Strength In Numbers?  (Chapter 4)

camp cook -

Strength In Numbers? (Chapter 4)

There is strength in numbers, and it brought a considerable amount of comfort to have company arrive that afternoon. When the wrangler rode into camp on his return from civilization, I suspect he was just as glad to see me as I was to see him. As we unloaded the few pack animals he had brought in with him, I told of the previous night's events. Later, as he inspected my partially collapsed tent, it was decided that we would share his tent for the night. I don't recall if that was a team decision, but I do remember that he was fine with the idea. Strength in numbers, remember? The rest of the hunting party would not return until tomorrow, so until then, we would guard camp together.
As the sun began to set, we refortified our firewood and water supply, again. While it was still light, I moved my bedding to the extra cot in the wrangler's tent. All but one horse was belled and sent out to pasture for the night. The one would stay in the corral for the night and be used to wrangle the rest of the horses back into camp the next morning. By dark, we had retreated into the cook tent for some dinner and an evening of cards. The shotgun and pistol lay close, just in case. My anxiety had diminished to a very tolerable level throughout the day, and the card games helped to keep it that way as the evening grew long.
When we retired for the night, I was fine with the wrangler keeping both guns with him on his side of the tent. That made him lead guard dog, right? As I drifted off to sleep, I was in a more relaxed frame of mind than I had been in the night before and expected an uneventful night's sleep. Well, as I hinted in my previous post, it was not to be. I woke during the night to the sound of the wrangle horse snorting and nervously pacing around the corral. I whispered at the wrangler, trying to quietly wake him, but to no avail. I found a glove on the floor next to my bed and threw it at him, successfully rousing him from his sleep. The ensuing, somewhat humorous, whispered conversation went something like this:
"I think there's a bear out there."
"There's no bear out there. Go to sleep."
"Yes, there is. Listen!"
Just then, the crack of a fence pole breaking filled the air, and the terrified horse picked up its pace, loping around the corral.
"See, I told you! You better take a look."
"I'm not going out there! You go out there!"
"I'm not going out there! You've got the guns. You go out there."
"No way."
So much for strength in numbers. We both laid there and listened for any sounds that may of helped us determine what was going on; neither of us brave enough to leave our beds. It became quiet and the horse settled down as the night continued on. I don't recall if I slept anymore that night, but I suspect not. The howl of the coyotes in the first light of dawn was once again welcomed proof that I had made it through another night.
When our boss rode in with the guides and new group of hunters that afternoon, he noticed right away the grizzly bear tracks in the mud around the tack tent. Then he noticed the huge hole torn in the back of the tent, and the broken pole in the fence that ran along the side of it. Then, he proceeded to let me know what he thought about the quality of the job I'd done as camp guard. Let's just say he wasn't very nice about it, right there in front of all the hunters and the rest of the crew. Being a person who likes to avoid conflict and will easily back down under normal circumstances, I would have taken this verbal abuse, apologized, and gone about my business. But, these were no ordinary circumstances! I, of course, was still a bit uptight and wide-eyed from the events that had taken place during the previous two nights. When he had finished spouting off, I practiced some stress-relief and proceeded to let him have a piece of my mind, right there in front of the hunters and the rest of the crew. To sum it up, I told him that he was to NEVER leave me in camp by myself again. It would NOT be an option. And, I added a sarcastic "thank you" for being relieved that I and the wrangler were okay! Well, something about this struck my boss's funny bone, and the anger on his face disappeared. He broke into laughter and apologized to me. Later that day, when the wrangler and I told everyone of the experiences we had had while they were away, more laughs were had. One of the guides tracked the grizzly's exit from camp, and discovered the empty grain sack where the bear had stopped with the 75 pounds of grain he had stolen and eaten the whole thing in one setting! My tent was made right again with a temporary fix to get it through the rest of the fall in a somewhat normal shape. And, years later, I'm glad I have the story to tell.   - Linda
P.S. The photo of the orange tack tent included in this post shows the fence pole the grizzly would break the night this story took place. (circled in red)  

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