A Bear Went Over the Hill – episode six

It is getting dark and I am feeling the effects of the day. Dad came home to what on the surface seemed quite normal. As he settled down and was sharing with Mom about his day, he noticed the small bit of fur on the counter top. “Starting a collection, are we?” he asked.

This was all Mom needed to dive into the day’s events. She came to the point where Tuf hacked up the evidence when she asked, “What do you think it is?”

Rubbing the fur between his fingers, and examining it closely, Dad shared out loud what is going through his head. “It’s very coarse. Not like a dog or cat. Dark brown; almost black; very interesting color.” He turned to Tuf and asks, “So, how big was this bear, Tuf?” At that Tuf gave a confused tilt of his head and let’s out a low, long tooooot.” I do believe he was reaching empty. Then my Dad turned his gaze toward me with a look that suggests Summer as I thought it was going to be will turn out to be quite different.

So, I am now in my room messin’ with some stuff and contemplating my instructions. “I don’t want you heading off into the hills alone… and that goes for Tuf as well. If you can not find enough to do around here to keep yourself occupied I am sure your Mom can come up with some suggestions.” I climb up onto to my bed to relax when it hits me, “I didn’t get grounded!”

-=-=-=-

The rest of that week was rather uneventful. It actually rained two of the days, so most of my time was split between cartoons and diggin’ around seeing what I can get into down in the basement. I was able to move a whole mess of stuff and open up what I am certain will make a decent race track.

My Mom is hanging some laundry in the back yard. I decide to take this opportunity to quickly grab my fastest peddle-car and drag it inside. With some prodding and twisting I am able to get it through the doorway to the basement. Once through, I have to be very careful not to let it slide on down the steps out of control. This is much more difficult that I suspected it was going to be, but I actually am controlling it quite well — until the last four steps or so. I gather my thoughts and listen for Mom’s reaction, “whew, she must not have heard.” I look over the situation and see that there is no damage to the car and only minor evidence on the side of the metal cabinet where my Mom keeps her jellies and things.

I sit in the car and turn the steering wheel quickly left and then right. Things seemed to have rusted up a bit outside. I doesn’t take me long to find my Dad’s oil can on the shelf under his workbench and apply liberally to anything that appears to be a moving part, “ahh, much better.” Climb back into the car and grasp the steering wheel. I imagine several other cars to either side of me. “Inhale my fumes!” I shout to the other drivers. It was at that moment I realize I had not seen Tuf for hours. “Oh well, as long as he stays out of the trash,” I think to myself.

The engines rev and the excitement builds. At once we are off. I can feel the vibration of the mass of cars deep down inside. It is difficult, but I am able to see through the kicked up dirt and mud for the most part. I must pull ahead. I refuse to breath fumes of the others. I momentarily wondered what Tuf was up to. We head into the first curve and I feel a force pulling me outward toward the wall. My years of experiencing racing in this event has taught me how to brace for this force and actually ride through it for additional speed. These chumps will soon be eating my dirt. I sneer in their direction and lower my chin forward. I peddle even harder.

We are about to complete lap one. I look up ahead of me and notice it. An oily patch up ahead. Perhaps I was a bit too liberal in my application. I rationalize to myself that no one had ever won a race by being cautious and I find a bit more in me to peddle even harder. I approach the turn and consider slowing down and avoid the oily spot. Caution to the wind; I peddle faster. I enter the turn and begin my leaning. The steering wheel vibrates ever so slightly, but I am making it. Peddle, peddle, pause… peddle, peddle. I pause just a little when I zoom over the oily spot and try to time my return to peddling. As I return to my peddling rhythm I notice there is very little resistance to my peddling. The wheels are in a free slide. The steering wheel is not having any effect. My car begins to slide counter clockwise. I watch my Dad’s router table zoom by in a flash. Next is a small desk my Dad has been working on. Still no response from my steering or peddling. Then suddenly I stop. The right side of my car slams up against the wall. I actually think to myself. At least I won’t be able to damage the cement block wall. As I hit I feel the left side my my car lifting up. Before I fully realize what is happening my head hits sharply against the wall and my car returns all four wheels to the floor. “Whoa!”

