Sunday, December 13, 2015

Out of Bounds

"Have you ever seen someone eaten alive?" asks Jerry.

"Good God, no!" Amie is sick at the thought.

"Well, that could happen. What is it with you and Tim? Aren't you worried about the bears?"

"He knows what he's doing. He's been studying them for years."

"Yeah, right! Suicidal. That's what I think. Stay with me, Honey. I'll just munch on you a little." Jerry leans toward her, nuzzles her neck.

"Not funny, Jerry. I told you. I'm in love with Timothy. He makes me laugh. And he's adventurous. Look at these photos."

Amie shows him pictures of Tim with Boobie, Mr. Chocolate, Molly, Aunt Melissa. "These bears know him. He loves them. We're not going to do anything dangerous. Anyway, now I have to go. I've sold the house, given huge bags of stuff to Goodwill. I have my tickets to King Salmon and from there we'll go by boat to Brooks Camp. Then we'll hike to the bear trails at Katmai, camp there all summer. Think of it! I'll help collect data for the documentary. Isn't it exciting?"

"Go with God," says Jerry. He seems to mean it, though he's a bit sappy from smoking dope--brows furrowed, mouth inclined downward into a tsk.

Amie refuses to admit she's scared. A park ranger had warned Tim to keep a boundary between himself and the bears, to build an electric fence around the campsite, to carry a gun or at least pepper spray. Tim had been insulted, told the ranger if anyone was that fearful they had no place out in the brush, and he wouldn't do anything to bring these beautiful animals pain.

"You're star-struck," Jerry says to Amie. "It isn't just that you're leaving me, all our friends. You only see your golden-haired boy who was interviewed on Dateline NBC. Tim's naive--it's real out there. Male grizzlies can weigh 800 pounds."

"He's not naive. He's cautious. He knows what they can do." But Amie remembers Tim's widely quoted retort to an Alaska bear authority that he'd be honored to end up in bear scat.

I don't want to be the last thing a grizzly leaves behind.

Later, reading about bears in an Alaskan guidebook Tim gave her, Amie underlines these words: Brown bears eat mainly vegetation. Grasses, sedges, bulbs, roots. They also eat insects such as ants, fish, and small mammals. She reads on, suddenly stops. In some areas they have become significant predators of large animals such as moose, caribou, and elk.

Holy shit! A moose weighs a thousand pounds. Amie shifts her 120-pound frame uneasily.

The phone rings. It's Tim. "Hey, Sweetie. Are you packed? I can't wait to see you. I've got new video equipment, funded by Werner. This is going to be the best trip ever."

"Good to go!" Amie laughs.

"During August," she reads later in the evening, "when the bears are fattening up on Buffalo Berries, their scat takes on a blackish-red appearance with plenty of Buffalo Berry seeds visible."

Heck, people make jam out of Buffalo Berries. The bears just want something sweet. I wouldn't miss this for anything.

*     *     *
(Note: The above is fiction. The facts: on October 5th, 2003, Tim Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were killed by a brown bear in Katmai National Park. Their remains were found in what is known as a "food cache.")
 

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