Manataka American Indian Council









Bear? What Bear?

Submitted by Joseph GrayWolf Vinson


Along about the year 1990, or thereabouts, The Ugly Otter was living in New Mexico near Albuquerque. He knew a young couple, Richard and Mary Jo, who had a son about 9 years old, and a daughter about 6 or 7 years old. We had known each other for several years, and went on outings and various outdoor activities together frequently. I liked to rock hunt, and they liked to tag along for the enjoyment of the mountain and desert landscapes where I liked to hunt.


So, one Saturday we all decided that we would venture up into the Jemez Mountains which were several miles northwest of Albuquerque. Most of the land there is either National Forest land, or Indian land. We were planning on just exploring to see what we could see in an area we had not visited before. After studying maps and planning the trip, we decided to go thru the small village of Ponderosa, take a Forest Service road back into the National Forest, and explore while enjoying the scenery and the perfect weather, etc.


So, we loaded up the family, myself, and my big, shaggy, dog named "Bear" who enjoyed these outings as much as us humans. There are real bears and other wildlife in these mountains, and the dog is good to have along as a warning device if we happened to come upon a real bear, or a snake, or something. We all piled into my old Ford van, and took off. We passed thru the Jemez Indian Pueblo, then arriving at the village of Ponderosa we took a Forest Service road leading into the mountains in a northwesterly direction to see what we could see. A very remote area, for sure.


We followed this dirt road for six or eight miles, and it started to switch-back up into the mountains proper. It was all my old Ford wanted to do to get up this steep road as it was not a four wheel drive, but we made it up several switchbacks, no guard rail (naturally) and finally reached the top where it leveled off with big Ponderosa pine trees and great views. We decided to stop there and explore. At this point, the "road" is more like a "trail" and I parked off the "trail" in the unlikely event some other vehicle might come that way. Highly unlikely, we thought.


We all scattered about looking for pretty stones, or pottery shards, or whatever, having a good time. There was no wind that day, and we had total silence, except for our own noises. After maybe half an hour, we heard a noise coming down the trail toward us, and we all stopped what we were doing to see what that strange noise was. It was a young guy on a mountain bike! Coming down the trail heading toward those switchbacks we had just come up. Now, my dog "Bear" was not a mean dog, but he liked to chase cars, etc. Before we knew it, the dog took off in hot pursuit of the biker. We all started yelling at the dog "Bear!", "Bear!", "Bear!" trying to get him to quit chasing the biker.


The poor biker looked over his shoulder and saw this big furry thing hot on his trail, hears a bunch of people yelling "bear", and I'm quite sure from his actions that he thought a real wild bear was about to get him! He started pedaling that bike for all he was worth, probably setting a new speed record for that trail, and went into those switchbacks at a hair-raising speed.


We all held our breath and listened, but heard no crash, scream, or other sound except for that bike making rocks fly on that trail down the mountain. I'll bet when he got home, he had some wild stories to tell about how a wild bear had chased him down off that mountain. No way would we have done that on purpose, he could have been really hurt. But it was a spontaneous action on our part, calling the dog, and also on his part, trying to escape. As we left the mountain the same way the biker had gone, we followed his bike tracks and the tracks told us he had made it back to civilization. He was probably winded, but, if he wanted exercise, he got it that day!


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