-=-=-=-

Mom comes in from hanging the laundry. I hear the basement door open and she asks, “Hey, what is all that racket?”

“Nothing, Mom.”

She looks down the steps and sees the big oily stain. “What are you up to” You better not be making a mess.” At that she begins her way down the steps.

“I was winning, Mom! Beatin’ ’em all. You shoulda seen it.”

Suddenly the look on her face changes and she comes hurrying over to the crash site. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a piece of cloth. She takes the cloth and begins to dab at my forehead. “Ouch! That hurts!” I cringe. She pulls the cloth away I see the blood. At once I am suddenly frightened and admittedly a bit impressed. “Cool!”

A Bear Went Over the Hill – episode five

“So, what brings you and your dog all the way up here?”

I consider how much detail I should give in my answer. “We intend to find Clint.”

“Who?”

“There’s a bear in these parts and my Dad calls him Clint.”

“Oh. The bear, huh?”

“So, you’ve seen him?” I ask with obvious excitement.

“Not exactly. In fact I wonder if anybody really has.”

“But, what about all the stories?” I insist.

“They are just that, stories.”

“Well, I think Tuf and I came pretty close today. Climbing the stony path of the hill we both heard something move through some nearby brush. I’m bettin’ it was him.”

“Well, young man. I certainly hope you are mistaken. I mean what in the world would you do if you in fact did meet Clint face to face?”

She asks a very good question. I don’t know that I actually thought that one through. “Well, I have Tuf.”

“Tuf? You mean that little bag of fumes?”

“Hey, Tuf can put that bear in his place. Why only last summer Tuf gave a couple of the neighbor’s cows a what-for. If it weren’t for that cheap shot one of them got in, he would probably still remember too.”

“My recommendation young man, is to talk to you Dad about what it is you want to do.”

I consider, for only a split second, her suggestion. Does she think I’m crazy? If my Dad knew what I was up to, there’s no way he’d let me. “Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.” I figure a good strategy right now would be to change the subject. “So, what were you working on over there before?”

“Oh that. That is a whirligig.”

“A whirliwhat?” I ask.

“A whirligig. Whirligigs are wonderfully fantastic gadgets that do little more than spin and dance when the wind blows. They’re quite fun. Would you like to see some?”

“Sure.”

“Would Tuf like to join us?”

Given Tuf’s digestional issue, I decide against it. “No, he’s happier out here.”

As we get closer to the doorway of the shed I here rhythmic clanking, tapping and whirring. I step inside and allow my eyes to adjust to the change in light. “Wow, this is so cool! There must be a thousand of them in here. And so many different colors. Oh, look there’s a lumberjack. And there’s a guy sawing wood. Cool!”

“Why, thank you!”

“How long have you been making them?”

“Oh, longer than I would like to admit. Making them provides me with a very relaxing hobby and coming up here to ‘my shed’ in the hills is such a wonderful getaway.”

I make my way around the collection and am amazed at the variety and detail she has accomplished. What a treasure. Just then there was a sudden excitement outside; a terrible growling and barking. Tuf was worked up about something. We quickly scramble out of the shed and around to where we left Tuf.

Something has Tuf all worked up. Whatever it was it is gone now. I don’t know that I ever saw Tuf so frazzled. I calm him down and together we look around the area. We don’t see anything strange and I am prepared to chalk it up to s skittish dog, when our new friend suggests it may be best for me to get home and offers to give us a ride back. Considering our main purpose for this Summer is to seek out and find this bear, taking a car ride home now just seems counterproductive. I politely thank her but say no.

“Come on, Tuf. It’s time we head home.” His look suggests he thinks one of us is crazy.

Back into the forest we go; ducking into and under some of the taller brush. Quickly we are back on the trail that brought us here — Tuf by my side and my walking stick… “Hey! where’s my stick?” In the excitement I must have laid it down. I stop and turn around. Tuf stops, turns around and toots. I pick up the pace and jog back to the lady’s shed and find my stick quickly enough. She asks, “where’s your dog?”

