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Early Saturday morning, I was watering my recently planted flowers and carrying on a one-sided conversation (apparently, talking to them bolsters their self-esteem and they flourish) when my neighbor shooed her dogs outside.

They galloped onto the grass, went potty, then surveyed their territory. And found something that didn’t belong. Their barking was loud and frantic. I instantly knew they weren’t in a standoff with a squirrel.

The barking continued and there was a loud crash among the branches of the tree that bordered our yard and the neighbor’s. And, of course, because why not, a black bear fell from the tree and landed in one of my flowerbeds.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes. Instead, I swore like a sailor. The upstairs window opened, and Olivia stuck her head out. “Stop barking!”


“Why?” she asked in her outside voice, oblivious to the 300-pound bear lying on the ground.

“I need you to tell your dad to call the police.”


“Because of the bear.”

“What be-?” She scanned the yard. “Mom, there’s a bear!”

“Olivia, please, just get your dad,” I said, surprisingly calm.

“Dad!” she yelled. “Dad! There’s a bear! It’s gonna eat mom!”

The bear groggily made it to all fours. My mind was blank. What was I supposed to do? Yell? Play dead? Which one?

“Olivia,” I said, anxiously. “I need you to use the Google and find out what to do if you encounter a black bear.”


As I waited for Olivia to find the information, I did my best to appear nonthreatening.

“What’s taking so long?” I asked, annoyed.

“Sorry, Taylor texted me,” she said. “She wanted to know if I was going to the barbecue this afternoon.”

“Do you think now is the time to answer that text?” I asked, snarkily.

“Mom-uh, she’s the only one that can drive. I want to make sure I have a ride,” she said. “So, can I go?”

“You might be busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Crying over the fact that your mom was eaten by a bear, because you didn’t give her the information needed to stay alive.”

“You’re so dramatic,” she said, looking at her phone. “OK, here it is. First, identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone.”

“Identify myself? What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Tell it your name.”

“OK,” I said. “Hello, my name is Krista, and yours is?”

I paused, and the bear responded by growling and showing me its large teeth.

“You know what? I’m just gonna call you Ben.”

I’m not sure if he liked his name, because he stood up on his hind legs.

“I don’t think it’s working,” I said.

“Talk to it like you talk to the flowers,” Olivia suggested.

“Are you serious?”

“I’m trying to provide some levitation, because you’re overreacting.”

“Levitation?” I asked.

“Yeah, like make a joke,”

she said.

“It’s ‘levity,’ not ‘levitation.’”

“Mom, do you think now’s the time to give me a lesson on word definitions?”

“Where is your father?” I whisper-yelled.

“I don’t know, but I can hear him talking to someone.”

“Hopefully it’s 911 and not his video game,” I muttered.

“You’re supposed to make yourself look big,” Olivia continued reading the suggestions. “Slowly wave your arms overhead, move away but continue making eye contact, and, if necessary, use anything nearby as a weapon.”

Great, the only thing I had was a half-full plastic watering can. I carefully side-stepped around my newly planted lilac bush.

“What are you doing?” Olivia asked.

“Listen,” I said, tipping the watering can over the plant, “you said I need a weapon, and today it’s going to get over 90 degrees, and there’s no way these plants are going to suffer from dehydration because of a dumb bear.”

Olivia sighed. “You’re also supposed to make loud noises.”

I heard a car door close and a voice on the other side of the fence. “Ma’am, I’m Officer O’Malley.”

“I’m about to die,” I said, loudly clapping the rhythm of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” at Ben. “Hey, did you know that a bear is my spirit animal?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, it is, but I didn’t know that meant it would be the reason my spirit left my body,” I said, waving the now-empty watering can in the air. Ben huffed and pawed the ground.

“To be honest, I may have taken the test several times until I got a bear. I really should have stuck with my original animal.”

“Which was?” he asked.

“A butterfly.”

A truck pulled behind the police car and a Fish and Game ranger stepped out.

“About time,” I said, switching songs to NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.”

The ranger subdued Ben and promised to release him into the wild.

“Are you sticking with a bear for your spirit animal?” Officer O’Malley asked.

“Nah, I’m going to retake the test until I get a dragon. They don’t usually fall out of trees into someone’s backyard.”

“Good idea.”

Krista Vance is a former

Champaign resident. While she now calls northern Colorado home, she spent five wonderful years in C-U and misses great friends, corn and big-sky sunsets.