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  • Kristan Higgins

Drama in Real Life

When a grizzly bear attacks me, I will be prepared. I’ve been thinking about this my whole life. My grandparents subscribed to Readers Digest, and there was a feature—Drama in Real Life. Oh, my lord, how I love that feature! It seemed that every other month or so, someone was being mauled by a grizzly, and I was there for it. Especially the tales of walking to get help with your scalp flapping in the breeze, the tendons in your legs ripped up. Now that’s a story for a cocktail party.

Allegedly, there’s a guy who was attacked by a grizzly bear and bit the bear’s neck, cutting off the blood supply to the neck. The bear passed out, and the guy got away. Another story has a man being charged by a grizzly. He’s certain he’ll be killed, and life hadn’t been great recently—his wife had just left him. He’s so mad that he’s out there alone, so mad that he’ll die and probably never be found, that he screams in rage—and the bear ran away. I mean, come on! Amazing!

At the Peabody Museum in my fair state, there was a taxidermied grizzly bear (and a polar bear, too). I was obsessed. Every time my class went, or my mom brought us there on a rainy day, I’d stand transfixed in front of those musty old things, feeling sorry for them because they were dead, but also imagining them dragging me off to chomp on my legs. Cool, right? I mean, we’re all going to die. Why not go out with your emotions at a zillion percent, fighting for you life but also feeding the ecosystem? (I jest, readers…my plan is die in a chaise lounge on my deck, sipping a martini.) Have I seen The Revenant? Only about five times!

I nannied for a lovely family in Maine at a house with no TV, bless them. At night, I might drive the boys to the dump so we could see black bears. That’s considered a wicked fun Friday night in Maine, going to the dump. The bears were okay, but given that the family had a Newfoundland dog, it wasn’t quite as thrilling as I’d hoped, since the bears and the doggy were the same size. The boys were excited, though.

When we went to Yellowstone and Glacier, I saw my first grizzly bear. The first time was alongside the road. You know there’s a wildlife sighting in a national park because of the number of cars pulled over. We pulled over, and there were two cubs running across the meadow. Without thinking, utterly thrilled to see them in real life, I opened my car door and stood up. “Get back in the car!” barked McIrish.

“Mommy, please!” begged the children, who were small then and didn’t want to see their mother eaten. Mind you, I was one of about 30 people standing next to their cars, and the bears were not very close. I’m not that dumb. But I hadn’t planned it. I was simply jolted out of the vehicle in wonder. Grizzlies! Wow!

The cubs were adorable, clumsily running along, oblivious to the people, the cameras, the iPhones. Then came the mama bear. And boy, she was fast. 35 miles per hour, according to the National Parks website. “For 50 or 100 yards a Grizzly can go faster than any horse, and keep it up indefinitely.” That’s food for thought, isn’t it? Mama Bear ran right across the road and continued after her cubbies.

“Ma’am, get in your car,” said an irritable park ranger, who had to deal with idiot tourists like myself all day.

“That was a grizzly bear!” I said. “Did you see it? A grizzly!”

“I’m aware,” said he. “Get in the car, or I’m giving you a ticket. And do not approach the animals.”

“A grizzly!” I said as I got back in.

Someday, I plan to rent a house in Montana for a month or so. I’ll find a house on a hill with a long grassy meadow, so I can sit on the deck and watch the grizzly bears frolic in front of me. “They could easily climb on that deck,” my husband (the killjoy) informed me. “Luther will protect me,” I replied. He snorted. The man lacks imagination.

The other night, I pulled up a podcast called Get Out Alive. I also subscribe to When Animals Attack and Tooth and Claw. “Oh, special treat!” I said to McIrish. “This guy survived a grizzly attack!”

“Great,” said he. “Perfect for bedtime.”

“He wrote a book called Mauled. Christmas is coming, in case you’re wondering what to get me.”

Someday, I hope to visit the Arctic, too. Hopefully, there will still be polar bears there, and I’ll get to see one. I hear they make grizzlies look like sissies.


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