“Tuf? Why, he was right next to me.” With that we hear a sharp yipe and the sound of Tuf scrambling through the woods. I quickly run back toward the path and see no sign of Tuf. I ignore the lady’s plea to hang on a minute and not to go so fast. By then I am in full stride.

I return to the dried pile we discovered earlier and continue further until I am back under the stand of pine trees. I stop to catch my breath and to look around and see if I can find any sign of Tuf. Not seeing anything I continue on; a bit slower now.

I reach the top of the stony path and look around. Still no sign of Tuf. Using my stick for stability I descend the path and only lose my footing once and that was near the bottom of the descent. Even with the poor traction I was trying to look around to the right and left, into the shrubs and even up into some of the trees. That dog. He’s probably already back at the house getting Mom to worry. That can only mean trouble for me.

I duck under some branches and make my way down the path that started the day off. Man, I’m hungry. Having missed lunch is not the way to get on Mom’s good side. I can feel it now, day two of Summer vacation and I am already grounded.

I come to the end of the path just before the break in the woods by the back part of our lawn. “Well, here goes nothing.” I walk towards the house. Suddenly, out from the swinging door runs Tuf, happy as can be. Just behind Tuf is Mom. I am so in trouble.

“Are you hungry?” asks Mom.

“Very!”

“Get inside and wash up.”

“Sure thing!”

OK, not so bad so far. Although I know that sometimes the delay just makes it so much worse. I wash up and climb up on the chair kitchen chair.

“Feet down.” says Mom. “So, interesting day I hear.”

“You hear?” I ask. OK, what could she possibly know? Tuf, the rat. Probable gave us away.

“Well, when Tuf came running into the kitchen like his rear-end was on fire, I figured it just may be. Given the amount of tootin’ he’s been doing.”

I chuckle at the thought.

“When I gave him some water he started drinking so fast I figured he must have ran a mile. I reached down to rub his neck and I saw the scratches on his ear.”

Oh, this is getting worse, I think to myself. “We were just nutsin’ around, Mom.” With that Tuf give two sharp hacks and a toot for good measure. Out from his mouth come a wad of fuzz. Actually, it looked more like fur.

“Now, what do we have here?” ponders Mom.

I bent over and looked closer — dark brown, almost black.

“It looks like some kind of animal fur.” suggests Mom. “Surely, your Dad will know what it is.”

Oh great! We have gone from bad to worse. “Ahh, it’s probably from one of the cats. Likely the fat, slow one. It’s the only on Tuf can catch.” I propose. “No need to show Dad.”

“Hmmm…” is all Mom could muster.

A Bear Went Over the Hill – episode four

The path we took to this point cuts to the left and we decide to continue following it. Within a few yards we were back into the woods and the path proceeded clearly in front of us. It was flat and the walking was easy. We quickly came upon an open stand of pine trees. I love running around under a stand of pine trees. The footing is soft and fairly clean and the sound is so peaceful. We slow our pace and enjoy the surroundings. “So, Tuf. Ya think that was just a big bird we heard back there?” He no longer seems rattled at all so I take that as agreement.

We approach a fork in the road and take a seat on a nearby stump. “Which way do we go, Tuf?” At that Tuf rolls over and starts twisting and turning, scratching his back on the pine needles. “You don’t much care do you?” We take the left path, as it seems a bit flatter, and head deeper into the woods. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been down this path, Tuf.”

It was not thirty seconds after that we both saw it. A pile of poop. As quick as I realized what it was Tuf was picking up speed. I was able to catch up and thwart Tuf’s efforts to do his patented nose dive and roll into, on and then all over that pile of poop. There are some things I just will never understand about Tuf and his affinity with rolling around in anything smelly is one of those things. I grab hold of his collar as we get closer to the pile.

It is a hefty pile; certainly larger than from a deer. There were no clear signs around the pile to suggest what relieved itself here so all I could do was wonder. Poking a stick into the pile I realize that it is rather old and dry. “That’s probably a good thing”, I suggest to Tuf. “We had best be on our way.”

