Thursday, August 31, 2017


Cliven Bundy

Looking at the week’s work, it occurs to me that I’ve been leaving out the extreme right.  I’m not fond of people who go to violence so easily, but everyone can be a source of understanding.  Just be careful.

In the Sixties I was much more in touch with the Western rebellions against Federal restraints.  Some of the people we knew rejected the standing rule of law as unjust and indefensible, creating their own ideas of what the laws should be.  Men I liked for their competence and drive were convinced that the government would go door-to-door, taking away their guns to make them helpless.  Given that it was paranoid, their direct confrontation with such sweeping laws as the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, and the establishment of monuments and other public lands, was certainly more honorable than secret deals by mega-corporations and international oligarchies.  And not as deadly nor as underground as mafia, drug lords, terrorists and other traffickers in lives.

To check out these folks I went to the library to borrow an issue of “Range Magazine.”  You can read it online and the pictures are often lovely.  I mostly listened to these sentiments when it was women who went by SSS —  “Smile, Serve and Shut-up”.  Enabling John Wayne.  There was a lot of safety in it sometimes, especially when women were not given equal powers and especially if women were economically constrained.  (They still are, but not so much.)

The concept of the “rule of law” is a public part of the on-going struggle between the individual and the whole of the population.  It is meant to protect both, but the balance between both is very hard to locate and sustain.  Especially when cynicism, confusion, and resentment are coloring public life.  Constraint is lost when the President has no constraint.

“The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour, including behaviour of government officials.  The phrase can be traced back to 16th century Britain.”  (Wiki)  This is what ends the “Game of Thrones,” the realization that something overrules and mediates among families and armies.

“Lack of the rule of law can be found in both democracies and dictatorships, for example because of neglect or ignorance of the law, and the rule of law is more apt to decay if a government has insufficient corrective mechanisms for restoring it.”  This is where we change over to “House of Cards.”

“ . . .development of the legal concept can be traced through history to many ancient civilizations, including ancient Greece, China, Mesopotamia, India, and Rome.”  Now we are in a time when law is challenged by greed, a recurring predicament that destroys nations.

There’s really no need for me to invent a story for this problem, since the Wikipedia account of Cliven Bundy’s conflict with the USA is colorful enough, dragging in just about every Federal land-use regulation from grazing leases to Endangered Species to National Parks and Monuments to claims of entitlement through heredity.  The point is that Bundy was totally intransigent, non-compliant, and allied with groups labeled by the FBI as domestic terrorists.  As far as I know, no grizzlies were involved — just a lot of cows and bureaucrats.

Bundy’s problem was that he only owned a little homestead and had to depend on adjacent federal land for grazing.  He got into arguments and began to refuse to pay fees which became a million-dollar debt, and the government began to round up his cattle.  In many ways this is a Civil War artifact.  He is in jail, not for the original offence but for his reactions and defiance afterwards.  He felt he was unjustly gripped by tyrants.

I want to remind readers that the Conrad brothers who sustained Valier, Conrad and Kalispell were teenaged Confederate raiders in their father’s command before they came to the high prairie to exploit the wide open place with little rule of law. 

Bundy’s sentiment is so widespread now that people are threatening that if Trump is impeached, there will be a secession rebellion.  The whole syndrome has become mix-and-match, with constant threats of violence, conceived in terms of dramatic television shows.

There’s no question that today government v. individual is a relationship in trouble.  The government does too much, butting in without understanding; the government does too little, letting people suffer because officials aren’t addressing basic protections; and the government is doing the wrong thing because it’s based on the East Coast with career politicians whose goal is to stay in office.  Worst of all, it appears that the government has been bought by major corporations and fronts for extravagantly rich people who are allowed to run the country.  

The criticism and name-calling goes across the spectrum from anarchist through liberal to don’t-tell-me to establishment Republican to right wingers.  You probably won’t see much about the super-conservative throwbacks unless you read a magazine like “Ranch.

