Sunday, August 28, 2005


I rarely need to be defensive. And I'm never on the offense. Generally, people, things and events come and go through my life without any altercations.

I went back to one of my favorite fish camps the last week of July. It's a wonderful place just south of Hearst, Ontario where, as always, the Walleye and Northern Pike fishing is outstanding.

About day three, Sam, the camp owner, and I decided to fish a small lake that had a reputation for BIG pike. We beached our boat and motor and walked the short portage over the dried creek bed to this lake. Someone had left a small 12-foot fishing boat on the other side. Great! All we had to do was go back and grab oars, tackle and rods. There would be no hard work dragging boat and motor over the portage this day. There was only one dilemma. We quickly discovered we did not have oars but paddles instead. Now paddling a fishing boat is doable, if the winds are not too strong, but it's not nearly as easy as rowing. We decided to go anyway.

Although the wind was not strong, we laughed hard at ourselves as we tried to figure out how to paddle a fishing boat. Mostly we went in circles with Sam paddling in the front of the boat and me in the back. I'm too embarrassed to tell you how long it took us to figure out we could move forward, and even backward, when we both sat on the middle seat, each paddling on a side. We brought ourselves to tears laughing at our incompetence and how long it took us to discover such a simple system.

About 4:00 p.m. we decided to head back to the portage, hike to our boat and motor, and get back to camp in plenty of time for a nice fish diner. About 75 feet from the portage, I spotted something dark moving in the water and pointed it out to Sam. It looked like it could be a very large beaver. Or,……the head of a bear! As the bear emerged from the water, we were surprised to see a 350-400 pound black bear with water shining and dripping off his dark, black coat.

But the awe turned to confusion when he plopped down right on the edge of our portage trail. We knew he had seen and scented us. But he just didn't seem to care. So we yelled and banged our now trusty paddles on the side of the boat. This didn't seem to discourage him one bit. What to do?

Our first line of defense was to enjoy the sight while eating all the trail mix. No sense in tempting Smokey with peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins and M & M’s. We finished the trial mix but he was still there. Our second line of defense was to throw back the fish we had caught. Yes, they survived. Dinner was looking more and more like beans and rice and the bear looked like he was thinking about a nap. Our third Line of defense was to wash off that sweet smelling Banana Boat sunscreen. I just didn't want to smell that good once my feet hit dry ground.

And then we approached ever so cautiously with our new and improved paddling system. About 25 feet from the portage, just when we were thinking we might practice backing up, Mr. Bear decided he'd had enough and ambled into the bush.

Adrenaline got us back to our boat and motor in record time. Beans and rice was actually starting to sound good.

What would have happened to our fishing expedition if we'd had foresight and thought about the possibility of a bear blocking our path? At the extreme, we would not have portaged into this lovely lake at all. We would have missed the beauty, the outstanding fishing and our chance to be silly with paddles. At the least, our fishing day would have been clouded with thoughts of looming peril.

So was this something we should have prepared for? Maybe. But a life full of preparation for situations that are yet only imagined is not much of a life at all. I'm choosing to keep my guard down, come what may.

" Everything of value is defenseless." ~Lucebert

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