Excerpt from “A Flatlander’s First Night in the Wilderness” by Roger Fuson
Terry and I were sleeping soundly after our first day of work on the trail crew. The Alaska wilderness was a far cry from our homes in Kansas, and, of course, bears were on our mind, but not from the usual source of general knowledge. The evening before, Fred, our stern trail crew boss, had assigned each of us to bear watch. Terry and I had the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. shift, but we ignored it, thinking this was just a joke. At around 3 a.m. we were awakened by a loud scrapping sound; the sound a bear might make trying to get into our wall tent, whose floor and sides were made of plywood up to 4 feet, topped by a 10 by 12 foot canvas top. Both Terry and I were jolted awake at the same time, exchanged terrified glances, then yelled, “Fred, there’s a bear outside!” Fred raised up on one elbow, looked disapprovingly at us sitting in our sleeping bags, then looked at his pocket watch hanging from a nail by his bed. “Why aren’t you two on bear watch?” he said. Then he leisurely pulled his “toy” out of its holster. It was a cap-and-ball, long-barrelled, 44 magnum. He spun the cylinder to make sure it was loaded, crawled out of his bag and nonchalantly ambled out of the tent. A moment later, a single shot shook the plywood walls. Fred re-entered the tent, blew the smoke out of the end of the barrel, glared at Terry and I, shook his head and mumbled, “You cheechakos,” and crawled back in his sleeping bag without saying a word to us as we pleaded for more information. Terry and I looked at each other with jaws dropped. We weren’t about to go out and find out for ourselves, and we dismissed any possibility of making any trips to the outhouse for the rest of that night.
Copyright © Roger Fuson