The problem for me is that this is a land that I love.  The material culture here — the worn equipment, the sun-shredded debris of homesteads, the long lines of fenceposts, the skulls of livestock — stuff not worth money unless it’s translated into art — are a familiar vocabulary to me.  I know people here who think like “Ranch” magazine.  

I tend to feel that the older ones have earned it, that they lived it and worked it, but that the youngsters are posing.  The old-timers never say “fuck” and they stay in their marriages.  When I prowl for streaming movies on the Internet, I go to Australian and Scandinavian tales.  Only a few people in the US can get financing for a Western of the classic sort.

The stories in “Ranch” are sometimes over-simplified and demonizing, but there is an outrage at the core that needs to be recognized instead of exploited.  That’s what comes bursting out when there are public meetings about grizzly bears.  To some degree it’s in the depths of the bureaucrats, but the fire in politicians seems to have gone out unless fed by hatred, the ultimate accelerant.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SO WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? (A Griz overview)

The original idea for this little series of invented stories was to find some way to get information “out there” that didn’t end up in an emotional shouting match.  The feedback that I almost immediately got was a) that the subject was too dangerous to bring up, so let sleeping bears lie, and b) no one wanted to know anything different than what they already knew, so keep your propaganda to yourself.  We’re the ones who have to live here.  But there has to be some way to get past the patronizing, lecturing, self-righteous tone of the government people as well as the near-hysteria of people who do not feel listened to or valued.  

The first thing people wanted to know was the real answer to the problem.  Can they or can they not shoot a grizzly when they are in danger?  The second was which side was I on?  If I’m not on their “side,” they don’t want to hear anything about what I say.  It’s following the pattern of politics across America and around the world.

There’s a strong element in this “knowing better than any experts” that encourages secrecy and defiance.  There are estimates of what percentage of grizzlies are quietly snuffed.  The Endangered Species Act seems to be especially mocked, its reasoning closed out of consciousness.  It’s easily gamed for land acquisition and energy use (windmills, pipelines), but then on the other hand can be used to block them.  At one “end” animal protection begins to echo the regulations and laws about indigenous people, their sovereignty, and their powerful spirituality.  All of this, of course, is fed by history, both local and universal.

In the Nineties when I was working for the Site Development team of the City of Portland, “Takings” was a legal concept just beginning to develop and to be somehow conflated with legal condemnation “for the public good of the citizens”.  Biological constraints on wetlands, for instance, ran headlong into opportunities for profit through development.  A particularly rare little fish or butterfly can prevent something as massive as a dam. People protecting ranches don’t want biologists running around with butterfly nets.  “Takings” can involve huge amounts of money when people are imagining potential profits, though much of the profit will go to lawyers.  As we see in Houston at the moment, one of the endangered species is humans, esp. poor humans.

The Endangered Species Act defined “endangered” and “threatened” [section 3];

made plants and all invertebrates eligible for protection [section 3];
applied broad “take” prohibitions to all endangered animal species and allowed the prohibitions to apply to threatened animal species by special regulation [section 9];
required Federal agencies to use their authorities to conserve listed species and consult on “may affect” actions [section 7];
prohibited Federal agencies from authorizing, funding, or carrying out any action that would jeopardize a listed species or destroy or modify its “critical habitat” [section 7];
made matching funds available to States with cooperative agreements [section 6];
provided funding authority for land acquisition for foreign species [section 8]; and
implemented CITES protection in the United States [section 8].

"Congress enacted significant amendments in 1978, 1982, and 1988, while keeping the overall framework of the 1973 Act essentially unchanged. The funding levels in the present Act were authorized through Fiscal Year 1992. Congress has annually appropriated funds since that time."

In the Sixties and Seventies when this Act was being drawn up and passed, the concern was pretty species-specific:  bald eagles, for instance.  But then the concept of “ecology” took hold and we began to see in terms of systems.  Now two new paradigms are pressing us: first, that ecologies are dynamic and change all the time, particularly in response to climate and the habitat available to them.  

