted this grizzly from the area so it could feed in peace?” Stan’s brow furrowed deeply at the thought. “Steady Stan! You’re being irrational!” He silently scolded once more. “But there has to be some logical explanation for what I just saw?”
Thirst gnawed at the big man. “If a grizzly had attacked Glen, he’s probably dead. Even if Glen’s just hurt, he probably wouldn’t return. That would mean a double tragedy!” Stan closed his eyes and offered a silent prayer. Then he did all that was left for him to do. The stranded adventurer stared across the field of rugged rocks and continued to consider the problem and the options. “There’s no way I could endure the pain it would generate to crawl across this jagged field of stone by myself. The splints would help, but they wouldn’t be enough.” Stan felt himself sinking into despair. The reality was unavoidable. Their remote location would probably not see another hiker for weeks. “If Glen doesn’t return, I’ll most likely die a slow and painful death.” Stan closed his eyes again and let a shallow breath escape his dry lips. “Maybe I’m already lying in my grave but just haven’t accepted it?” The big man’s jaw muscles flared. “I’m not ready to die... but is anyone? Considering the pain I’m in, perhaps death should be looked upon as a welcome friend, not a feared enemy?” In the silence of his potential mountain tomb, tears flowed freely from the big man’s eyes, tracing tiny trails of silver down his chapped cheeks and finally splashing down on the surface of the sleeping mat.
The trembling Scotsman stood on the trail for at least thirty additional seconds. Finally, his ashen face began to regain its normal colour. His view northward was the same as it had been moments before—with one notable exception. The monstrous, menacing bear had retreated! Green Canyon lay open before him. Glen took his first full breath in what seemed like hours and used it to try to calm his gyrating nerves. Finally, the hobbling man began to move once again. Stan was still waiting and he carried the big man’s ration of life-sustaining water.
Stan glanced again at the trail where the grizzly had just stood. His eyes absently wandered northward to where, only a minute before, the bear had disappeared. The event was so bizarre! “Grizzly bears aren’t famous for their fear. On the contrary, they’re famous for their keen sense of smell and their aggressive demeanour!” Stan shook his head slightly. “I’m lucky that the big bear didn’t pay me an unexpected visit!” Imagined images flashed in his mind’s eye. There he lay, sleeping, while the bear drew near. At the last moment, Stan saw the eyes on his unsuspecting face pop open. Then, he was back inside his body and looking through those bulging eyes. The salivating mug of the predatory bear filled his field of view. “Ahhhhh!” Stan shook his head again. The disturbing thoughts threatened to make him shudder, but the big man fought the urge. “Steady Stan! Steady!” Then suddenly, Stan’s eyes caught movement.
Stan shifted his gaze. The big man sighed. A reprieve from death was at hand! Seven hundred yards away, Glen McPherson broke from the cover of the forest. Red backpack swaying, Stan’s faithful rescuer limped along the trail. A polished silver hatchet glinted wickedly in the small man’s right hand. More tears slid from the big man’s eye. “Thank you… Heavenly Father!” he rasped. “I might… yet live.”
Stan watched expectantly while Glen shuffled up the woodland trail and then began to clamour back across the strewn rocks. In spite of his parched lips and arid mouth, Stan felt relived. An additional hour of waiting for water, however, was a harsh assignment for the big man. “Come on Glen.” He thought as the small man approached.
For Glen, the trek was laborious. Inch by inch, yard by yard the two men grew closer and closer. The thin crutch tip caught repeatedly in the innumerable crevasses that haphazardly pockmarked the expansive field. The red pack jostled and squirmed against the small man’s shoulders. His tender ankle protested whenever his dangling foot bumped into a protruding rock—which was often. Occasionally, Glen looked up to orient himself, but mostly he just concentrated on the next few feet of jagged obstacles he was trying to navigate across.
Soon, the two men were reunited. Stan gulped greedily at a water pouch while Glen related his epic saga. “This is definitely a story our grandchildren will want to hear over and over again!” Glen concluded.
Big C nodded and swallowed again. A wet grin was all he could afford to offer to the one sided conversation! It was a grin that betrayed his real thoughts however. The big man agreed that his grandchildren would love to hear the story repeated over and over again. He knew however, that the tale would only be sweet if they both lived to tell it.
“Here.” Glen offered, interrupting the big man’s unspoken thoughts. You’d better take some more Tylenol before we go.”