Some of you will know this story....specifically those in Mr.Heuers grade 6 class at Kinnaird Elementary School back, ooohhhhh 20 years ago. I was twelve. Our class went on a field trip for a hike up to Meldiana Trail, a trail up along the side of a highway....we were to hike in (about an hour through a windey, bushy, very treed path) to an A frame structure beside a little lake for lunch. On the way to the A frame we pass a smaller pond which is full of frogs. Our class eats lunch and is hanging around the A frame and me and another girl go down the path back to the pond with some buckets to catch frogs. We load up a TON of frogs in our buckets....we can hear the class, but can't see them. All of a sudden we hear our class start shouting and yelling and banging and going wild.....there's a bear who's came for the food we brought. The other girl looks up at me quickly and darts off and through the pond and bushes around towards the A frame. I'm on the other side of the pond and kind of freeze....I'm a tiny girl who is scared of everything. As I stand there, clutching my bucket of frogs, I can hear them yelling louder and smashing sticks on the A frame....trying to scare the bear away. They don't realize I'm over by the pond, at the other end of the path, in exactly the direction they are trying to scare the bear. I start walking up the path towards them and see the bear. Okay, now when you are twelve, but the size of probably a seven or eight year old, bears are scary and big. Like, really really big. Like I don't even know how big this brown bear would be in real life, but to me at that time, it was the size of a horse. The bear turns and sees me. Now it's confused. It's like...pacing kind of back and forth towards the class, then towards me. It's scared and making gruff noises and snorting. Every thing I've ever heard about what to do when seeing a bear has been forgotten....the bear starts towards me I turn and I run, I fucking ruuunnnnn. I'm heading back along the path, hoping it's the right way back to the main highway. I hear the bear behind me.....and okay, I know I'm twelve and in my mind that bear was following me. Looking back now, I don't know if it was or not for any distance but back then, I wasn't stopping to find out. I did take the wrong path at one point and all of a sudden lost the trail, but somehow managed to back track quickly and get back on it. I get to the highway and I'm hysterical. I'm crying and sobbing.....scared that the bear is right behind me, or that there are other bears and now I'm all alone. My class and teacher don't realize where I've gone, all they would know at that point was that they scared a bear in my direction and I was all by myself. I stand on the side of the highway, tears streaming down my face, jumping up and down waving my arms frantically above my head. I don't even know what I'm flagging someone down for, but I can't stay alone. Eleven cars drive past me.....not stopping for the girl who looks like she's seven, crying on the side of the road. Finally a guy pulls over. He can't understand what I'm saying, I'm completely hysterical....all he gets out of it is "a bear" and somehow he pieces the rest together. To this day, I have learnt nothing about this guy except that he was maybe an ambulance attendant or volunteer fire fighter or something. He walks me alllllllllll the way back to the A frame, where my class is frantically trying to find me...or my mauled body, or something. My teacher spots me from behind this guy and runs over, grabbing me in a massive hug. The class all takes turns hugging me and of course, as grade 6 girls do, crying. At the end of the year, I buy my teacher a little soapstone carving of a bear.
Probably the scariest day of my life. To this day, living out where I do, I am terrified of bears. They walk through my yard, sit in the tree and I'm in a cold sweat in the house screaming for the kids to lock themselves in their rooms.
Fast forward to now......Mr.Heuer is still around and whenever he sees me (now and for the last 20 years) he says "Well, how's my little bear girl?" and every once in a while we talk about how that was one of the most terrifying days for the both of us. So this week, Monday, I'm out for my run and I see Mr.Heuer drive past. He smiles and waves. On Tuesday, he comes into my salon, a place he's never come, and says "I have something for you! I've had this for long enough, I think it's your turn now" and he gives me the soapstone bear. I ask him "did you see me out running yesterday and wonder if I was still running from those bears??" and he nods, totally seriously and says "yes, that thought did cross my mind. I figure, it's your turn now." So, on my little shelf at work, now sits a little soapstone carving of a bear holding a fish, maybe he'll sit there for the next 20 years and then I should pass him back again.