Sunday, October 19, 2008
Western Legends #3
One of the funniest people I know is our Beserkley, CA pal Tami Lipsey. We used to see her a fair amount up in this part of the country—sadly, we haven’t for a while, but I hear she’s doing great with two little Tami’s (in a manner of speaking) around the house in the East Bay. But the reason I mention Tami in this post is she always claimed to be just a wee bit scared to visit here because there are some wild creatures around. Eberle, in particular, found this astounding, because Tami is a city gal & thinks (or used to, anyway) nothing of dashing around at all hours in an urban environment. But she’s a bit less sure about wild animals. In fact, Eberle wrote a very fun calypso song for Tami called “What’s Up with the Animals?”—sadly, it never was recorded, but the first couple of lines were almost a direct quote from Ms Lipsey herself (I’m pretty sure she didn’t use the word “pout,” tho): “What’s up with the animals, you know I don’t want to pout, but they’re always making noise at night—I mean, what’s that all about?”
Of course, in fairness to Tami I think we did tell her the bear stories—which I’m about to tell you. Since both of these stories are about events that happened before I lived in ID, I have to take Eberle’s word for them—she told them to me. Whatever her intent in doing so, I’m glad to say they didn’t dissuade me from moving here.
Anyhoo, it seems one day back in the mid 90’s, Eberle was working in her garden. As she weeded or mulched or did other chores appropriate to gardening, she noticed a lot of cars & trucks (probably mostly the latter) gathering on North Gray’s Creek Rd around our uphill neighbors—at that time, these were the Whitemans, Judge & Mrs. One of the Indian Valley folk who was joining the throng came to get Eberle. It turned out that a bear cub was up one of the Whiteman’s cottonwoods, & a good part of the population of Indian Valley had come by to make an impromptu party out of this event. Eberle notes that the cub made it down eventually, & that everyone—cub included—escaped unscathed.
The other story may have been more alarming to Tami, because she was a member of the Lipsey Mountain Spring Band, which had a habit of camping on our lawn in the summer—Tami played pennywhistle, & sang a couple of numbers: a version of “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” that was overflowing with gusto, & the fastest version I’ve ever heard of “I’m An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande.” Well, in the second story the bear was never seen, but did “leave his calling card,” as it were in the crotch of our biggest cottonwood. In case anyone missed that expression, they call it “sign” out here (bear “sign,” moose “sign,” coyote “sign,” etc.), but it more commonly goes by the name we all know from grade school, namely, “poop.”
I asked Eberle about this again recently. She was quite informative. She pointed out that bear “sign” looks more or less like what we called “cowpies” in VT, but that it would be unusual for a cow either to have eaten plums (I’ll just say: plum pits) or to be in the crotch of a tree. She also noted that raccoon & skunk “sign” may contain plum pits, but is shaped more like dog…. “sign.” She pointed out that Mountain Lion “sign,” which could be in a tree, was a different shape & invariably contains hair. Now you know almost all you need to know to be a mountain tracker.
A while back, I wrote rather lyrically about Plum Alley; now you know another side of the plum story.Top pic: I’d like to thank our good friend Beartram for helping me recreate the bear in the cottonwood tree.
Bottom Pic: Ms Lipsey on North Gray’s Creek Rd, loaded for bear (or beef, as the case may be).