As we continue further into the woods it becomes noticeably cooler and a bit darker. Both Tuf and I stop and tilt our heads in the direction of what sounded like whistling. We walk a bit slower trying to determine what is making this noise. We enter into an area of thicker brush and continue through. As we reach the end of the brush we begin to see the outline of a house; actually a cabin. Well, truth be told it was more like a shed. It was from this shed that the whistling was coming. “Hmm, I never saw this before,” I whisper. I put my hand on Tuf’s neck and I feel that he is shaking. “Come on boy. It’s OK.” I take hold of his collar and we move closer to the shed. We walk carefully around the side of the shed. The whistling seems to be coming from around the next corner of the shed. It’s a very happy tune. Tuf and I slowly approach the last corner and as I round the corner I am also stretching my neck. I’m not sure what I am worried about; it’s such a happy tune.

We pass by a shrub at the corner of the shed and step into the open. It is an old lady working on something with her hands. Not sure what it is, but it has her complete concentration – except what is needed to keep the tune going. So happy.

She slowly lifts up whatever it is she is working on and takes a long, purposeful look at it. As she places it back down she glances our way and lets out a scream. I just about jump out of my skin. My hand lets go of Tuf’s collar and all I here is a quick, serious “yipe” and then the sounds of an uncoordinated scramble with intermittent toots. There is a bizarre rhythm to it all.

I regain my composure and let out a quick, “Tuf, come here!” Tuf stops where he is and the look on his face says, “I am right here and right here I will stay… toot.”

“I am so sorry ma’am. We were just passing by and, and… well, we heard you whistling.”

“Whistling? So, you figured the thing to do was to sneak up a scare the bejeebers out of me, huh?”

“No, ma’am. Like I said, we were just passing by…”

“’We’, you mean you and your fearless companion over there? By the way, what is that smell?”

“It’s a long story, Ma’am.”

“Well, you better come over here and sit down with me and let us settle ourselves down.”

A Bear Went Over the Hill – episode three

All scrubbed up and fed, Tuf and I head out into the day. We make our way up through the back yard and into the woods. There is a stand of mountain laurel that creates a low level canopy under which is a wonderfully shaded and effectively hidden area to serve as our headquarters for the Summer. Our planning session begins. First up is to lay out a strategy in our hunt for Clint. I’m thinking we should start in the western hill.

We gather a single bottle of water leaving our spare at headquarters to drink when we regroup after our day’s adventure. Heading out from the stand of mountain laurel, we head toward the single path that leads up to the western most hill. We pass by what appears to be an old trash dump. Not very big and mostly covered with years of tree droppings. We are making our way around the west side of the dump when all of a sudden Tuf darts around to where we cam from and to the other side of the dump. I quickly scurry around in the same direction to cut him off from whatever it is he thinks he saw or heard — or smelled.

I come around a large Pine tree and see Tuf heading into the thick of the dump. Oh, no. I pick up the pace and grab Tuf’s collar just as he was about to start digging. He spins around and catches my gaze, plops his rump down right there on the dump, tilts his head so innocently and lets out a triple toot. “Good gracious, dog! And you want more of that?” I hesitantly let go of his collar and we return on our way toward the western most hill.

-=-=-=-

It is a wonderful day. Not very hot although plenty of sunshine. Tuf and I come to a break in the forest and we both stop and look out into a wonderful field of tall grasses and wild flowers. We notice a path that seem to go around the outside of the field to our right and decide to take it. As we are strolling along this path I notice something out of the corner of my eye. There on the ground at the edge of the tall grass – long and still – the most perfect walking stick. I pick it up and shift it from hand to hand. A thing of beauty. The perfect weight and balance. “Can you believe our luck, Tuf?” A single toot. We march on.

Our first turn in the path brings us to the base of another rise in elevation. This time the path if covered in baseball size rocks and stones. This will be slow going, but I now have my walking stick. Tuf and I hug the left side of the path where the footing is about as sturdy as it gets. We step with some caution and concentrate on each stride. With our focus on our walking we had little awareness of anything else going on around us. This is turning out to be quite a workout. We reach a level patch and decide to rest. Tuf throws a peculiar glance off to the right and both ears focus straight forward. A suspicious growl and a quick toot. I look in the same direction and see nothing. No moving brush or any other signs of movement. “Ahh, that gut rot is effecting your head now.”

