"In the summers I was always a government fire lookout- that’s what you oughta do next summer, Smith- and in the winters I did a lot of skiing and used to walk around the campus on crutches real proud. I climbed some pretty big mountains up there, including a long haul up Rainier almost to the top where you sign your name. I finally made it one year. There are only a few names up there, you know. And I climbed all around the Cascades, off season and in season, and worked as a logger. Smith, I gotta tell you all about the romance of North-west logging, like you keep talking about railroading, you shoulda seen the little narrow guage railways up there and those cold winter mornings with snow and your belly fulla pancakes and syrup and black coffee, boy, and you raise your double bitted ax to your morning’s first log there’s nothing like it."
- Japhy Ryder to Ray Smith, The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac, 1958.
“A graphic example of the lengths to which a hunter can go to protect his dogs occurred in October of 2008, in south-central British Columbia. There, in the forest outside the town of 100 Mile House, a forty-five-year-old hunter and tree faller named Jim West was out with his two Labrador retrievers, searching for moose sign. West explained to Carole Rooney of the 100 Mile House Free Press that he was unarmed and traveling upwind when “All of a sudden I heard a kind of a huff and a growl off to my right, and when I turned around there was a bear six feet away.” It was a black bear with two cubs. Caught by surprise, the bear, which weighed about 250 pounds, attacked. “I had no opportunity to hit the ground like I should,” West explained, “so I just started to kick her in the face. She jumped up and took a snap at my face and split my upper lip, and then I hit the ground, and she jumped on top of me, tore my scalp and bit my left arm.”
At this point, the dogs entered the fray and attempted to draw the bear off. The bear abandoned West to pursue them, but as soon as West attempted to rise, the bear turned and attacked him again, this time biting his right arm. Again, the dogs intervened, and again, the bear went after them. Lying on the ground, bleeding from his head and arms, West tried to fathom what to do next. It was his dogs that gave him the motive and clarity to act: “I heard one of my dogs yelp,” said West, an intense and wiry man who stands about five-foot-nine (shorter than the bear, had she been standing upright). “I thought, ‘Well, you’re not gonna kill my dog.’ So I stood up; there was a stick at my feet. As I picked it up and looked, the bear was running at me full tilt and I in effect said, ‘Let’s go, bitch.’ So I swung the stick, hit her between the ears, stopped her dead in her tracks. And she shook her head and she was stunned, and I realized that if I didn’t continue, that bear would attack me again because I knew if I went down a third time I would never stand up. So, I just pretended I was driving spikes with a sledgehammer ‘til that bear hit the ground, I saw blood coming out her nose. I then dropped the stick, wrapped my shirt around me head and told my dogs, ‘It’s time to go, kids.’”
West was treated for shock and required sixty stitches in his scalp, face, and arms.
“None of us had ever heard of anything remotely like this,” sad Darcy MacPhee, the field supervisor who oversaw the investigation with British Columbia’s Predator Attack Team. “A bear is a pretty robust animal so we approached this from a very skeptical point of view.”
Due to the extraordinary circumstances, an exhaustive necropsy was done and, in the end, it confirmed that West had indeed crushed the bear’s skull. “In that sort of situation, you only have one choice,” West said later. “It’s live or die. Most people are too scared to think about living.”
- John Vaillant, The Tiger, 2010.