The Bear Is Right There!

“I don’t see a bear,” some man with an Irish accent said. He and his friends stared and pointed at something out in the great plain, north of Jackson Lake, while I scanned the tree line east of the majestic Teton Range of mountains with my binoculars. Hundreds of people stood with me and my wife on the edge of the veranda wall at Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. The great plain that yawned before us was the size of a county in my native state of South Carolina. It had grasses and bushes up to six feet tall, some trees, and several streams.

Bison, elk, deer, moose, and other wildlife of the Grand Teton National Park, including both types of bears (Black and Grizzly) might be seen on the plain. The best time to see them was at twilight and in darkness, with the exception that the bull elk were out during daylight too, yodeling for female elk to come to them to be herded and impregnated. My wife and I had eaten an early breakfast so that we could stand out there in the cold crisp air of morning twilight. We saw moose, some otters, and eagles. There was a large bull elk about a half mile out in front of us, yodeling. But, we wanted to see bears, and perhaps a wolf or a mountain lion.

“I’m telling you, the bear is right there!” the Irish friend of the first Irishman stated emphatically. I glanced to my left. They were about ten people away from me. I saw that man point nearly in front of me about 300 yards out. I thought he was nuts! Something as large as a bear could not possibly be that close to hundreds of people without being seen clearly and rat-ted out for everyone to see.

To my wife’s chagrin, I abandoned my perch at the edge to go meet the Irishmen. I introduced myself, told the men that I had heard their discussion and was willing to become a believer. The men were the patriarchs of two sizeable Irish families, and they readily adopted me and my binoculars to settle this matter of a bear that only one of them could see. That one man lined me up to put my eyes with binoculars on a patch of grey with a little reddish-brown mix, nestled among grasses and bushes. After staring for two full minutes, I confidently told him, “I don’t see a bear.”

“Right,” said the Irishman’s friend. All of the Irish families snickered and grinned. This poor man, about my father’s age, needed someone to back him up. Clearly, that was my job, and I had let him down. He stood next to me with his head lowered. “Well,” I said, “just because I don’t see a bear, that doesn’t mean that a bear is not there. How do you know that the scruffy patch of grey is a bear?”

The Irishman looked me square in the eyes and said, “I saw him move.” Truth dwelled in this man’s eyes. In that moment, I joined his quest to prove to his family and everyone there that he had indeed seen a bear. It took me forty minutes to do it. My wife was as skeptical and upset with me as his family was with him, but I talked it up as I moved about the veranda to get a better viewing angle. Finally, a grizzly bear raised his head! The Irishmen and their families saw it! My wife saw it, and so did sixty or so other people. The bear was laying in ambush for a chance at the yodeling elk! We all go great photographs. I got a look that I will never forget, from a grateful and proud Irishman.

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