...what a fiction writer, crime scene investigator, crime lab director, and supposed cattle rancher really does when he's supposed to be writing:
Notice the idealic setting. The scenic view … the surrounding trees … the bubbling water. Just the sort of environment absolutely guaranteed to unleash and nourish the creative juices, thereby resulting in yet another thrilling chapter to keep dear wife and persistent editor more-or-less at bay for a few days. Or at least that's what I keep telling them.
But then, too, you must keep in mind the underlying reality.
As a forensic scientist, I am sworn to seek out and report the truth in a scrupulous manner. But as a fiction writer, I am basically a professional liar.
You'd think they would have figured that out by now.
Because years ago, given the choice ...
I much preferred playing with Griz than writing; mostly because writing is actually hard work, whereas playing with a 650 pound grizzly bear was merely stupid. Not to mention courageous, death-defying and ...
Uh oh, getting a little carried away there. Forgot that I'm still in the fiction writer mode.
The truth is, Tank was a lot more scary and intimidating than Griz. Tank could make me nearly wet my pants just by flattening out his ears and heading my way.
Griz, on the other hand, was basically a 650lb hairy puppy dog with large claws and teeth who would rather wrestle (according to grizzly bear rules, whereby he always wins) or be scratched than just about anything … except for eating, of course.
And yes, bears are omnivorous ... which means they will eat meat if fresh out of their favorite berries ... so guess who spent all of his spare cash at the local farmer's market before driving out to visit Wildlife Images! [copyrighted Seattle Times photo above taken by Harley Soltes].
And to answer the obvious question, no, it wasn’t smart to let Griz rake his teeth across my head. On the other hand, he had a very gentle touch ... and I never said I was. We won't get into my dear wife's comments.
However, speaking of questions, since I've put this web site up, I’ve had a lot of people writing in to ask pretty much the same set of questions, including:
Question 1: Were you really wrestling with Griz, or was he just nuzzling you?
Answer: Depends on your definition of wrestling. The entire process gradually worked itself into a four-step routine, as far as Griz was concerned. Step #1: I would offer to be a nice guy and start scratching his neck (which he liked a lot), during which time he would gradually work a front paw around one of my ankles. Step #2: He would take said ankle in a firm gasp and go in for the take-down. Step #3: I would make a futile human effort to resist. Step #4: I would get my face planted in the dirt/mud. To no great surprise, I suppose, this technique worked perfectly (as far as Griz was concerned) about 100 times in a row. So much for the advantage of human brains.
Step #1: Step: 2:
Step #3 Step #4
Question 2: How do you stop a grizzly bear from getting 'carried away' during a one-sided wrestling match?
Answer: in the case of this specific bear, Dave Siddon, the owner and chief trainer at Wildlife Images, would yell "bad bear!" and Griz would immediately stop whatever he happened to be doing at the time (which was usually mushing my face or other portions of my anatomy into the mud) and look up sheepishly. I found this to be an excellent opportunity to feel around for my glasses and begin crawling toward the gate. I also noticed that Dave seemed to yell 'Bad Bear!" a lot when I was in the compound.
Question 3: Will this technique work with a wild grizzly bear?
Answer: If you are one of those folks who a) actually has good reason to think they might find themselves underneath a real, wild, honest-to-goodness grizzly bear out in the wilds of Mother Nature some day, and b) is under the impression that, for whatever reason, this is a perfectly rational question; then yes, I suppose yelling "Bad bear!" at the top of your lungs is as good an option as any, just as long as the bear doesn’t get annoyed by all the noise. Myself, I think I’d go with the “roll up into a tight ball and stay very quiet” approach first, and save the yelling --- and fighting back --- for a last-ditch effort.
Oh, and did I mention that Griz had a normal-sized cat for a pet and companion, and that this bizarre --- but apparently satisfying --- relationship was been written up in People Magazine?
Of course, given the way that things seem to work with dear old Mother Nature, that statement may be the most fictional part of this web page so far.
For all I know, the cat may have had a pet bear.
But there are always the inherent realities of ranching ...
Which, in my case, means diverting from my fiction writing and bear-playing antics to perform critical ranching tasks ... like repairing my fences, counting my cows, looking for my missing cows, spotting my missing cows out in the far distance, pounding my forehead against an otherwise non-functional fence post, looking for my saddle, looking for my cow horse, attempting to saddle up my cow horse, and then ultimately retrieving my wandering cows on foot, all the while dreaming up pleasantly satisfying stories in which a crazed assassin goes after a [deleted] cow horse with a pitchfork ...
And in my spare time, trying to make water run downhill in the direction I (and my cows, presumably) would like it to go.
You'd think that most of those tasks --- or at least the one involving downhill-running water --- would be relatively easy to accomplish, wouldn't you? "Especially for one 'a them supposedly smart forensic-scientist-type fellows", as my rancher-type neighbors like to put it.
Charming fellows, my ranching neighbors.
But their water does go downhill in the direction they want it to go, and their fences always seem to be upright, and I notice they rarely have to go all the way down to the local golf course to retrieve their cows, or find themselves reduced to placing an ad in the local paper ["lost, one cow, black & white, doesn't answer to ####"], and then have to put up with the inevitable local commentary ["Gee, you'd think a trained crime scene investigator ought to be able to find a 300 pound cow."], so I remain duly impressed.
Let me put it this way ... I'd much rather be writing, any day.
If you’d like to learn more about Wildlife Images, click here.