Second, that this “ecology” is world-wide.  It’s planetary, both in terms of contamination and in dynamic patterns we call “climate change.”  No one escapes.  Johnny Depp’s idyllic island is as much endangered by rising sea levels as the bayous of the Gulf of Mexico.  World food and water resources are endangered by drought and soil exhaustion.

Third, perhaps most frightening of all, is science telling us that though humans tinker with the planet, in the end it will all be gone -- even rocks and air and things living or non-living.  We are urged to get to another planet.

The good news is that re-forestation, river reclamation, and satellite monitoring are working to turn the tide.  Many NGO's are doing their best and they're pretty good.

Where are we to draw courage and vision?  Our best resource is each other.  But we hardly know each other.  This set of stories might or might not help.  It’s a try.  Fiction is just one strategy.



“It seems to me,” said the preacher, “That human beings are the apex of life on this planet, and though we may be predators, we are also sustainers.  If God has created grizzly bears, than we as God’s stewards should protect them so that we can learn about them.  The Bible says that the duty of believers is to praise God and enjoy His creation.  I believe that includes those bears.   We must treat them with respect, the same respect we have for the mighty and terrible God.”

“Well, that was unexpected,” said the reporter.  “And very impressive.  But Time magazine has explained that God is dead.  Now what?”

The head of the Chamber of Commerce remarked,  “You know, every bear is worth a certain amount in terms of attracting tourists with money that they will spend here.  Bears are an asset and should be appreciated.”

The conservationist grumbled,  “If you start saying bears are worth money, then people are going to start figuring out some amount per bear and then others are going to start figuring out the minimum number of bears we need to make a certain amount of tourist profit and will lobby to kill off all the others.  It’s a slippery slope greased with bear blood.”

“Or,” said the hunter wryly, “You could just issue hunting licenses for the surplus who don’t want to tour around taking pictures.  Money for guides, for taxidermists, and all that Boone and Crockett stuff.”

The artist drew his finger along the edge of the table.  “Without bears an entire symbol system going back millennia would be lost — the songs, the art, the bear dances, the animal that is like a human but not.  Ceremonies done by hominins before they were fully human and the bears were not grizzlies yet, still huge cave bears.  I guess I should wait until the paleoanthros have had their say.  I’m trespassing a bit, but that’s what artists and writers do."

The land specialist said: “And it’s what bears do — dig stuff up, turn rocks over, rake the sod, carry the fish back up under the trees where they become fertilizer.  Bears shake up the wolves and the humans, both.”

The rancher, looking out the window at his beloved landscape, said:  “All I’m trying to do is to make a living the way my family has for a century.  I know how to relate to bears, how to protect my cattle, but I need the freedom to make my own decisions without some pencil-necked government bureaucrat interfering.”

Mom was folding laundry while she talked.  “I want my children to be able to go out into the yard without being in danger.  A bear broke into my friend’s chicken yard and when the family dog went to intervene, the bear killed it.  Do you know what that does to a kid’s feelings?  And it could have been one of her kids.”

At the High Line Steak House, most of the talk was about excellent beef and the controversy was more about grass-fed versus feedlot cattle.  They liked the quality of grass-fed, but also the price of feedlot beef, though they worried about antibiotics.  They never thought about bears.

There aren’t a lot of old-time tribal people around now, but the oldest of them said,  “All this will change again.  Might be a lot less people someday.  Might be a lot less fuss.  Might be pretty quiet.  No bears.  No people.  Wind, sky and grass.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


The cell phone rang in his pocket just as he was about to climb into the pickup to go to town to meet his banker.  It was not good news.

“Boss, there’s been a bear kill.”

“Where are you?”  

“Up on the Lewis and Clark Divide where the trees begin.”

“You got a camera?”


“I’ll call Fish and Game.  You document the hell out of it.”

“Will do.”

This is the url for a video of a grizzly attacking and killing a cow.  Brace yourself.

