I got in a fight with Smokey Bear once. True story. I was at this all-you-can-eat buffet, I distinctly remember that I had just stacked my plate so full of fried chicken that I was having problems navigating back to my table, and suddenly this bear gets in my face all “only you can prevent forest fires.” I think he was drunk, on account of the fact that there was a heavily stocked vodka bar. I’m not being racist. I’m just fairly certain that his breath could have ignited all of the illegal fireworks I saw going off, well, all over the freakin’ county this past weekend.
Seriously. This bear was the furriest self-righteous bastard I’d ever met in my life. We were smack in the middle of box store mega-mart heaven, and he was getting all sentimental about nature.
“Whoa, c’mon Smokey, get it together, there haven’t been any forests here for decades,” his friends said, soothing the savage (drunk) beast. I’m pretty sure they could tell I was about to go all kung fu warrior on his ass. Or Davy Crockett. He’s the American hero famous for killing bears and bunnies and all those other furry menaces that used to populate this great land of ours, right?
I’ve always believed that the greatest sign of respect for your country—and land by extension—is to replace the habitat of every living thing with tract housing and lawn flamingos. I think the only person who really understands my point of view on this matter is Martha Stewart. That’s what design is all about. Taking a space that’s, for instance, cluttered with trees and singing birds and making it your own. You know, put up a house, white picket fence, throw a chicken coop in the backyard.
It’s a good thing.
But wait! You’re living the American Dream with a capital “A.D.” and suddenly you’ve got this furry damned bear strolling into your backyard and treating it like his own personal Hometown Buffet. And believe me, he’s happy. I know this because the only thing that could make me happier than a plate full of chicken wings is a free plate full of chicken wings. Throw in a box of wine coolers, and we’re talking heaven.
At least this was the desperate plight of a San Luis Obispo family in mid-June when a black bear strolled out of the wild, bold as you please, snatched a helpless chicken from the coop, and savagely ate the poor thing. He didn’t even throw on any barbecue sauce, or a nice spice rub like a decent and civilized person would. Again, not that I’m a racist. Some of my best friends are bears.
So of course the homeowners cried fowl. Which isn’t even really a funny joke. I just had to do it because, well, everyone else is.
And this is where it gets juicy—the story, not the chicken. I imagine the chicken was quite savory, but I can’t, as a journalist with the highest regard for truth, say that it was. Really, there’s only one fellow who can confirm the poultry’s pedigree, and he’s dead. Damn it, now I just went and blew the big surprise ending.
According to the Fish and Game Department, there’s some kind of law that forces them to provide a kill order after any redneck Jack or Jill demands one. Provided they can prove that an animal did some damage to their property. Which makes sense. If we humans are going to continue encroaching on what little habitat animals have left—and we all, right down to that sell-out Yogi Bear who wanders around wearing a hat and tie, know we are—we need to make sure we have the privilege of killing the animals that get too close.
If I want to continue my habit of leaving a tri-tip crumb trail between my house and car, I want to know I’m safe from any wildlife that doesn’t have the good sense to distinguish between my food and theirs. I could probably take measures to prevent that from happening: protect my food, defend my pets, use common sense. But that’s just sooooo much work. And so boring compared to dressing up like Elmer Fudd and charging like a gun-totin’ maniac at any “wascally” animal stupid enough to follow its instincts.
“Hey, that bear ate the bear bait I keep in my backyard. Light ’em up, boys! It’s Yogi season!”
Some loud-mouthed saps were sad to hear the bear was killed. But with less than a week until my extended 4th of July weekend, I wasn’t going to let the death of one potentially dangerous animal cast a pall over my holiday. It’s un-American. And if we have to kill one bear to make ourselves that little bit safer, then it’s well worth the sacrifice.
“Do you know how many people are killed by bears, per year?” I asked on Friday as I simultaneously aimed a Roman candle at dry shrubs while captaining my ATV loaded with patriotic toddlers through the dunes.
“I mean, one could shit in your backyard—they do it in the woods, after all—and you could trip and scrape your knee on the grass,” I noted.
“They’re savage,” I observed while tossing back my sixth can of Tecate before hopping behind the wheel of my pickup truck at the end of a long and satisfying 4th of July weekend. The American flag waved grandly in the breeze. To its left was California’s equally proud Bear Flag. Don’t worry, San Luis Obispo, we’ll change that as soon as possible. Come the next 4th of July, a new flag will fly. Might I propose a bearskin rug?
The Shredder once got caught with a paw in the chicken coop. Send extra crispy recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.