It was the end of November and my friend Knarley Manners and I were planning a trapping expedition along the Northern bank of the mighty Peace River. I was 15 years old and two years older than my best friend. We would be gone for several weeks and were excited while getting ready for the first expedition of our lives. We would use four dogs to pull one dog sled and one taboggin. The dogs weren’t really sled dogs, but ranch dogs were expected to do almost anything and everything. Knarley had a Chesapeake named Ted that someone in town had given him because it was too big and aggressive for city living. I had two catahoolas and a pit bull. They were stock dogs and pretty dang good at keeping bears and moose out of the oat fields and the back yard. The Catahoolas are headers and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds, they were savage with recalcitrant cattle and would often shred ears and noses if the cattle were belligerent. The pit bull was a female and was usually a heeler although she often locked onto an ear or a nose of an animal that didn’t cooperate. These were not your average apartment dogs.
Knarley’s family were Jehovah’s and mine were Mennonites, so his family didn’t care if he was back for Christmas, but mine was hoping I would be back for the Holiday. They knew it was a lost cause to ask me to try and be home by the the 24th since I had ridden a bull earlier that summer at the Hudson’s Hope Rodeo and was bucked off way into the air. That wasn’t so bad, except he kicked me in the head on the way down. Since then, I’ve had many problems with time, for the first twenty years, I couldn’t tell ou whether something happened a few days ago or a few years ago. The condition has been improving over the last 30 years, but I still show up for appointments on the wrong day or the wrong month. Thankfully, it is still improving. None the less, I gave up bull riding and my dad knew that relying on me for anything to do with time sequences was next to hopeless.
I was the unofficial leader, since I was the oldest. Although Knarley was a better shot, hunter, trapper, fisherman, mechanic, and problem solver; I was a better reader and people loved to listen to me tell stories and recite poetry, especially in camp around the campfire.
We left from my dad’s place at four in the morning, it was thirty five miles to the river and we hoped to make it in one or two days. If the snow was deep and the dogs were sinking too deep in the snow to make time, one of us would go ahead with snowshoes to make a trail so that the dogs could travel faster. We were lucky and made it to the river about midnight and looked for a good place to make camp. Knarle found two old thirty six inch diameter Spruce trees that had fallen over so that the were about eight feet apart with their root system and dirt sticking up in about a ten foot diameter at their base. Knarley looked at the two trees and said we could build a castle in between them.
We limbed the trees and cleared all the snow and brush on the ground so that we could drape a large tarp over a rope that was strung between the trees about eight or nine feet in the air. We then lapped the sides over the two logs and tied a rail to each side to keep the tarp tight. I built a fire near the root systems while Knarley spread another tarp over the dirt floor with bear skin robes and wool blankets for sleeping.
It warmed up in our shelter and I called it our Castle on the Peace and to this day that remains the name of the home we built, oh the logs are long gone, but the little hill is still there and people still call it the Castle of the Peace.
Knarle was not one to become overly close to animals, I never saw remorse when he had to put down a horse or a dog, he just did it with a sense of indifference; I became overly close to both horses and dogs and grieved when ever I lost one of my friends. I am fairly sure it had something to do with his religion.
As hardened he was to feeling for animals and as strait laced as he was there was one story that Knarley could not hear enough of and that is the trip I had made to visit my uncle in Virginia. He was a WWII and Korean War Marine and at that time was flying for the CIA. I always thought it was funny how a family of Pacifists had so many guys go to war, my father had been a US Naval Officer in the Pacific and yet we were Pacifists, I still haven’t figured that one out. My uncle had a beautiful wife who introduced me to the young horse girls in the countryside and that summer nearly ruined me. The girls were amazed at how I could get on an unbroke horse and take off for the day and bring back a fairly good horse in a few hours. However there was a beautiful redhead girl with bright green eyes that asked me to ride with her through the country side. We came to a small lake and she suggested we go skinny dipping with the horses. I thought that was a great idea and soon we were riding the hoses in the water and swimming the horses bareback and bare assed, a great way to spend a hot sultry afternoon. There was only one problem, she, the young red haired girl decided to tell everyone and word got back to my aunt, who gave me a lecture and a tongue lashing on proper behavior and respect towards Southern women. I told her I was sorry and that I would never make the same mistake again, but that was a lie, I’d have done it the very next day.
Now Knarley and I had enjoyed the little dark haired beauties at the reservation for a couple of years, but white girls and their bizarre behavior patterns, were an enigma and after we finished our first meal Knarley asked me to tell him about the horse girls in Virginia with their tight riding breeches and protruding white blouses. His favorie story was the one about skinny dipping with the red haired girl and the horses and how we tired to pull each other off their horse. (I didn’t try very hard) Then I told him we had a romantic interlude under the shade of a giant oak tree, no specifics, just the fact that there was a romantic interlude. Knarley would look me in the eye and his right eye would open and his left eye would almost close as if he were looking through the scope of his ever present 30-06 that he was already well known for handling as a marksman. Knarley would then drift off into his own thoughts while he stripped down to his wool long Johns and climbed into his bed of wool blankets and bear hide. He never made a comment, but I knew his imagination was like a fast train running downhill on greased rails.
Since the Peace had not frozen, the lynx that migrated South for the coldest part of the winter were stuck on the North bank until the temperature hit at least 40 below for a week to freeze the river hard enough for them to cross, in the mean time we were cleaning up on lynx, pine marten, coyote, fisher, wolf, and beaver. It was possible that we would double our families’ income with our fur haul.
