This summer, aside from debates over taxes or wondering who the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate will be, LaGrange residents seem most likely to discuss the potential bear sighting just north of town.
It just so happens that while vacationing in North Georgia after the 4th of July, we had our own bear encounter, sort of.
Growing up in West Texas and hiking in New Mexico, bears were a regular occurrence. After all, that’s where Smokey the Bear originally came from. I had never seen one in the wild, and was always interested in doing so.
Our kids have also wondered about the prospect of seeing a bear nearby. A few years ago, while riding ATVs and a “Gator” vehicle in Heard County at night, one of the machines ran out of gas. Two teens in the group went for help, while I watched the kids.
“Dad…what if a bear shows up?” my daughter Valerie wondered, fearfully.
“Don’t worry, hon,” I said, smiling. “If a bear shows, up, you take Zach behind the tree and hide, and I’ll wrestle him!”
Upon hearing that, Val burst into tears. I guess she felt her father’s wiry frame wouldn’t be much of a match for a powerful bear.
So I figured I needed something to reassure her this time. While taking the kids (my two, and a niece and nephew of similar age) on a hike in Elijay this past week, I spotted a local resident outside her cabin. “What do I do if we spot a bear?” I asked her.
In response, she brought me a “bear horn,” which looked like an air horn. We were told sounded like a foghorn. It would startle the bear, perhaps, and let others know that one of these creatures was lurking nearby. We continued our hike
As dusk began to settle, my daughter Valerie pointed into the valley. “Dad…I see one. I see a bear!”
“Everyone freeze!” I commanded. I looked into the emerging darkness below, trying to spot the creature.
Sure enough, we heard the sound of a foghorn, and the kids went running for their lives, ignoring my command to stay motionless.
It was similar to a scene out of the movie “Jurassic Park 2: Lost World.” A paleontologist told everyone in his group to freeze when they spotted a T-Rex. The large predator proceeded to roar, and the rest of the group ran while the dinosaur expert remained motionless.
It took me more than 100 yards to catch up with the kids. I guess they still don’t trust my wrestling skills.