“Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.” So the saying goes.
Of course there is a third alternative — the bear isn’t hungry, it’s mating season and you are an attractive man.
I’ve never eaten, or even dated, a bear, but last week one might have eaten me.
My mate and I were riding down a smooth narrow trail at sunset. She must have stopped to take photos because for once I was in the lead. As I rounded a bend, I came face to face with what I first thought was a large hairy couple, yet turned out to be a mother and bear cub.
Once determining that the pair was of the animal kingdom, not graduates of “Hair Club for Men,” I stopped as quickly as possible — about 60 feet away. In my arrogance, I stared and waited expecting the two to leave the trail. Instead the mother began to walk towards us.
The accepted wisdom regarding behavior when encountering a dangerous animal in the wild is to back away slowly, not make eye contact, while at the same time putting your hands over your head to appear as large as possible. I suggested to my wife that she do exactly that as I sprinted past her. Once we retreated, the carnivore, not in the mood for elderly white meat, did not follow. The next day I alerted the proper authorities to the sighting, leaving out the part of me leaving my wife for bait.
The news has been full of scary animal encounters. It seems moose, bears, mountain lions and ticks are fed up with human encroachment. As luck would have it, less than 48 hours later, I had another wild animal encounter. Waking at 6 a.m. I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee and in the middle of the kitchen floor were two mice.
I was in the process of backing away slowly without making eye contact when I realized that they’re only mice, and I can kill them if a want. With speed and dexterity that I seldom possess during the early morning hours, I grabbed a dishtowel and threw it onto the trespassers. I then dropped to my knees and scooped up the rodents in the towel.
Had the event occurred only a few days before, I would have slain the rodents post-haste. After all, they were home invaders. According to Colorado’s “Make My Day” law were they human, I’d be within my rights to shoot ’em. Instead, in the spirit of global harmony and good karma, I didn’t place them in the garbage disposal. Rather, I decided to relocate both to a place where they might find a more hospitable abode.
Needing two hands to keep the squeaking couple contained in the dishtowel, I was unable to put on any clothing except to slide my feet into flip-flops. Lucky for the neighbors, and property values, it was early and barely light so all were spared the sight of me walking down the street in my underwear and sandals while carrying two rats in a rag.
I was concerned that I might have captured “homing mice” so I wanted to deposit them as far away as possible. There was a beautiful second home, just down the street, with a lovely garden where I thought they might be happy.
As I gently released the pair into the recently mowed and watered lawn, I thought how ironic it would be to have a bear come out of the woods at that moment and rip my head off.
I’m feeling pretty good that I didn’t kill the mice and more elated that the bear didn’t kill me. I recently spotted this bumper sticker that read, “When Jesus said love your enemies, I think he meant don’t kill them.”
Now, granted, you can find biblical teachings to validate almost any political or social opinion. Proponents for death penalties, banning same-sex unions and abortions and legalizing magic mushrooms all quote the Bible for validation. I had a former roommate cite the story of Jesus throwing the moneychangers from the temple as reason enough not to pay me the rent money he owed.
Or to quote the book of Mickey 3:7, “If thou don’t wantest the bear to kill you, don’t flush the mouse down the toilet.”
Of course it is very easy for me to stand on my high-minded principals of peace and love toward rodents when the biggest threat for me is mouse poop on the kitchen floor. But my compassion has limits.
If those two mice return, they just might find that out the hard way.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.