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The Bear That Wasn't

I write a wide variety of genres about people, places, things, and animals. Some are factual and fictional articles. This is a true story.

the-bear-that-wasnt

A Normal Spring Day

The birds were chirping, and a slight breeze was blowing as I walked out onto the front porch of the house we lived in on Stuart's Lane, near Eureka, Missouri. It was a cool fall morning in 1986, and I was a St. Louis County Police Officer. My family and I lived in the two bedroom-three-story caretaker's house on property owned by Dr. Wallace Stuart. He had built a stone castle on the property many years earlier and had later moved away. People continually trespassed on the property and broke into, and vandalized the castle, so he gave me free rent to watch over the property.

On this particular morning, Samoa, our Siberian Husky, had begun howling, which usually meant we had trespassers; however, this time, she was looking toward the top of a hill on the property.


My daughter, Cindy, standing on the lawn of Stuart's Castle in 1986

My daughter, Cindy, standing on the lawn of Stuart's Castle in 1986

Samoa

It was always serene on the property unless someone was trespassing, which they did quite often at night. If anyone went up to the castle at night, Samoa would begin to howl like a wolf, and I would get dressed, get my gun, badge, ID, and a flashlight, and she and I would go to the dark castle. I kept Samoa on a leash and did not turn my flashlight on. I would let her lead me to the trespassers in the blackness of the huge stone structure. I knew if I turned on my flashlight, the people inside would see me coming and either hide and ambush me or flee.

I trusted Samoa completely, and she would not make a sound until we were in a room with the intruders. As I turned my flashlight on, she would automatically give out her blood-curling howl, which even caused the boys or men in the group to scream like banshees and there was never an incident where they tried to attack me. They would even tell me later that when they got up to the castle, and she started howling down at the house, they thought it was a wolf, and were afraid to flee the castle.

Husky similar to Samoa

Husky similar to Samoa

The Beast of the Woods

On this particular morning, I scanned the hillside for anything she might be howling at, and then I heard a strange sound. It was like a huffing and snorting sound a bear would make. I knew there weren't any bears roaming free in St. Louis County, but I remembered the Endangered Wolf Center, which was within a mile and a half of our house. I wondered if they might also care for some bears, and possibly one escaped.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Preparing to do Battle

As the noise seemed to be coming nearer, I decided to play it safe and retrieve the police-issued 12 gauge shotgun from my squad car. I didn't mean the bear any harm as long as it didn't try attacking my family and my dog, but I was prepared to "do battle" if necessary. By this time my wife had heard the commotion, and she joined me on the front porch. As we stood there, she agreed the noise sounded like an angry bear snorting. I told my wife to go into the house if the bear came up over the hill, and she didn't argue with me, but at the moment, she was steadfast by my side.

Entry to the castle

Entry to the castle

Nervous Few Moments

As we stood there watching the top of the hill, I racked a live buckshot round into the shotgun but kept the safety on. The standoff was complete, and we waited.

As the snorting grew louder and louder, Samoa became more agitated, and the fur on her back stood up. She was also prepared to save us from this awful creature, which was besieging us. The tense waiting was like something out of a horror movie, just before the terror begins.

A Grizzly Bear

A Grizzly Bear

The Moment of Truth

At any moment, I believed we would see the awesome creature bound over the top of the hill, which was about 100 yards from us. I didn't have to wait long before a huge shape began to grow larger and larger as it topped the hill.

Suddenly the monster was upon us, but not on the ground with us, for this bear turned out to be a hot air balloon. What we thought was grunting sounds from a bear was the propane being fed to the burners by the pilot.

As we stood there watching the balloon fly just above us over the property, the people in the basket waived down to us, and we sheepishly returned the gesture. I am sure they wondered why a St. Louis County Police Officer was standing there with a shotgun in his hand and if they thought I might be planning to shoot them down for trespassing.

Balloon with passengers

Balloon with passengers

© 2022 Gerry Glenn Jones

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