Friday, March 18, 2011
Lenny versus the Grizzly Bear and other Forms of Authority
Lenny versus the Grizzly Bear and other Forms of Authority
I just have to sneak this in somehow, even if the main character of the story isn’t me. It’s about a guy I knew from my years in Long Island—a guy who grew up with us when we were just entering our early teens and on through our adult years. For safety’s sake (that of the United States), I’ll just call him Lenny Blackhorse—he prefers his solitude and privacy anyway.
Lenny was one of those guys who was two steps ahead of the law, five steps ahead of the current trends of the time, and a good mile ahead of the school authorities in high school. In fact, he was told by an instructor something like “You’re too smart for our own good.” The police department in Elwood, NY, allegedly took up a collection when Lenny left town—I’m not sure if it was to get him funds to get that much further away that much faster or to just thank him for letting them have some peace of mind. In high school, he could skip vast amounts of class time and still come out with an A average—although he didn’t do too well in metal shop class. Maybe it was something about the fact that the teacher, Ed Shanley, angered Lenny--so much, in fact, that he hurled a hammer in revenge. Somehow, Lenny didn’t get suspended for that toss, but maybe he was practicing some kind of track and field routine—the shot put, for example. He would have crafted one in shop and tossed that at Mr. Shanley too. I’m kind of surprised—Lenny should have hit him cleanly, being the marksman that he is— but he didn’t—which still surprises me that much further, which I’ll explain in a minute. e would have h
Anyway, among Lenny’s interests and hobbies is that of hunting—and he is an avid tracker too. So what brought this to my attention was something while we had dinner that I saw dangling from his neck on a chain: a long claw of some kind. Naturally, I was curious and made inquiries. “So, Len,” I asked, “what’s that and where did it come from?” He glanced up from his plate of food and grunted, “Grizzly bear claw.”
Ah. I knew Lenny loved to hunt deer, elk, and other large creatures. I was impressed: a bear! I pressed on with my research: “So…Len, tell me: what did you use for a weapon? One of your rifles?” Another scoop of spaghetti and meatballs vanished from his plate, followed by another grunt. “Nope. Bow and arrow.”
I twirled my food on a fork and chewed thoughtfully. Hmm—that’s even riskier—and more so because of the proximity to the animal. This calls for more details. “Ahem. Lenny—what did you use? A compound bow?” (The television in his home was usually on some channel about hunting, and such a weapon was occasionally featured.) Another grunt. “Uh-uh. Used my own hand-made bow. It’s over there on the wall.”
I turned and looked at it, then started to eat again—only to snap my head back and stare at the object of his notice. A regular bow—something like one would find in an average sporting goods shop—or maybe even in a general type of summer camp. He used that to kill a grizzly? I wasn’t sure how to grasp the significance of (a) his accuracy or (b) his bravery. And then it really dawned on me: Lenny would have to be damn close to hit a bear and kill it with an arrow fired from a bow like that! I began to get nervous—which was foolish, because he was still alive, the bear was dead, and the spaghetti and meatballs were still hot. I timidly ventured a knock on the door of his memory.
“Ummm…Len. You had to be a good shot to kill a bear with that thing. You hit it in a vital spot, I’m sure of that. How long did you track it after you shot it?” A long stare in reply. “Didn’t. One shot is all it took.” I was now nibbling at my lower lip instead of the food. The logic of the sequence of events leading up to this achievement were not calibrating clearly in my mind. “Uh…sorry about this, Len. You hit it with one arrow? You…you must have been awfully close to get a clear shot.”
A fresh plate of food for Lenny was the immediate response. He chewed quietly and said, “Twelve feet. I was 12 feet away from it.”
Now I was really alarmed. I fairly bleated, “Lenny! You shot a grizzly from 12 feet with a bow and arrow?!? How…how did you manage to get so close to it?” Another stare from him: “I was disguised. Dressed up and covered in mud.” His apparel didn’t supply me the answer I was hoping not to hear, so I tried one final time. “Lenny!! Where did you get a shot that close that killed it with one arrow?!?” He grinned in that wicked way that only he can do and said with teeth gleaming, obviously enjoying my distress, “Hit it in the heart.”
I might as well have eaten a red hot pepper because my food was starting to make unexpected movements in my stomach. “Lenny!” I gasped, “the bear walks on all fours! How did you get off a shot that hit it in the heart?!” Another wicked grin, followed by a meatball. “It stood up on its back legs.”
Beads of sweat now were forming on my brow. This just did not make logical sense—but then, I was aware of Lenny’s disregard for personal safety in pursuit of thrills and adventure. I croaked, “Lenny! How did you get the grizzly to stand on its back legs?!” I cringed, awaiting the answer. He radiated with a sense of accomplishment that was as sharp as the knives he made from animal bone and antler: “I threw mud at it.”
By now I was searching for my car keys, just in case I needed to make a fast getaway for any reason yet to be determined. It wasn’t that Lenny took risks—I knew that from years of association—it was that he had conceived of such a danger in the first place—and then thoroughly enjoyed himself while doing so. As the dinner dishes were cleared away, he gave me another stare and said, “Hey, the next time I’m going hunting for bear, maybe to Montana—ya wanna go with me?”
With a lifestyle of adventure like mine and Mitch-Tripping as I do throughout the Universe (it was Lenny, by the way, who tagged me with that label), there was only one response. “Sure!” I said enthusiastically.
And I was serious. “I have a great idea, Len,” I continued. “You take your bow and arrow and I’ll use a cell phone.” That wasn’t what he expected—either my acceptance of the task nor the use of electronics. “It’s simple,” I explained. “You and I will go out looking for a bear—and if I see one, I’ll call you. ‘Hello, Lenny? I’ve just seen a bear. Where? Oh, when I saw it, I was about 100 feet from you and it. I’m not in Montana anymore; I’m in Michigan, and by the time I stop running, I should be in western New York and heading back home to New Jersey. You go ahead and shoot it anyway.’”
Needless to say, Lenny does not think I will ever wear a bear’s claw around my neck. He’s right: the bear would probably shoot me with the bow instead, even though I would have set the land speed record for a fleeing human, even though bears can outrun a man. It probably would have used the cell phone to call Lenny and tell him so, and then they would have gone out and looked for a foolish author-writer like me who was out on a hunt.