Scott Hollifield: Getting the bear facts in a roadside tavern
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I know what a bear does in the woods, but what does he do in a truck?

Our story starts after I hiked to the top of a mountain, saw cows grazing among humming communication towers, hiked back down with frozen earlobes on an usually cold May afternoon and thought, “Well, that was fun. What now?”

What now turned out to be a roadside tavern with a few pickup trucks in the parking lot off a two-lane, the kind of place where the bartender is either a surly guy or a sassy gal and a good jukebox is a given. It was a gal this time and the jukebox did not disappoint. Gary Stewart’s “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” cranked up as soon as I sat down on a stool and read the sign asking anyone who wanted to start a tab to talk to Credit Manager Helen Waite – “Go to Helen Waite.”

The half-dozen or so Saturday afternoon imbibers seemed acquainted with each other and, even though I was a stranger, they treated me warmly, accurately assessing me as just another scruffy seeker of truth with frozen earlobes and a powerful thirst. A chalkboard on the wall showed the tentacles of the craft beer phenomenon had reached even this far into the wilds. More than a dozen fancy beers were listed, but the small crowd on this particular Saturday preferred it old school domestic and in the can.

The conversation above the tunes and crack of the pool balls was first about the preliminary Kentucky Derby races on the TV over the bar, but it did not take long before we got around to the bear. The bear was not in the tavern but the bear’s buddy was and he wanted to talk about the bear. So we talked about the bear.

The bear guy said he lives “way back in the woods,” which makes sense. Most bear guys aren’t condo dwellers. Grizzly Adams didn’t hang out by the pool in one single episode of that show.

My new friend from way back in the woods and the bear did not initially get along. It tore down his humming bird feeders and caused general destruction. But the two eventually came to a mutual understanding, with the bear getting a few pounds of dog food in the morning and evening and for the most part leaving the hummingbird feeders be.

Now kids, don’t try this at home. Any wildlife expert worth his degree or badge will tell you this is a terrible idea. Bears treated this way become nuisance animals. It’s best to keep the garbage and scraps out of sight and hope the bear moves on. But that is not what this fellow did.

From his pocket he whipped out a small digital camera and showed me his bear portfolio. Bear in the yard. Bear eating a Hostess Ho Hos cake (“He loves those”) and bear eating a Fudgsicle from a hand that I assume belongs to the bear guy – at least for now it does.

His goal, he said, is for he and the bear to become such good friends that the bear will ride in his truck with him.

“You get caught riding around with a bear and they will put you under the jail,” said another customer.

I would imagine that’s true:

“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Taillight out?”

“No.”

“Speeding?”

“No.”

“It wouldn’t be this bear in the front seat, would it?”

“That’s it. I’m going to need to see your driver’s license and registration, and your bear license and bear registration.”

“Uh…the bear is not mine. I am just holding him for a friend.”

With my earlobes warmed and my thirst momentarily quenched, I bid my new friends goodbye and headed out the door with a good story to tell. Outside, I scanned the trucks in the parking lot just to make sure. There was not a bear in any of them – yet.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.