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Divine Duty Requires Report On Bear Sighting...

This article first appeared in issue 20, and was written by Ed Waggener. The full title appeared as: Divine duty requires report on bear sighting with major diplomatic, territorial implications.

By Ed Waggener

There are territorial concerns with this story, which could stir up old dirt. And mind you, we are not trying to stir up trouble.

As pacifists with a deep Quaker respect for peace, jingoistic instigation is the last thing on our minds. We are simply reporting what we have a divine duty to report.

The latest Adair County bear sighting by veteran Bear Man Loren Bennett has territorial overtones.

Now there are those who will say-mostly hard-line Adair County Democrats-that the land where Loren Bennett saw the standing bear is really in Adair County. It does lie in that section of Metcalfe County which ruling Republicans in Adair County willingly conceded to "help" form that county in 1865.

The ostensible reason they gave for partitioning Adair's western most lands, was that it was a means to rid the county of Johnson grass.

The real motivating factor was that there were too many Bells, Wallaces, Pendletons, Butlers and assorted other Democrats living in the region. It was, in a way, a form of partisan cleansing in that day.

Today others consider this Adair/Metcalfe area a genuine no-man's land, since taxes are often paid in both counties by the same landowner, and county gravel trucks have come both from the East and from the West.

Anyway, many Democrats in Adair County do consider that Eastern Metcalfe is really a sovereign part of Adair County, much the same as the Red Chinese maintain that Taiwan is part of China.

From a partisan approach, the matter ought to be left to wither and die. There is no need for hostilities. But from a Bear Board perspective, it does not take Henry Kissinger to realize, in light of today's revelation, that willingly giving away this much prime bear land in 1865 was bad foreign policy on the part of Republican Adair County. You can understand that*.

Mind you, there are hotheaded Bear Board members who construe this historical aberration as justification to "liberate" the area in question.

But less sanguine heads have prevailed, and the only talk now is to possibly use a small contingent from the Bear Board force being trained to liberate white squirrels in Olney, Illinois, for introduction here, and redeploy the force to capture the bear, gentle him down, and teach him, in no uncertain terms, which side of the mountain to stay on*.

Facts in the incident

This is the situation: On Saturday, December 27, Loren Bennett saw some cattle in the pasture field behind Bear Board Dean Gary Coomer's house. Bennett took Bernice Wisdom's gritty little black chow dog and went to investigate. A gate had been left open on the line fence with Granville Sexton's land. Gran Sexton's cows, maybe fearing the bear; maybe following a headstrong troublemaker boy cow; or maybe just succumbing to their collective ambition to tour this lush frontier-whatever the reason, went awol.

They quickly assessed the trespassing cow situation. But something excited "Bear', Bernice's gritty black chow. The chow investigated, and sure enough, there was trouble. The dog ran back to Loren Bennett and looked up at him with that "What do we do? look," Loren told Dean Coomer, who told it verbatim to me; I wouldn't have it any other way. At first, Loren returned a "Don't get in my way, I may need to run, too, look," to the chow, but duty won out, and Bennett rushed to the excitement. What he saw, standing as erect as Randolph Scott, was: A black bear.

In the moment of truth all Bear Persons train for and wonder about, the eyeball-to-eyeball face off between man and bear, the score was decisive:

Loren Bennett 1. Black Bear 0.

Loren didn't run.

The bear did.

The bear went "Whumpf!"

"The bear got down on all fours," Gary Coomer reports Loren's account, "and started running; and every time his front feet would touch down he'd go 'Whumpf!'," As anyone who understands black bears knows, "whumpf!" is the signature growl of a panicked black bear in flight. It is a somewhat difficult sound for human emulation, but Dean Coomer and I heard Columbia Policeman George Claywell do an authentic black bear whumpf.

In defense of Loren Bennett's actions, let it be known that he did not mean to disturb the bear. He just went over to the other side of the pond to see what was happening. Bear Men have no control over the timing of these situations. Call it Calvinism or whatever, but it's true. Encounters happen when they happen, and most of the time it is of the bear's choosing.

Bennett was not armed with a camera; who tends cows with a Kodak, anyway. But he did examine the area for the physical evidence of the bear's presence. And assures us the tracks were there.

Speculation is that the bear is Dave Cylinder's Bear, the one named for Dave Cylinder, a mechanic who lives in Metcalfe County, toward Bridgeport-or East Fork, as the Metcalfe Countians now call it-as you would go from Bennett Ridge. Dave has seen his bear off and on over the past 3-4 years.

*A historical note: Many Adair County Democrats thought, in 1993, at the end of the Long Reign of Woodrow I, in Edmonton, that Metcalfe County would balkanize, the way the Soviet Union did after Gorbachev; and that the components of the Free State of Metcalfe would each go back to their origins; that Adair County territory would be gloriously enhanced on the western side; and that the registration imbalance would ameliorate. Such will never happen. They underestimated the strength of democracy as it is practiced by the Edmonton government, however. The county has and will remain intact, for sure as long as there J.P. Blevins is the unifying element. After all, who would want to leave a county with basketball player as great as he?

This story was posted on 1998-05-15 12:01:01
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1998-05-15 - Photo Staff. Divine duty requires report on bear sighting with major diplomatic, territorial implicationsThis item first appeared in Issue 20 of the print edition of Columbia! Magazine.
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