The Three Bears
By Sandy Long
Watching for wild life is one of the necessities in a driver’s life. We watch for deer and dogs along the shoulders because they can cause great damage if we hit one, and it makes us feel bad when we hit a dog. We watch for skunks for obvious reasons. Snakes are always a problem in the Southwest in rest areas and along roadways if we have to get out of the truck or in some cases if we come back to the truck from inside and some rattler decided that the shade under our truck is a nice place to nap.
Back in the early 80’s running out across NM on I 40 one bright morning, I passed a rest area filled with police cars and a fire truck surrounding a pickup camper parked among the rocks. Several trucks were pulled over so I hollered on the radio to see what was going on. Some poor guy in the pickup camper had pulled in, parked among the rocks and went back into the camper to sleep. He awoke and found his pickup surrounded by rattle snakes taking advantage of the warm rocks. Anyways, that was what I was told by the driver who replied.
My favorite animal to see are bald eagles. I remember when I was a kid growing up along the Mississippi River in WI, just north of the town where I lived was one of the few refuges for the then endangered birds. These days I often see the eagles flying along a creek bottom a few miles from where I live in N MO. I saw one sitting mantled over road kill right on the shoulder in PA back in December. What a glorious sight to see one so closely!
Moose, though majestic animals are just plain ugly, no doubt about it. Going along I 90 up in WA state one time, I went around a curve right about daylight and there were three moose cows almost in the left lane grazing on the grass along the left shoulder. A tanker truck had to lock it down as he was trying to pass me. Scared both him and I, but didn’t bother the moose at all, they didn’t even look up. By the way, never blow your air horn at a moose, they will charge the truck.
Last fall, again running I 40 though through AZ this time, I finally got to see an animal I had heard about but hadn’t ever spotted, wild boar, or if you are from AR, razorbacks. They were eating something down in the right side bar ditch, a momma and a smaller one. Black, bristly hair and sharply defined backbone with high shoulders identified them for me. What a thrill to add an animal to my sighting list!
My ex husband refused to run OH, so when we were traveling west along I 70, he would wake me up going through Washington PA so I could be awake to take over at Claysville. So one day, he woke me up. I got dressed and jumped into the jump seat, lit a cigarette and watched the scenery go by trying to wake up. As I looked down a hill on the right side of the interstate, I noticed a little open glade with three black bear in it. I shouted about seeing the momma bear with two baby bears walking in the glade. I was so excited to see my first bear!!! I told everyone for a couple of weeks about seeing them.
Then a couple of weeks later, we had another load going west through PA. Jerry woke me again as we got to Washington PA. Same scenario. As I sat there waking up, I watched to see if I could see anymore bear. Sure enough, got to the glade and there were the very same bears, momma with her two babies, in exactly the same spot. Someone had made plywood cutouts of those bears, painted them black and put them in the glade that was their backyard! Felt pretty stupid.
About two months later, we had taken a load to Wilmington NC and had to cross Camp Lejune to get to our next load. At the time we were driving a big shiny black freightliner classic xl condo. I was driving. Ahead I again saw a black bear along the side of the road. I didn’t get excited, figured it was more of those silly plywood cutout bears. All of a sudden that bear stood up and looked at the truck! That one was real! Guess he was curious about that big black truck comin’ at him. Maybe he thought it was the biggest black bear he had ever seen?
Driving truck gives us many opportunities to see things that other people in other professions only read about. The sun coming up over the Rockies. Sunsets over the ocean. The beauty and danger of sheet lightening filled thunderstorms on the plains. And of course, black bear both real and plywood.
Ya’ll be safe out there!