You might feel better if you watch bison run off a grizz.

Why not put bison in with cattle for protection?  Their instincts will not match.  But they are similar enough to produce fertile offspring across species and this is unwanted.

He was in no mood to talk to a banker now.  He called and canceled, went back into the house to call Fish and Game, and change clothes.  His wife wanted to know what was happening.  “We may have just lost some money.”  She understood.  They would apply to the reimbursement programs, but it was a long process.

Ranching on a large scale, whether livestock or grain, is a high capital enterprise.  Just the land itself is a major investment and not one that a person wants to borrow against very much, or the whole base of operations is whittled away.  That’s not counting the equipment, the animals, the payroll, the practical stuff like insurance and weed suppression and . . .  To make money from living things, whether animals or crops, was to be at the mercy of fate and weather.  

And other living things, like bears.  He was a peaceful guy, who didn’t even like to tangle with bad-tempered humans, but he had a hard time being patient about bears.  He remembered that his dad used to just pick up a rifle and solve the problem, but doing that now would be inviting all kinds of trouble — the worse kind of trouble: legal.

He had a little poster he’d found on the Internet and posted over his desk in the ranch office:

When the pressure got high, which it was now because of drought and forest fires, he had a nasty habit of waking at 3AM and prowling the Internet.  His wife didn’t approve, of course, since she cared more about him than cows or even the ranch.  But she understood.  

Ancient White Park cattle

Last night he’d been looking at Ancient White Park cattle, a Celtic breed, very old and tough with horns that could defend a calf.  Over coffee and eggs at breakfast he said, “Something must have changed.  We haven’t had a bear kill a cow for years.  I know everyone thinks it’s overpopulation of bears in Glacier Park, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me.  There’s something more.

His wife was more of a gardener.  “I’ve been reading up on the change in range plants.  Everyone agrees that whitebark pine seeds are what bears really like, but the seeds took a hit from the weather this year.  The trees up on the slopes, esp.  So maybe the bears are moving down to the bottomlands to eat caraway roots.  I see a lot of it this year and it’s pretty well raked up where things are damp.  They say someone accidentally imported it in a load of hay.  It’s pretty stuff.  I’ve always called it “Queen Anne’s Lace” but it’s a kind of wild carrot.”

“Hmmm.  Does this mean there will be less cattle predation since the bears are going vegetarian?  Or will there be competition for wild carrot that leads to problems?"  He was half-joking.

His wife snorted.  “Listen to this:  “Severe population decline in whitebark pine communities is attributed to blister rust, the recent outbreak of mountain pine beetle (2000-2014), fire suppression, forest succession, wildland fire, and climate change. A study in the mid-2000s showed that whitebark pine had declined by 41 percent in the Western Cascades due to two threats: white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetles.”

“Terrible choices: fire or trees; bears, white pine blister rust or mountain pine beetles.  Choose your disaster."

“It goes on.   ‘Mountain pine beetles inhabit ponderosa, whitebark, lodgepole, Scotch, jack pine, and limber pine trees. Normally, these insects play an important role in the life of a forest, attacking old or weakened trees, and speeding development of a younger forest. However, unusually hot, dry summers and mild winters throughout the region during the last few years, along with forests filled with mature lodgepole pine, have led to an unprecedented epidemic.  It may be the largest forest insect blight ever seen in North America.’   There’s a photo.”
“Ugly little beast.  Doubt that National Geographic will find them defensible.”

“Everything is connected to everything.  Good for the bugs is bad for the bears is bad for the cows.  Is bad for us.”  

“I really hate to see so much forest turned dead orange.  It’s not my favorite color.  It burns so easily.”

But he had already gone back to cows.  “We’re already breeding the cows early so the calves will be big by the time they’re on summer range.  And we’re keeping them away from bear concentrations when the bears are clustered for berries.”

She joined in to show she was listening.  “That strategy of putting winter-kill cow carcasses up where the bears were coming out of dens was pretty counter-intuitive to me, but it seemed like it worked.  Kept them eating carrion until there was enough green stuff to fill them up.”

