Back in the day when front fenders on cars were big and round, rear fenders were shaped like airplane wings, headlights were large and ovate and the massive vehicles weighed in at two and a half tons, a large green Dodge was seen wandering the streets where I lived. The driver would slow down in front of random yards, survey the property, and then drive on. The neighborhood took notice. I remember the neighborhood parents discussing the intruder. They wondered who he was, what he was doing there, and where he was from. Their were a few Dads who talked about taking the driver of this mysterious car behind the woodshed where they could “interview” him. Even as a very young child of five years old or so this made sense to me. The green behemoth automobile had never been viewed at any other time than about three in the afternoon during the week days when the fathers of the neighborhood were away earning a living to support their families.
That this stranger was only around at about the time the school bus was doing its daily route bringing children back to their homes put all the mothers in the neighborhood on alert. Moms met their children at the bus stop, which was usually some distance from their house. Most families had only one car in those days so the mothers had to walk the distance to meet their children. This vigilance seemed to work. The green dodge stopped appearing along the streets and roads of our area. Perhaps it was just coincidence, perhaps not. But one thing is for sure, the families of our area were greatly relieved when this interloper was no longer in our presence.
My dad wasn’t around in those days. He lived nearby but difficulties in my parents marriage kept him away. My mother worked in a match factory where she ran a machine that manufactured match books. She went to work at six in the morning and was home by about three in the afternoon. I remember her fingers being raw to the point of bleeding. She was exhausted. It was not uncommon for her to fall into bed when she got home from work tired beyond comprehension from a job far too hard for her five foot three inch stature and one hundred and thirty pound frame.
Mom usually got home from work about ten minutes before I hopped off of the school bus. I was in first grade and walked to my house only about a quarter of a mile away. On most days I’d be accompanied by my big sister and children from our neighbors across the street. On one particular day my sister went to a friends house after school. Our neighbors children were both ill. I remember that it was a rainy day. That really didn’t bother me. I was looking forward to dropping some big rocks in the deep puddles that graced our dirt road and catching some rain drops on my tongue. I really liked catching rain drops on my tongue.
After the big yellow bus dropped me off I picked up and huge flat rock and dropped it into the puddle. The rock made a huge wake and the muddy water splashed up onto my khaki school pants. I was supposed to wear these the entire week and knew that I would likely be in a bit of trouble because this would cause my mother extra work for her already worn out body. On the way home I was dreaming up lies as to how my pants got so muddy. It had to be something that wasn’t my fault. The “giant chasing me” excuse was no longer considered cute or acceptable. No, this lie would have to be very realistic. I remembered the big green car and the man who drove it that everyone seemed afraid of. Yes!! That was it! I would say he chased me and I had to run through a very deep puddle to escape. This was one of my best lies yet. I took a distinct pride in the authoring of this whopper. Who wouldn’t believe me!
As I navigated the rest of the way home, catching rain drops along the way on the tip of my tongue I rounded the corner only to see a large green dodge parked along the side of the road. It was a wooded section of the road. The car would likely not have been seen by a neighbor. I was slightly scared and crossed the road so that I was on the opposite side of the street from the parked car. As I walked by the car the window rolled down. A large man, his arms seemed enormous to me, said something. I tried not to stop but I was confused as I was always taught to be polite to adults. The man spoke again.
“Would you like to see my puppy?” He held up a cute little beagle puppy that seemed full of life.
I approached the car to get a closer look. As I neared he opened the door. His large leg came out of the door and he put one foot on the ground. He held the small puppy in one of his massive hands and extended it towards to me. His other hand was free and he extended that also.
I cautiously approached the car. The puppy was just too inviting. As I got very close I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
My mother, who I had never witnessed running before this moment, was galloping around the corner in my direction. She scooped me up into her arms and brought me back to the other side of the street. And then her next action really caught me by surprise. She kissed me on the cheek, turned around and went over to the large man sitting half in and half out of the big green dodge. She was yelling, her hands were waving all over the place, and she got right in the man’s face. I don’t know what she said but he looked terrified. It was clear she was ready to kill him and he knew it. There she was, this small five foot four inch woman ready to go toe to toe with a huge football player sized man.
All I know is that he quickly retreated and sped away. I remember feeling bad that he still had that puppy. I knew intuitively in my young six year old mind that this could not be a good thing. I never knew why my mother came around that corner. Was it intuition or was she just coming to the bus stop to meet me because it was raining?
My mother held me close while we walked home. She told me over and over to never again approach a stranger. I looked up and there were tears in her eyes as she explained the dangers of the world.
I knew then that my mother would always protect me. And she did in many different ways as I grew up.
Fast forward fifty four years. My mother died about six years ago. I don’t think I ever fully appreciated her until she was gone. I think of her often. How she forged through life doing without so my sister and I could have somewhat of a normal childhood is mind boggling. The sacrifices she made were simply what almost every other mother would do facing the same situation. She always did the best she could with what she had to work with.
A few days ago I went to retrieve the SD card out of one of my trail cameras in the woods. As I approached the site I noticed the camera was missing. As trail cameras are frequently stolen by questionable people who have no moral or ethical sense I immediately assumed that this expensive unit had been lifted and I would never find out who took it.
As I came closer to where the camera was hanging on a tree I noticed that the setting did not look quite right. The tree where the camera had been located was pushed over. The four inch diameter beech tree was laying flat on its side and one side of its root ball stuck up into the air. As I looked around I noticed that the nearby apples had all been eaten. Every last one of them. Still there was no camera.
I started looking at the forest floor closely. There were signs of disturbance. Significant depressions about the size of a small plate were prominent. In one area where the ground was muddy I noticed a shiny metal clip. I dug around the object and extracted it from the mud. It was my trail camera. It had been stepped on and pounded into the dirt. Its strap was torn off of the back of the camera. I found that later about ten yards away. The camera was a little beaten up. I tested it to see if it worked . It didn’t. I took it apart and found the batteries to be dislodged from the cradle. I repositioned them and tried to operate the testing procedure on the camera again. This time it worked. Happy to see that I didn’t loose an operational camera I removed the SD card. I was hoping to see if this would help to unravel the mystery at hand.
About fifteen minutes later I was back at my house and sitting at my computer. I put the SD card in a SC card reader and plugged it into the USB port. I selected “view photos” on the monitor. When the photos came up I was pleasantly surprised.
The first two photos were of a bear cub. Then a photo of what looks to be a big black nose, but its too close to be in focus. Then a few blurred shots, probably of the mother bear trying to dislodge the camera. Then some more blurry shots of tree foliage, as if the tree were being shaken. And finally one last blurry photo of a huge hairy paw as the camera is about the bet pushed into the mud by a very protective mama bear.
No doubt the mother bear smelled human odor on the camera. This being a threat she decided to get rid of the camera. She tipped the tree over, ripped the camera off the trunk with her nails, and then pummeled the camera into the soggy forest floor wet from a month of rain. Either that or she was camera shy. I’m really not sure which.
Below are a few of the photos (Click on photos to enlarge).
The universal truth of about mothers and their young can be put into just a few words. Don’t mess with Mom. Not now, not then, not ever. Human or otherwise leave Mom’s kids alone. Or else.
And that’s just one of the reasons that we all love our mothers.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in October 2011.