A HUNK IN THE BUSH: THE BEAR TRUTH


Few people have more chances to come face-to-face with potentially dangerous wildlife than archaeologists on field surveys. Unlike hunters and wildlife photographers who actively seek fauna, archaeologists’ quarry doesn’t move. We concentrate on deciphering the whole environment to predict where prehistoric planners may have placed a metropolis. Then we need to find the evidence: artifacts, flakes, fire-cracked rock, and ancient shellfish remains. With all this concentration, there is little time to worry about the wildlife. If something large and hairy shows up, it does it of its own accord.

Nevertheless, a client warned me of a black bear that recently terrorized the developers of a new golf course on edge of the Pitt River near Port Coquitlam. “You’d better stop in at the developer’s office and pick up some bear bangers,” he said while outfitting me with maps for the expedition. “One got a bulldozer driver’s lunch the other day, but he’s probably long gone now.”

I agreed while loading the gear into my car and scrunched the map into my glove compartment. As we drove to the area, I explained to my partner Frank that we needed to survey the dyke of a lagoon by row boat. Every so often we need to row to shore to inspect the soil for archaeological material.

“I hope you know how to row,” said Frank. “I always end up going in circles.”

“Okay, I’ll row.” I said. “I can use the exercise. You take the samples and watch for the bear.”

“Bear?” said Frank.

We introduced ourselves to the golf course developer at the office. He assured us we wouldn’t find anything of interest, “… archaeologically speaking.” He chuckled at this as if it were as witty as a Woody Allen one liner. If it weren’t for the fact that if we did find something, we would have stalled his operation, I wouldn’t have seen the humour.

As we were leaving, I realized I overlooked borrowing his bear repellant. I also forgot what one calls it. “Do you have any bear knockers?” I asked.

He turned to his secretary, a voluptuous woman in a mini skirt and a halter top. “Did you hear that?” he roared. “Indiana Jones here wants some bare knockers. Haw Haw Haw … Show him what we got, baby.”

I felt embarrassed for her. I suppose sexual harassment has a place in the world of golfing. She could not find the bear repellant.

We found our boat on the bank of the lagoon. It was an eight foot fibreglass craft that was wider than long. A cork would have been more seaworthy. With Frank in the stern, there was no room for me to row and we took on water over the transom. With Frank in the bow, the boat wouldn’t move forward in a straight line. We surveyed the waterway by rowing backwards and ramming the craft ashore at intervals to inspect the soil.

One spot on the dyke looked promising. A crown of thick brambles covered it. There is an unwritten archaeological law that brambly areas often hide archaeological sites. The thicker and more impenetrable the brambles, the more important the site. I wanted to inspect the top of the dyke.

I found a small animal trail that led up the bank, and I steered the craft to it. I let Frank examine the lower part of the dyke as I grasped the machete and proceeded up the trail. I slid up on my stomach as stickers raked interesting designs on my back.

At the top, I slid the machete into the soil and extracted a soil sample. There was no evidence of a site. I probed with the machete again. Nothing.

As I turned to find another spot to examine, I saw a moist black mass mere inches from my face. As I focused my eyes, the mass turned into a set of nostrils. The nostrils snorted a hurricane of spray on my glasses. At the same instant, the nostrils’ owner, the bear, bolted into the air and cut a swathe through the brambles away from me.

I didn’t see where the bear went after that. I was too busy cutting my own swathe to the boat. Frank told me later that I managed five complete steps on top of the water before I sinking into the lagoon.

We laughed about this as I wrung my socks. Then a wave of seriousness came over me. “I thought you said you couldn’t row,” I said.

  Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He also does some work as a field Archaeologist. He is also a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive   

You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. re looking for a change, start with a resume makeover at competitive rates

When he is not doing all the above, he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia

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