28 July 2009

Bear Man

Location: Whitehorse, YT, Canada

I was sitting outside the Yukon Visitor’s Center in Whitehorse. We were waiting to watch a Bear Awareness video and I noticed a man stuffing clothing under his shirt. 

I tried not to be too obvious but my eyes were drawn to him. 
I watched as he continued to jam more and more clothing into the belly of his shirt, down the shirts's arms and finally into a huge pair of pants he was wearing. When finished, he buttoned his shirt and tied a rope around his waist. He picked up the largest work boot I think I have ever seen (it must have been a man’s size 18 or 20) and put it on his right foot. On his left foot, he wore an everage sized shoe. He looked like a very fat, short Santa Claus with one giant foot. He placed a helmet over his small head and walked directly over to me. Oh-Oh! ... I've been staring and I've been rude! He looked at me and a great big grin flooded his face ... he displayed a mouth with a single tooth (dead center on the top - HONEST)

Well, "I'm pleased to meet you", he said and then proceeded to talk in one long sentence ...

"I am putting on clothing to protect me from bears; I ride my bike everywhere and the bears can’t get me when I am wearing all this. I have ridden my bike all over the place. I once rode it to Mexico and then I moved to California for several years. That was in the 60s (hmmm…wonder what drew him to California in the 60s???). 

Janice Joplin lived two blocks from me, he then told me.


She went on to become famous you know. Back then she wasn’t though. Did you know that she died young? We were the same age – she would be 66 now – same as me. We also came from back east, she grew up in Texas but I call that back east. I was born in Whitehorse but grew up in Toronto, which is back east, same as Janice. Great things are going to happen to me, I can feel it – Janice wasn’t as lucky though, she died. I have a new bike; I like it here because the RCMP doesn’t bother you. They used to bother me when I drove a car because I didn’t have a license; I guess you shouldn’t drive if you don’t have a license. Now I just ride my bike and they don’t bother me". 

With his one big shoe, clothed in multiple layers of bear protection and more than a few Janice Joplin memories in tow ... he grinned at me, hopped on his bike and pedalled away into a Yukon night. 

There really are some extraordinary and fascinating folks out there, and in our lifetimes, if we're just lucky enough, we may get to cross paths with a few of them as we travel. I was fortunate to meet one in Whitehorse that afternoon ...

Wry ... reporting

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