We each had three lines that were like the leaves of a clover, we would run each line every third day. The dogs would pull a sleigh and we would run along side or if there was deep powder on the trail we would have to reinforce the trail with snowshoes ahead of the dogs. It worked fine unless the dogs saw a moose and decided to chase the animal, then there was pandemonium. We would meet back at the castle each night and after a meal fit for a king, we would skin and stretch the fur. Then Knarley wanted to hear about Virginia before we turned in and I would repeat the stories once again. Every night, we went through the same routine; needless to say, I wanted to tell a bible story or recite some poetry, but Knarley wanted to especially hear about skinny dipping on horses. Most of our rivers were way too cold for swimming, but on a few days of the year some intrepid people tried swimming in a lake or shallow stream, thus the concept was foreign for Knarley, especially skinny dipping and skinny dipping with white girls on horses.
Eventually we were running out of flour, and the rendered bear tallow that Knarley needed to make the best huckleberry pie crusts in the world, our supply of frozen eggs and canned milk for coffee and tea was gone and we were missing those comforts so we decided that we would gather up our traps and snares in the next couple of days and head home.
That night we were in peaceful slumber, my three short haired dogs were under the bear hide with me and Ted was sleeping by the dying embers. The moon was full and there was an eerie almost daylight quality to the light projected by the snow. An aged Grizzly, with claws the size of my fingers, had probably built a poor den and was looking for new quarters. He brushed the tarp door aside and upon seeing the bear hides with the forms beneath thought there were some other bears in this Castle on the Peace and laid down between Knarley and I.
Everthing was fine until the bear started snoring in a most obnoxious manner. I was awakened and said “Knarley your snoring would wake up Moses” and gave him a good kick. The bear stood up and roared, the dogs leaped upon the bear while Knarley and I were searching for our rifles. We were both knocked down several times by the rampaging animals in their fight to the death. Knarley eventually was knocked out the entrance of the castle while my face was slammed into the bark of one of the trees that served as a wall to our castle. My face was bruised and bleeding and I wanted out of the castle in the worst way, crouched by the tree I had hit, I saw the entrance and ran for it just as the bear and four large dogs ran over me on their way outside. The animals and Knarley were all outside and without thinking I walked outside to gaze on a scene from Hell. Knarley was down and the bear was on top of him trying to crush him with his front legs when he wasn’t protecting himself from the dogs and their insane instinct to bring down the bear. The bear would reach down to bite Knarley and one of the Catahoolas would grab his muzzle or an ear and distract him while the pit bull would run in and bite him on the hind quarters, while the Chesapeake was attacking from any opening, thus causing the bear to spin on Knarley or back up and keep rolling Knarley to keep him underneath.
Knowing Knarley or the dogs couldn’t last long in this situation, I ran into the Castle to find my rifle. The rifle was near the fire, I picked it up and ran outside, there was blood everywhere, Tiger’s ribs were showing on one side, but he fought on without slowing. I aimed at the bear’s head, but there was no way I could get a bead on it because of the dogs jumping up to grab a hold of the bear sometimes two at a time. Knarly was yelling at me to shoot, the dogs were slowly being torn to pieces and everything was happening way too fast.
Finally, I pulled the trigger and sat down with my eyes closed. There was total silence and I was afraid to open my eyes. Finally I heard Knarley yell in a strangled voice, “Get him off of me, I can’t breathe.”
I looked up and the bear was stone cold dead with an ever increasing pool of blood over Knarley and the snow, the dogs were sniffing the bear and licking the blood. I rolled the bear one leg one leg at a time until Knarley was free, he had no open wounds, but he was so bruised up inside he couldn’t hardly move. I got Knarly out of his bloody clothes and into some clean dry clothes while he passed in and out of consciousness. I lined the sled with a bear hide and then placed Knarley and Tiger on the sled with a bear hide over them. I hitched up the other three dogs and asked them to ignore their wounds and exhaustion while we mushed for home.
Knarley was just bruised up with a few cracked ribs, the dogs all recovered and people always wanted to see the dogs’ scars when they came to visit. My dad and I took some pack horses and went back to retrieve the fur and camp a few days later. We thawed the bear enough to skin it in the castle with a roaring fire and the hide was a topic of conversation for decades. Although I missed the head, the bullet had passed through the area that joins the neck to the shoulder and continued on until it exploded the heart, killing the bear instantly.
Yes this is an extreme case, but occasionally we all must step forward and take responsibility for ourselves, our families, and our country with its freedoms. If we vote present or wait to see how the situation develops, a disaster may be the end result. You Mister Obama must realize that sitting back and watching failed Socialist policies driving the country ever deeper into an ever widening pool of recession isn’t working and never has. You at this point need to realize that silly speeches, date nights and a continuous party atmosphere in the White House while the country is bleeding economically is suicide for you and the country. Taxation and massive deficits coupled with increased government spending only puts the binders on a struggling economy. Worrying with a cleaner environment is a moot point if the economy no longer exists. Common sense says to get the economy vibrant before implementing new taxes that only serve as an anchor to weaken an economy. Applying further restrictions to CO2 because of scientific data that was falsified is approaching a criminal act.
Yes Mr Obama, it is time to admit you were wrong and walk forward to take responsibility for a failing economy and a desperate country, walk forward and change tactics, it is time to take your shot before the country is destroyed by the bear.