03 August 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Amelia Air Horn - instructions

Walking with Amelia

Later in this blogitem I shall use the word "awesome" in a manner and with a meaning similar to its overuse by much of today's youth.  But first, a joke.  Stop me if you've heard this one before.

There were two guys camping and they were suddenly awakened by a foraging bear.  It appeared to be menacing them and one of the guys started frantically putting on his sneakers.  The other guy said "Why are you doing that?  You can't outrun a bear!"  The other guy said "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!"

I told you to stop me, didn't I?

I honestly have no way to assess the extent of my physical courage.  I don't believe I'm reckless, neither do I think I'm unduly wimpy.  On the one occasion I was mugged (at night in Central Park!) I think I acquitted myself adequately.  On the scale from intimidated to intrepid I probably belong somewhere in the center.

This is a good thing, because if I were on the intimidated end I would never leave the house.  True, I faced danger growing up.  I might have blown up or burned down myself and the parental units with excessive chemistry.  But that was a different kind of danger, and it didn't try to chase me.  I have, as an alleged grown up, moved to the suburbs.  At the time I moved, nobody mentioned bears.  If a friend had told me "Richard, you know that if you leave the house, you might get mauled or even killed by a large omnivorous creature that can run faster than you, even if you are wearing sneakers," I might have reconsidered.  But nobody did.  To be fair, there were fewer bears back then, so I don't ascribe this lack of warning to a tacit conspiracy to have me devoured.  Amelia Air Horn

Anyway, and to compress a number of years of encroaching nature:  We have bears.  There are bears in the woods.  There are occasionally bears in the driveway.  There was once a bear in the garage.   And—here's where I get to use "awesome"—I once observed a bear migrating through the pool area.  My housemate insistently informed me of its presence (she's very alert!) and we watched the bear galumphing down the driveway, into the open gate to the backyard and the pool, past the pool to the surrounding metal fence, over the fence, and beyond, to do whatever it is that bears do in the woods.  When I say "over the fence," I don't mean that the bear pulled up a ladder that had been stowed there for his convenience.  The bear simply and very casually reached out to the fence and effortlessly vaulted himself over it, and continued on his way.  The fence bent.  Literally, and very obviously, this sturdy steel-bar fence bent under the bear's weight, and sprung upright after its passage.  Awesome! 

You have seen nature photos on this blog.  A terminally cute puppy.  A frog.  An alligator tree and a free-range range.  You'll see no bear photo at this time.  Rather, there's a photo of Amelia.  I've been given to understand that if one encounters a bear on one's perambulation—(pick your antecedent—either will work)—the best way to avoid a confrontation is to make noise.  "Bang together pots and pans" is one absurd suggestion.  A better one, I believe, is to carry a pressurized air horn, which with luck will scare the bear as much as its wielder.   I have one, which I call Amelia for convenience.  "Where's Amelia" I bellow as I sally forth for my own galumph.  Or would if I remembered to do so.  Just as I always forget to carry a camera because I can't get exactly what I want, I rarely remember Amelia.  Maybe I can get a cell phone with a camera, MP3 player, and air horn?  No, I think that's asking too much, although it wouldn't surprise me to find anti-bear ringtones somewhere.

We have lots of deer out here, and I think they're getting smarter.  We have wild turkeys, whose intelligence it would be impossible to insult.  But the bears, which have become much less rare in the past few years, are truly majestic.  The danger of sharing my habitat with these creatures is statistically negligible.  If it weren't, or if they should continue to become more plentiful, I think I really would remember the air horn at least.  Meanwhile, when I sight my next bear, I hope I shall have a camera with me so I can have something more inspiring than a can of 1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane to show.

© 2006
Richard Factor