As I race walk along the lonely narrow by ways of British Columbia during the day, and often at night, my thoughts gravitate to bears. There are 120,000 bears in this Province. I have encountered handfuls of their relatives face to face. The meetings are inevitable as you constantly walk through woods, around isolated lakes, up mountain passes and across great rivers which would make New York’s East and Hudson Rivers cry with envy.
Then there are the Grizzlies. I have only met two of their 10,000 brothers. Each greeting has been unforgettable. They leap, always unexpectedly, causing their 400 pound frames to glide just a few feet from your frail wobbling body like a menacing prehistoric bird. It occurs just at those moments when I am dreaming of both a big hug and a cold chardonnay back in Scarsdale.
But it is the bears constant companions, at least for the last several thousand years, which are creating the most lasting impressions. We have come to call these associates of the bear “men”. And these folks may not be your typical first nation aboriginal.
He was six feet tall, heavy set, dirty and a native with a long history in these parts. “I am really tired, been out there 16 hours”, he says in a raspy low barely hearable voice. “Got to go back to the mine. Its gold I’m after,” he confides.
Grizzlies are the sworn enemies of the black bear. Men have their differences too.
He was shorter, whiter, just as chubby and wore Texas style cowboy boots. “There are two other gold and copper mines back at Galore Creek. Them Indians got all the contracts”, he laments. Another weary eyed long distance trucker angrily adds his perspective. “Two Indians in a pick-up pulled right in front of me at Burns Lake. “You’re standing on my land”, the Indian tells me”.”I was here fifty years before you was born I told him. Lucky we didn’t start shooten”