Continuing with her article, she quoted some more.  It’s a little ironic that the government will protect bears but not trees.“On July 18, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the whitebark pine needed protection and that, without it, the tree would soon be extinct. However, the agency announced it would neither be able to list the tree as endangered nor protect the organism, as it lacked both the necessary staff and funding to do so.”  

He sighed.  “You know, Mom, probably we’re the ones who need listing as endangered.  I don’t know how much longer we can carry the workload.  Last winter just about did me in.”

She took off her reading glasses to look at him sharply.  She’d been wary of suggesting the sale of the ranch but they both knew that it was probably inevitable unless they “died in harness.”  Where were the youngsters they had thought would be ready to pick up where they left off?  Their own children had become engineers and artists.  Not even biologists!  These days everyone wanted to live in the city where there was culture and luxury — even a real chance to get rich.  Should they advertise?   

Where would they go if they sold?  Florida?  Ugh.  

She reached out to take her husband’s hand across the low table stacked with reading material they hadn’t gotten to yet.  He said,  “We’ll figure it out.”  That’s what he always said.

Monday, August 28, 2017

FAMILY DINNER (Griz story)

Sunday family dinner was a cherished ceremony when the boy’s mom was young.  Her own mother insisted on seeing everyone at the table, well and happy, and therefore well-fed.  In fact, she supervised every bite and made sure there was dessert.

Things had changed now that the family was down to herself, her sister, and her deceased husband’s father.  Everyone else had moved away or had other priorities.  Even her sister was so absorbed in groups, movements, and adult learning classes that it was hard to know if she would come.  If she said she would, it was a menu problem since she was prone to food fads.  Vegetarian or not?  Gluten or not?  

Lately her thing was learning to fly cast for trout, so trendy, but she was so preoccupied with making her line trace the perfect sunlit arc against the sky, just like Brad Pitt in the movies, that she didn’t catch any fish, which would have been good for the Sunday supper.  Fishing is about habitat and thinking like a fish, not just being attuned to the universe in one’s own mind.

But Grandpa was always there, always at the head of the table, always ready for meat and potatoes, always fierce, and sometimes willing to pick up a little bill or two for the good of the commonwealth.

The boy loved sitting at the table to listen.  He didn’t say much, which was an advantage in life.  His mother told him that.  Now she said, “A man is coming next week to electrify the fence and install a strobe light we can control from inside the house.”

“How much is THAT gonna cost?  Is the government gonna pay for it, since they don’t seem able to get grizzlies under control?  When I was a boy, we solved our problems ourself, with a rifle if necessary!”  

“I’m gonna kill that bear!” the boy spoke up.The boy’s mom knew very well where the boy’s threats to kill that grizzly came from.  He was too young to recognize male threat rhetoric.

Her sister chimed in, irrelevantly but forcefully.  “Killing bears is bad karma.  The Blackfeet considered bears sacred, a kind of person, and I agree.  If you behave properly, they leave you alone.”

Grandpa roared, “So what do you think that calf was doing wrong?  Being alive?”  He redirected attention to the boy.  “Don’t expect to get any livestock compensation for a calf that age, but some people might feel sorry for you and send you some money.  Hell, they might send you to Disneyland, since that’s supposed to compensate for everything.”

“I don’t care about Disneyland, Grandpa.  My calf was sacred, like Aunt Bett says.”

Grandpa took note and in the next week — AFTER the corral was electrified, he would supply a replacement calf.  But danged if he’d pay for the electricity.

“I suppose this fancy fence will cost money to keep hot.”

Mom passed the vegetables again, in hopes of them being eaten.  “Nope.  Solar panel power.  They use them even for sheep out on the range.  Movable versions.”

Aunt Bett was moved to comment that sheep on the range were invading grizz territory and had no business being out there.  It was just taking advantage of government land for practically no cost, a subsidy.