I take a quick drink of water and offer some to Tuf in the palm of my hand. At that moment there is a quick rush through the tall grasses and then silence. Tuf stops in mid slurp and swings his head in the direction of the sound. I quickly grab his collar, “easy, boy.”

Toot.

Must have been a bird or something because I don’t see anything now. We gather our water bottle and walking stick and continue on. The breeze that had accompanied us so far today disappeared. The air is suddenly a bit stagnant. “Oh good gracious dog!”

-=-=-=-

We can see the top of the hill and pick up the pace ever so slightly. As we reach the top we first look at each other and then out over the valley. In the distance is the town. I even see the drug store. It was at the drug store, at the counter towards the end where the fountain drinks are made, that Patricia Kusnolski made her intentions clear. Oh, the thought of that moment still makes me shiver. She had decided that boys are not all disgusting and that some are even rather pleasant. The way she looked at me almost made me want to leave my cherry-vanilla coke right there on the counter and high-tale it outside as quick as possible. I think my mistake was to just sit there. Apparently, listening to what she had to say just made everything much more complicated. “Tuf, too bad you won’t still be tootin’ when Patricia gets back from her Grandparents’. We could leave some toots outside her window.” I laugh. Tuf looks confused.

Tuf’s Fate

When I posed a request for story ideas for my NaNoWriMo effort, Tuf asked,

can i [Tuf] be a character that seems like he’s going to be important but then dies in the second chapter?

I figured why not? But now I come to the heart of Tuf’s request. It is time to decide Tuf’s fate. Should he meet his ultimate demise or should Tuf live on?

If you can give me three reasons to let Tuf live then I will do so. If not, I may just have to go with Tuf’s original request… I sure would miss him though.

A Bear Went Over the Hill – episode one

I rub my eyes, squint and then decide to roll over. Just then a smile crosses my face. It is Summer. School is out. All teachers have returned to whatever teachers do in the off season to regain strength for tormenting Second Graders. Best of all, Bucky Showalter will spend the prime days of the Summer in Summer-school and Patricia Kusnolski is well on her way to her Grandparent’s house at the coast. Peace and quiet shall rule the days of Summer — at least as long as it suites my pleasure.

As I lay there in a state of bliss that can only be one up’d by a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and hours upon hours of Bugs Bunny, I hear the soft thud, thud, thud coming down the hardwood floor of the hallway. Wow, Tuf is sure up early. Tuf is our Corgi; a sprite little herding dog that my Dad says is too big for his britches. He spends most nights laying between the cats and their food. I’m not sure what he feels he has to gain by maintaining such a watch, but each morning it is the same. Tuf is tired and the cats are hungry. I invite him to hop up.

Tuf has been around as long as I can remember. I think Mom said he is almost eight. That makes him about a year older than I, but I suspect he has really lived much more than a year longer than I. His eyes suggest wisdom and his poise and quick movements suggest a cunning nature that serves him well in a house that finds it acceptable to allows cats. With a quick rub of his ears we are up, I am changed and we begin our day — our Summer.

-=-=-=-

A bowl of cereal and an hour of cartoons later, I’m bored. Well not actually bored. More like uninspired. I think back over the plans I had made for the Summer. The adventures awaiting us in the hills behind our house. I think about the story Poppop told me about Clint. Clint is the name Poppop gave a black bear that has reportedly been seen wondering around in our hills. Poppop calls him Clint because he reminds him of a friend from years ago who was a very gentle man despite his huge stature and menacing sneer. Mommom says Clint is just a big old Teddy bear looking to live out his days undisturbed. Poppop says Mommom used to fancy Clint. They laugh and the subject changes. Some of the town people claim otherwise though. There is a story about Clint attacking Bucky Showalter’s Grandfather on his Mother’s side and mauling him to death. I have never confirmed the story with Bucky, but I have yet to meet Bucky’s Grandfather on his Mother’s or Father’s side. So, I suppose there could be some truth to the stories.

I had not shared with Mom about our plans when she asked what I wanted to do this Summer. And to be honest, I’m not so sure Tuf is onboard in the matter, but this very Summer we are going to find Clint. This is actually quite huge and I am immensly excited. This is bigger than Kevin Quigly chasing a skunk into his fathers shed in hopes of talking his Aunt Grace into turning it into one of those really cool hats he saw in her picture album.

