The late evening light filtered through the bare branches of the trees creating puddles of
shadows along the edges of the worn path, as a soft breeze carried the scent of fall. The crunch of
leaves underfoot blended with the peaceful sounds of the coming night. The bucket of food Barb
carried was heavy and awkward to manage with her walker, but her babies depended on the food
she brought out to them each evening.
The summer had brought wildfires and drought to her little mountain paradise, leaving
the animals without enough food to get them through the harsh winter ahead. She wanted to be
sure that Mama Bear and her cubs had enough weight on them to survive the coming
hibernation. This year there were several other bears to worry about as well.
She had been feeding the wildlife around her cabin for years. Her husband, Everett had
always taken in injured animals or orphaned babies. They had always shared their love of
animals. Widowed a decade ago, and with her son off living his own life, the quiet and emptiness
of her house had nearly drove her crazy. Then Barb had found a young bear that was far too
young to be away from its mother, half starved and unable to fend for itself. She had taken pity
on the poor creature and started leaving food out for her across the shallow creek that ran behind
her cabin. That bear had grown and before long others had shown up as well. As time had passed
the few friends she had stopped visiting, scared off by the bears frequently seen around her
Her son, worried for her safety, had tried repeatedly to get her to stop feeding the
animals. Finally giving it up as a lost cause, he had convinced her to let him put up a tall, sturdy
fence around her yard and driveway. She thought he was being silly, her babies knew that she
was trying to help them and would never hurt her. Carrying the food out hadn’t been a problem
for her until this year. She had slipped on the icy stairs of her porch last winter and broken her
hip. Her recuperation had been slow and left her needing a walker.
While she had been laid up, her babies had gotten bolder. They had started coming closer
to the cabin in search of food. Although they had never gotten in, several windows were broken
and a section of fence had been damaged. Even so, they had never acted aggressively toward her.
Most of the bears had gentle personalities as long as you didn’t get to close to the cubs. She had
never been afraid of them until Grumpy showed up. He was a lighter color and much larger than
the other bears, with an aggressive temperament. He would hang back and chuff at the other
bears then charge to bully them away from the food she had left for them. He had even stood up
and growled at her after she had moved back into her fenced yard a few times.
Earlier in the evening, when Barb had been putting on a sweater for the walk out to the
feeding area, her son had called to let her know she was going to be a grandma. News she had
been waiting for since her son had gotten married a few years before, she was absolutely thrilled.
They had talked for a while about her moving closer to him and off her patch of heaven. Barb
had promised to think about it but made no promises. She had lived in this area of Montana since
her early twenties, and though it was a bit isolated, she loved the life she had built there over the
last forty years. When she finally walked outside it was much later than she normally would have
been out, and the shadows made the path tricky to navigate.
Lost in thoughts of her impending grand baby, she didn’t notice that she was no longer
alone. On the other side of the fence soft footfalls kept pace with her. She might not have noticed
until she opened the gate near the foot bridge if she hadn’t heard the louder chuffing sounds
beside her. Startled she lost her balance and dropped the bucket.
Barb nervously peered through the metal lattice that made up the fence alongside the
path, but all she could see was a dark shape among the tall grass near the bank of the creek.
“Is that you Mama?" She called, hating the fear she heard in her voice. All of a sudden
the shadow reared up on two legs and a loud roar broke the quite of the evening. Frightened, she
stumbled back but her foot landed on an apple that had rolled from the spilled bucket. She fell
with a loud cry of terror.
The bear angrily charged at the fence, tearing free the bottom of the wire. He couldn’t get
all the way through but his large claws managed to catch onto the bottom of Barbs slacks.
Screaming in fear and immense pain, she tried to scramble away from the claws but it was no
use. The bear dragged her leg under the broken fence and into its waiting mouth.
Her screams turned into shrieks of agony as she struggled to get away from four inch
claws and two inch fangs. Barb knew that her only chance was to get away from the bear and
make it back to her cabin. The bear not wanting to lose its meal pulled her under the fence. The
jagged, torn metal of the fence ripped through her fragile skin, and tore clumps of hair and scalp
from her head. The blood from her lacerated face and scalp trickled into her eyes and obscured
her vision. She flailed around desperately, searching for anything she could use as a weapon to
drive the massive bear off of her. She felt a heavy branch within reach. Grasping it tightly she
struck the bear across its nose and face as hard as she could manage, losing the branch in the
Releasing her leg the bear let out a savage growl and renewed its assault as she
frantically tried to crawl away. Clawing at the ground, she tried to ignore the agony coursing
through her battered and bleeding body. With a ferocity that shook her like a rag doll the bear
clawed and savaged her body until she heard and felt bones shatter. With every moment that
passed she felt herself weakening from blood loss and pain until finally she knew that she wasn’t
going to escape.
As the bear ripped brutally into her skin tearing out huge bites, she gave in to the
blackness waiting to claim her. The huge grizzly, sensing the fight was over began to eat at a
more leisurely pace. When he had his fill he dragged the remains of Barb’s body to the edge of
the creek, keeping his food safe from the other hungry animals in the woods around him while he
drank and slept nearby.