“Electric fences are so effective that they use them to protect bee hives.”  She was hoping to divert Bett from sheep, which were a touchy subject, but she hadn’t been keeping track of the issues.

“Bees are dying,” Bett declared dramatically, “And no one knows why but they suspect insecticides.  Humans are the deadliest predators on the planet, killing all other life forms from insects to mega-mammals!”

Grandpa was talking with his mouth full, partly so Bett wouldn’t hear him — maybe.  “You left out plants.  What about chemical fallow?”

“What was that? Come again?"

Mom had heard.  “Tell us, Bett.  Where will you be fly-fishing next week?”


The new biology teacher was giving the local ranchers the heebie-jeebies because they saw him as one of those idealists who disrupt everything by arguing for the protection of predators.  When the boy’s mom came for a parent-teacher conference, Herb knew about the grizzly, the electric fence, the death of Abernathy.  The boy had used the material for all his essays since school started.  But he still hadn’t resolved his feelings about it all.  

Settling into a classroom chair, the boy’s mom asked, “Would you explain trophic cascades and apex predators?  I’ve got a biological background but this sounds like new stuff and I did upland birds instead of what I think you mean by apex predators.”

“Sure.  I’ll quote: ‘Trophic cascades occur when predators in a food web suppress the abundance or alter the behavior of their prey, thereby releasing the next lower trophic level from predation (or herbivory if the intermediate trophic level is a herbivore.’”

She looked confused.  Too many syllables too fast.  Herb backtracked.  “Trophic just means where an animal species is on the food chain.  If there is a change in the top animal, the changes go domino-fashion all the way down.  So if wolves come in and drive out the coyotes, then whatever the coyotes were eating will do better and increase in numbers.”

“Until the wolves begin to eat what the coyotes used to eat!  They both eat sheep.”

“Well, yes.  And apex means top, so the apex predators are the top of the food chain.”  

“Like grizzlies.”

“Right.  Maybe you’ve been following the ecology research in Yellowstone where the wolves have been restored to keep the elk under control and the consequences have been dramatic.”

“And controversial.”


“So if I understand you properly, this talk about trophic and apex is part of the scientific shift from studying individual animals or species to an ecological focus where the whole web of life is seen as interrelated and crucial to maintain.  It’s biological globalization.”  She hadn’t realized she knew this, but she did do a lot of reading about current work.

“Well, that’s right.  You probably know how important native grasses are to upland birds.”  He was pretty quick to relate to people, this Herb!  Thought-ecology was one of his skills.

“And the apex of all apexes is human beings.”

“Right, but since you know about birds, keep in mind that human political pecking order has a lot to do with what happens to every living thing on this planet, even in the oceans and on the polar caps.  A lot of study of elephants and whales.”

“If you say ‘global warming,’ I’m going to scream.”  The arguments with her sister had worn her patience thin.  It wasn’t that she was denying the phenomenon, but that she didn’t see what she could do about it.  It just added to the load that was already heavy.

Herb quickly changed gears.  “Now about your son’s grades, he’s doing really well.  He’s motivated, he already knows a lot, and he’s quick to take in new information and reconcile it with real life.  Maybe he could use a little more support in terms of . . . well, mourning.”

“You mean Abernathy’s death?  We’re all grieving over that one.”

“Some are comforting themselves with anger.  It was a scary event.  They see a need for vengeance against bears and that worries Joey.”

“I see.  I’ll think about it.”  She stood and extended her hand.  He took it warmly.

When Joey’s mom got home that night and was in the kitchen chopping up veggies for salad (“What an herbivore I am!” she thought.), Joey came in from taking care of his new calf and settled at the eating island in a way she knew meant he wanted to talk.  Sometimes she waved him off, preferring a chance to think, but now Herb had put a bug in her ear.  “I talked to your biology teacher today.”

“He’s the best teacher I ever had, Mom.”

“We talked about trophic cascades and apex predators.”

