By Charles Towne
The time is late fall, the year is sometime near the beginning of 1000 BC. The place is somewhere in that vast wilderness that will one day, nearly three thousand years in the future be called British Columbia, Canada.
The big grizzly knows that the time of the long sleep is fast approaching. He is returning to the familiar cave where he was born and where he has spent the previous seven winters. From the time that he emerged from the cave in late spring his existence has been one continuous search for food. All summer and fall he has gorged himself, becoming fat for this purpose.
The bear’s entire life, his very existence is a round of sleeping and eating, all in preparation for this time. He is huge, weighing in excess of twelve hundred pounds. When he emerged from the cave in the spring he had weighed less than nine hundred pounds but the warm months have been good to him and now he is ready for the long sleep.
His has been a solitary existence broken only for that short time during the summer when he had spent ten days with the four-year-old female. At the end of that brief interlude they had separated without a farewell glance.
It is a fact that if they were to meet again as competitors over some choice food spot or perhaps a goat that had been killed in a rockslide they would likely fight for its possession rather than relinquish it. Now, due to the urgency of the season’s lateness he is on the way back to the cave.
Languid, almost drowsy he looks forward to the sleep for he can almost feel the cold and the deep snows about to fall upon the land. When he is yet some distance away from his destination he suddenly shakes away his lethargy and lifts his head, every sense alert, his sensitive nose drinking in the air. With a growing unease he senses a difference upon the land, a disturbance. He has smelled wood smoke before, even seen fire when lightning struck a great tree and set it ablaze.
At those times he invariably steered his course away from the strange phenomenon, but this is different for the source of the smoke is ahead of him, in fact it seems to be coming from the direction of his familial cave. A low rumble emanates from deep in the bear’s chest as he cautiously moves forward. The smoke rises from a small fire at the very mouth of his cave.
This is incomprehensible to the bear.
But there is yet another odor intermingling with the smoke, a strange smell that causes him to hesitate in bewilderment and confusion. Then the bear hears the unfamiliar sound of voices, and suddenly two creatures, the like of which he has never seen, emerge from the mouth of the cave. Ursas Horribilus, The most horrible bear, lifts himself to a standing position to better see the men. Whatever these impudent creatures are, they stand in his way. Dropping to all fours he roars his terrifying challenge and then, moving incredibly fast for such a large animal, he charges. The strange creatures react swiftly and as the bear rushes down upon them in leaping bounds they meet him with long, flint tipped spears. Soon the earth shaking roars of the bear cease but not before the shouts of the strange creatures have turned to screams, then a terrible silence falls across the wilderness.
Afterward the bear painfully drags himself past the mangled bodies, past the fire.
Without the creatures to feed it the fire will also soon die. He slowly drags his great bulk far back into the cave. Finally he lies down in the place that he has sought. Some instinct has drawn him back to this place. He is unaware of the fact but this is the exact spot where his mother had given birth to him those seven winters past. He sighs as he closes his eyes. It is warm here in the cave. He no longer feels the terrible pain where the spear has pierced his chest. Sighing deeply again, he opens his eyes and stares into the darkness of the cave. The silence is complete. He sighs once again and lowers his massive head. Then, yielding to the inevitable, he closes his eyes, and sleeps.
Snow was falling outside the cave and as it fell it began to cover what it must. Other men would come. They would find the broken bones of the two men, and Far back in the cave the bones of the gigantic bear would also be found and there, amongst the bones they would find the flint spear point. They would almost reverently and in awe touch the huge canines in the time-whitened skull.
The sun yielded to the cloud swept moon and as the night wind suggestively moaned and whispered, the flickering light of the fire faded into the shadows and was hungrily devoured by the darkness. The small group of men spoke in hushed tones of what they had found. They sat, huddled together for fear of what the night might hold. Restless, and with no small amount of unease, they sat with their backs to the fire, weapons at hand, as they listened to the night sounds and as they strained their eyes, staring into the night trying to pierce the darkness, to see what terror lurked there.
And the great bear prowled out there in the darkness, in the shadowy darkness of their minds, for he would live on in their imaginings, and he prowls there still.
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.