While our plan is without many details — such as what we were going to do when we found him — in general it is a strategy of scoping out each hill from west to east. If the stories are true we should come upon our bear within the first couple of weeks since most of the reported sightings seen to point to the western third of the hills. Today is set aside for preparation.

I hear Mom call me down to the back porch. She sounds irratated. I quickly rewind the day as quickly as possible and realize I have done nothing yet this Summer to warrant such a summoning. “It must be your fault, Tuf.” When Tuf and I reach the back porch we see what has my Mom so upset. “Something got into the trash and it has all the signs as the work of that dog of yours”, suggests my Mom. “Get out here and clean this mess.”

“Aww, but Mom…”

“Now!”

I look at Tuf and ask him, “what could you possibly find so interesting in that trash?”

He tilts his head innocently as though to say, “if you have to ask…”

-=-=-=-

It’s about four-thirty and my Dad is parking his car in the driveway. As he gets out of the car, Tuf and I make our way over to see how his day was. He reaches down and with one smooth motion I am up on his shoulders. “So, you bored yet?”, he asks. I thought about fully explaining our plans to search out Clint, but decide better of it. While yes, my Dad was a kid once, he seems to have left most of those perspectives well in the past. Admittedly, it would be fun to have Dad come along for the adventure, but I’m just not very good at anticipating his reaction to my plans, so I will remain silent on this one. We head inside for dinner.

I am hungrier than I thought I would be. Everything went down so easily. Everything but the Lima beans. I think to myself, “so Tuf, would you dig through the trash for Lima beans?” I look down to toss a bean or two to Tuf, but he’s not there. Odd.

“I take it your Summer is off to a grand start?” my Dad asks.

“So far, so good.”

“Hey, where’s Tuf?” Dad pushes his chair back and looks under the table. I am thinking that Dad wanted to unload some beans as well. “Didn’t he come in with us?” Dad gets up and looks out onto the porch where he sees Tuf curled up in the corner. Tuf lifts his head at the suspicion he’s being watched and lays it back down. “Hmmm, he must not be feeling well.”

After dinner Dad turns on the TV and wrestles with the antennae for a whole inning and a helf trying to bring in the Orioles game. Finally he settles for the best he can do and sits down to enjoy the game. They are lossing four to one. Not in the mood for baseball for some reason I make my way out to the porch to check on Tuf. He’s no longer there but has made his way to the outside of the porch under some shrubs and out of easy sight. I bend down to have a closer look. “Hey boy, you don’t look too good.” “Get into some bad trash?” I chuckle at the thought of bad trash, but I quickly return to the condition of my friend. I settle all the way down and quietly talk to him.

-=-=-=-

It had long since grown dark when Dad comes outside to see what I am up to. “It’s time to get ready for bed,” he informs me. I don’t answer and from the look on my face Dad realizes my concern. He too bends down and rubs Tuf’s ears. “He probably just got into some bad trash.” Realizing what he said Dad gives a quick chuckle. “Let’s let him sleep it off.”

I get ready for bed and curl up in a similar position as when my day started. I lay there looking up at the ceiling. I don’t remember Tuf ever acting like this before. I was sure it was serious, but what was I to do. I lay there long enough for my parents to fallen asleep. When I heard my Dad’s snoring become steady and sure I figured it was safe to make my move. I slipped over to my closet and climed up onto my dresser. Now, if I could just reach far enough. Ahh, there it is. My sleeping bag. I move quietly through the house and out to the porch. I make my way around the porch to where Tuf had been laying. He was still there having adjusted his position only slightly. I kick around for rocks dislodging a couple and moving them from where I intended to lay.

I arrange my sleeping bag and get in undercover and reach for Tuf. His breathing seems a bit slower than earlier, but steady. I put my arm around him and pull him a bit closer. I still have no idea what to do. I close my eyes hard and feal my fists clench. I think that maybe I should pray. My eyes close tighter and my fists begin to shake slightly. My cheeks become damp and my lip quivers. “God?” “Help.”