Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tired...but motivated

You know what the worst thing about going away for a few days is? Yeah, that's right...coming back and having to get everything back to normal again. That means turning the thermostats back up, unpacking and putting my junk away, doing the laundry, going shopping, putting out more deer food, etc. And of course I need to get to the gym since I haven't done anything for a week.

Well I made up for that last one today. As luck would have it, right when I hit the treadmill and started running, probably the only episode of Burn Notice that I haven't seen came on the gym TV. So I watched it as I ran, and because it was a good episode (It was the one where Lucy Lawless plays an assassin...Terisita and Kim, you'd like this one.) I wanted to watch it all the way through. And because I'd have felt like a dope just standing there by the exercise machines watching it, I had to keep running for the whole hour. So I got six and a half miles in--well above my regular regimen--just because I'm addicted to a damned TV show. Very sad. But on the other hand, I got six and a half miles in. Yay me.

Of course I didn't run as fast as this guy had to run the other day. But then I've never had his kind of motivation.It seems that he was working as a surveyor in Barrow, AK, when this polar bear snuck up on him, no doubt looking for a hot snack.He tried to get into his SUV, but for some stupid reason, he'd locked the doors. (Come on--who steals cars in Barrow? Barrow is a small native village right up on the Arctic Ocean and it's not like there's roads that actually go anywhere past the village limits. Besides that, there are so few cars that everyone knows who they all belong to. But because his doors were locked and because the bear wouldn't give him time to get in, he had to run round and round the truck with the bear hot on his heels.Now these bears can run up to 25mph when they want something, and it looks like this bear was motivating his chosen dinner companion to move at least a bit faster. The guy eventually ran to another nearby truck which was unlocked (and now we know why natives leave their cars and trucks unlocked) and got in, escaping with only a minor mauling as the bear's claws cut his head, neck and back right through his heavy arctic clothing.Looks like he made it just in time. Brer' Bear sure did seem to be closing that gap.

Now this reminds me of my first night in Barrow a few years ago when Liz and I were up there. I just had to go out that first night and experience the -40 temperature and see the Northern Lights (which are actually south of Barrow). I roamed around for a bit, walking out of the village for a bit to get away from the streetlights, and took in the view from a spot about a mile down the shoreline until I got cold and went back to our lodging where the ever-more-sensible Liz was still inside watching TV.

The next day, we were out with a native guide and I casually pointed out the spot where I'd walked to to see the lights. Immediately the guide--a large, capable Inuit--turned to me and asked rather incredulously: "You were out here? At night? By yourself?"
I told him that yes, I had been, and asked if there was something wrong with that. After all, I was a tough ghetto cop from down below. What could possibly be so dangerous out here in the middle of nowhere?

Our guide looked at me like I was an idiot and told me that he'd lived there his whole life and wouldn't even consider being that far out of town after dark. When he saw my looking obviously puzzled, he told me about the polar bears. The ones that hunt close to town after dark and can smell a human a mile away and run up on you so fast and so silently that you won't even know what killed you.

Gee, I hadn't thought of that. But fortunately (or so I thought), at least I was armed. And I told him that I'd been covered.

He asked me what kind of gun I was carrying. I gave him my best "Joe Cool" smile and told him that it was a Smith and Wesson Model 66, .357 Magnum.

"Well if you go out alone like that again, you're going to want to file that front sight down smooth," he said. "That way, when the 1,200 lb. polar bear shoves it up your ass, it won't hurt as much."

I got the message. On the Alaskan North Slope, man is not the top of the food chain, even in this day and age. I made no more solo forays out after dark. If the locals respected and feared the polar bear, well that was all it took to get me to respect and fear the polar bear. I'm betting that the surveyor above has a new respect for them today too.


  1. Jimmy Buffett in his novel Where Is Joe Merchant talks about an island in the Aleutians that, when the native brown bears hear gunfire, they all run toward it, knowing that they can easily win any battle of intimidation over the hunter that so obligingly provided them food.

  2. Hi , I've lurked around your site a few times and have enjoyed the reading very much. Thanks for sharing .
    I spent some time up in, brrr , Churchill, Manitoba [polar bear capital of the world,apparently] some years ago. Had a chance to observe the bears . That would certainly be a more than worthy adversary ! Loved the comment from your guide about filing your site so it would hurt less . Hilarious .
    Congrats also on the hour long run. Impressive.
    Have a safe and happy 2009 .

  3. Anonymous10:23 PM

    Great post.

    Happy New Year

  4. The pic of you reminds me of some kid from the hood who is walking around with his underwear hanging out. WAY OUT !!

  5. Anonymous3:11 AM

    OMG this is scary yet funny as hell............ I just wanted to drop in and wish you and Lagniappe a Happy New Year, filled with peace love and joy.

  6. Hey mcsap, that stylin' Hudson's Bay shirt was like half an inch thick. It didn't lend itself well to tucking in. It may have been a fashion faux pas to have a shirt longer than the winter jacket over it, but I was WARM, dammit!

    But how does a guy from where you live get to make fashion commentaries? Recall that I've been up there and I've seen how you people dress.

    And Powdergirl, glad to have you popping in. Keep coming around.

  7. You forgot the part where I warned you beforehand about wandering off by yourself because of the polar bears. Did you believe me? Nooooo.

    That was a fun trip. Aside from sitting around in the hotel sure you'd been eaten.

  8. Yep, you were very lucky not to have been eaten by a bear that night!! Yowza!

  9. Having had a close call with a brown bear in the lower 48 I can only imagine how badly I would have soiled my pants being chased by a polar bear around that truck.

    Happy New Year!

  10. Very interesting to read.Do you know about arctic clothing? I enjoyed a lot while reading your post.