A trip to New York, winter arrives, and my bear killing wife

I’m headed to New York in the morning. Listen for me Monday on Leonard Lopate on WNYC, and I’d love to see you at Billy The Kid at the Independent Film Center Monday night. I'll also be visiting the Crownites in the Random House building, and taking their pictures so all of you can see what the world of publishing is really like at Christmas.

I’ll be doing a Q&A after both Billy the Kid shows, so I’ll be there all evening along with many other interesting people.

As you may have heard, we had a foot of snow up here in Amherst. Here’s a quintessential New England winter scene.

An old Dresser bulldozer rests under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.

Here is Sal, one of the valiant Robison Service crew, clearing blown and piled snow in our Springfield yard:

After the storm, I took a ride to the Deerfield rail yard, where the wreck train sits waiting. Here's Springfield Terminals Railway's 250 ton salvage crane, taken in the dark. Nikon D3, ISO 19,200. That's right . . . pictures in the dark.

Now for the story you are all waiting for . . . My Bear Killing Wife.

In the dark of the night, Unit 2 called me.

I’m in the Land Rover, she said. I just hit a bear! I think I killed it. She sounded upset.

Don’t get out of the car, I said. It might be wounded. I’ll be right over. Stay in the car. Shut the windows.

OK, she said. I’ll call the police.

I grabbed a pistol in case the bear was mad, not dead, and headed for Granby.

When I arrived there was a police car there. I was relieved to see the Land Rover intact, with Unit 2 securely inside. The cop joined me as I walked to the car. Wanna see him, he asked? He’s over there, dead. He pointed to the edge of the road.

We walked over just as two pickup trucks pulled up. They’d heard the call on their police scanners.

Where’s the bear, they asked? Over here. They got out, armed. We all gazed over the guard rail at the dead bear. He was a small bear, bigger than any dog but small enough to have an angry mom across the street. I was particularly alert because I’d almost hit a MUCH bigger bear in the same spot a few weeks back.

Luckily, we did not see a second bear and a shootout on School Street was averted. You know you’re in the country when five guys with guns can stand gazing into the dark and the law on the scene takes in all in stride.

So, you want him? The cop asked me.

In Granby, as in other rural towns, beasts killed by a wife become property of the husband. No, you can have him, I said.

I don’t want him, the cop said quickly. Hearing that, the crews from the pickup truck shouted in unison: I have a bear tag! They both shouted it out at the same time. I’ll take him, they said.

Most times, when someone hits a deer or bear out here in the country, they don’t call the cops. They toss him in back and head on home with fresh dinner. Remember my childhood friend, Road Kill Phil? And people wonder how strangers just vanish out in the hill towns . . . .

What are they going to do with him, Unit 2 asked nervously from the car.

Skin him and eat him. Coats and steaks.

That’s horrible, she cried. We should take him home and bury him.

We drove off as the cop and the guys in the truck bargained over the bear’s disposition.

Amazingly, the Land Rover was undamaged. It was just a freak thing, I guess. She hit the bear a glancing blow and broke his neck.

Somewhere in Granby, a bear steak is grilling. See you in New York Monday.


Polly Kahl said…
Good one, John. Glad Martha's okay. I would've asked for the skin, though. Bet one of your dogs would've loved it for a bed, and it would have made a cool momento.
LOLOLOL!!!! Glad Martha is OK. I had a friend who hit a moose in VT once and no one believed him. He did not serve moose steaks so we never had any proof.

You make my home state sound like the boonies by the way! But I never ventured much past Worcester...


Oh my, please give Martha a hug from Denver. I'm afraid I'd have been just as upset! Have a great trip to the Big Apple, John! K.
Chris Eldin said…
Ewww! Coats and steaks!
But that photo is beautiful! We're only getting rain here in Baltimore...
Unknown said…
I'm guessing that Bear is a red meat. Tastes like cow? I'd be up for trying a bear steak, but I wouldn't have wanted to prep the thing.

If you wife didn't want to bury the thing, think of the great practical jokes that you could do with a stuffed baby bear. I could definitely scare my 4 year old... once... maybe twice.
Great story, John. We're also buried under a foot of snow in Chicago, but alas, there are no bears here.

My hubby came into close contact with a mama bear and her cub once in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during his bachelor days. He spied a mama bear tending to her cub about five hundred yards off the trail. He then approached them with his Nikon, hoping to get a better shot. The mama bear charged him, of course, and he only bear-ly [sic] got away. Of course, my citified hubby was only recently emigrated from Hong Kong at the time, so he didn't know that it is a MAJORLY bad idea to approach a mama bear and her cub. . .
ORION said…
Am I the only one sad for the poor bear?
Anonymous said…
oh my! bear steaks? ich.

so glad unit two was unscathed. and this could be a commercial for the robustness of a land rover.

hmmm... are there bears lurking over HERE?
Definitely not, Pat! That's why I'd have reacted the same way as John's wife did, bawling my eyes out the whole time! So glad we're nowhere near all the bears in the mountains in our little corner of suburbia. K.
Holly Kennedy said…
Poor Martha! That would have been a nerve wracking experience. Glad to hear she's okay. Sad for the bear, though.
I'm glad your wife is OK. My parents live in the kind-of country in Michigan and my mom hits at least one deer per year. I remember once when I was nine or ten, a deer tried to run across the highway and hit US. It died, and before we even got out of the car, a truck stopped to ask if they could take the deer.

It's too bad for the bear but at least it didn't go to waste.
George said…
I have just found your blog while Googling the name of your book to pass on to a friend. Just wanted to let you know you had me laughing out loud on the train. Thanks.
Trish Ryan said…
"In Granby, as in other rural towns, beasts killed by a wife become property of the husband."

That has to be one of the best summaries of rural life I've ever read! Glad to hear your wife (and the Land Rover) is okay :)
Essential Amy said…
I didn't know that people actually eat bear meat. You learn something new every day!
Aprilynne Pike said…
Bwahahaha!!Okay,I am laughing so hard at the bear story I can hardly breathe. That was awesome!
Sandra Cormier said…
That must have been scary for your wife! One of my co-workers hit a deer a few years ago and her Cadillac was totaled.

I wonder how the bear's mom is holding up.
Michele said…
Great story!
And so true.

Black bears are increasing in population in Mass so scenes like that are going to become more common.
Disturbing thought, that.

I had my first experience with a bear last year, also in Granby.
It ran in front of my car by the not-so-new Dickinson's greenhouse.

I couldn't believe my eyes!
And I laugh because my Dad, now into his 60's, has YET to see a live bear!!!

I like living in the country - trading in the sounds of sirens, squealing tires from drag races and lights flashing in your eyes at night from the passing traffic - for cows lowing, horses whinneying (sp) and tree frogs peeping, is SO much better.

In any event, I'm quite glad to hear your wife is OK. That's the best part.

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