“Right!  Those are key ideas, Mom!  And you know what?  It works for analyzing the whole school system!”


“You remember Bruno, that big kid who used to bully everyone?  He’s gone.  His folks moved away.  And guess who the new apex predator is?”

She was startled enough to nick her finger with the paring knife, not much, no need for a bandaid.  But she stuck it in her mouth to suck and then went to the sink for soap and water.

“It’s CLARA!  It’s a girl!  Like the herd cow, the old one who knows where water is and everything.  Clara is getting us organized!”  He went on, but she wasn’t really hearing him.  This boy was definitely growing up.  “Mom, mom?  This is important.  It even explains politics!”

She thought to herself, “as though anything could explain politics.”

ABERNATHY RIP (griz story)

They put it on his headstone:  “Death is a part of life.”  His nephews organized the funeral and burial and they chose the epigram.  They knew that Abernathy meant what he said, that he lived by it and he died by it.

It was a canal rider who found him, his ATV off the trail and upside down in a brilliantly frost-painted patch of sarvisberries.  He was clear of it and still holding his little dog to his chest with his one arm, though they were both bloody dead, victims more of blood loss and shock than being torn up.  

Montana Fish and Game guys came at once to track the bear on foot, not using an airplane to search because they wanted to know the ground and the signs on it.  In a nearby aspen grove, now glowing yellow in the slanting fall light, they found the carcass of a colt, which was probably partly why the bear was so aggressive, now that it was hyperphagic, getting ready to hibernate by packing on fat.  It was defending its kill so as to eat the whole thing over time.   Nearby in a clearing they found the mare, still alive and recovering though her side and rump were raked.  Her brand was intelligible so they could notify the owner.

When the little team of wardens found the bear, it was a big boar and not one they knew.  No collar, no ear tags, no distinctive color.  Just sitting there.  The grizzly bear specialist, Stanley, killed it with a shot to the head in the thin place between eye and ear.  No fuss.  Then they did ask for a helicopter, but none was available, so they made a stretcher and carried the carcass out like a person.  When they did the autopsy, they found the mare’s attempt to save her colt.  She had broken his ribs.  

It took Stanley the better part of a day to do the documentation.  Of course the media went sensational, shorting the information in the interest of capturing readership with gory details.  The readers split into the usual us-against-them opposition, half wanting every bear on the East Slope to be killed and half blaming Abernathy for invading space that belonged to the bears.

The nephews went up on horseback to see about reclaiming the ATV.  They thought they might have to haul it out and tow it with ropes, but it was a sturdy little machine and started up once it was back on its wheels.  They re-walked the ground, using much caution in the aspens where the colt’s bones were whitening, already stripped by magpies and bugs.  The mare was gone.

But the interesting find was the little Go-Pro, not that finding it was easy down there in the sarvisberry tangles.  Finally, sunlight glinting off the lens caught their eyes.  Looking at it on the scene, they could match the angle and see what had happened.

It was not unexpected.  At first there was only scenery, then the bear, clear enough to confirm that the wardens had killed the right bear.  The rest was shadows and flashes, sky, brush, the little dog, and finally a big gaping maw of a head full of teeth.  Impossible to really decipher.  Probably it was as mixed up in Abernathy’s head while he tried to understand and react.

No bear spray, gun, or other gizmos could have been deployed fast enough to do much good.  No law could have anticipated and prevented the event.  When a bear and a human cross paths, the scenario plays out quickly and inevitably through forces already in play.  This bear was not the product of too many bears — he was just one bear who wouldn’t tolerate interruption.  Maybe Abernathy could have been persuaded to change, but it wasn’t likely.

The nephews understood all this, both the ones who were mostly white and those who were pure Blackfeet.  They sat together on the bank of the canal, smoking while they processed what they thought.  They didn’t say much in words, but a lot of communication passed among them while their horses grazed the tall grass that grew along the trail.  It was as though ancient stories about people and bears over the millennia were summoned, acknowledged, and dismissed until next time.