I rose early this morning, eager to catch a fish worthy of dinner with my love. Yesterday’s outing proved less successful, but the crisp air beckoned me onto the water. I didn’t realize that it wouldn’t be that dinner that would make today memorable.
My boat, an ’83 Steamer Deluxe, was the top selling vessel that year. I only just acquired it from a seller in Wisconsin two years ago. At twenty five feet long, ten feet wide, it provided ample space for a large haul of fish, or a small group of friends. Festivities required some adjustments — removal of nets and cages, some cleaning on the deck from fish guts and pond scum, but they always proved worth the work. I named her “Emerald Eye”.
I stepped onboard and gazed across the pond. It was still. The other fishermen must have fared better than I yesterday. The sun had lifted into twilight, and its rays began burning off the morning fog. Patches remained, hovering above the tourquise water and trapped in the trees of the mountain. The fjord loomed over our coastal town, fuzzy with evergreens and moss, pecked with the occasional clearing. The edge rounding the curve of the inlet was gray with rocks, a steep face scaled seasonally by the daring and dumb.
The engine turned over as I turned the key, and the rhythmic rumbling gave a slight vibration through the ship. I opened her up pushed on towards my favorite fishing spot, Oxfeld’s Dip. Every route on the bay was scenic. I knew every field, every ancient tree, but as I passed the orange moss rocks of Braiden’s Knoll, something stood out along the edge of the hillock. I turned off the engine and darted to the starboard side.
At first, there was only a shift in the shadows of the brush. A curved black edge where the scraggle of branches should be. Then I saw a glint in its eyes. At first, all I could see was a face with large eyes and a dark snout. The water drifted me towards the shore, and I realized what I was seeing. The brown fur, small ears, and massive head, it was a grizzly, and it was staring back at me.
As I drew nearer, I saw why this creature didn’t flee. It was tangled in the thick vines which grew on the western face of the knoll. My heart broke, for I knew this prison would lead to a painful death if it were not freed. But grizzlies, weighing five to six hundred pounds, were not the cuddly creatures we would wish them to be. I stood at an impasse between my heart and my head.
The urge of compassion outweighed my fears, empowering me towards the creature.
As I stepped towards it, a soft moan growled from its mouth. I whispered gently as I moved, staying within it’s eyesight. Step by step I came closer. It’s size stuttered my breath, but I wouldn’t let fear stop me. Each step strengthened my resolve.
Ten feet from it, it let loose a loud roar which echoed off the mountains. I responded with another whisper, “Easy now. Easy now. It’s okay.”
Five feet. I could see the entanglement began around its left foot, and its attempts to free itself caused a bind around its neck. Further attempts to free itself must stretch those vines, strangling it back into submission. I waited until I was just on the edge of its periphery before pulling out my knife.
Cautiously, I sliced through the vines. The grizzly, seemingly aware of my mission, quieted and remained still. I traced the length of the wrap from its neck to a root, and hacked it loose. As if a pistol had announced the start of a race, the bear shot up from the ground, tearing through the remaining vines. I fell back, dropping my knife. The grizzly towered over me, and I felt death was heartbeat away. The grizzly’s massive front paws slammed into the ground around my body, bringing its face right to mine. I held my breath, savoring it as my last. The bear nodded, as if thanking me, and turned away. It’s bulky body awkardly shook as it walked into the thick of the brush, and I couldn’t stop from laughing.
I didn’t catch any fish, yet again, but the day was more memorable than any fish could provide.