I've spent the last couple of days at my friend's house in Pendleton, OR. He's currently living in an apartment with his girlfriend and her 2 kids, but he has purchased 300+ acres to the north of here where he intends to build a house. He has spent the past couple of days showing me his property. It is mostly rolling grasslands, but there are some nice forests scattered around. There is a road that cuts across the property which is open to the public, but there is no right-of-way or easement on the plats. The road is used mainly by hunters. My friend is afraid to put up gates for fear of alienating his neighbors, so he hopes the road will wash out on its own. There is one very bad spot that is on the verge of gullying. It was our goal to help nature along and speed the erosion process.
There is a culvert that goes under the road at a hairpin turn. We spent about an hour shoving logs and branches into the culvert. We also funneled water that runs down the road into a cut we made across the road. I dug a channel to carry water past the culvert and over the road during the next rain. We felt like great eco-terrorists!
The reason for destroying the road had increased significance for us. As we were walking along a dry creek bed, my friend stopped and said that something was dead nearby. When I got close to where he was I, too, smelled the unmistakable scent of death. I turned into the wind and walked forward. A few steps brought me to a large furry carcass along the banks of the creek.....it was a black bear.
We both just stood there for a long time. My friend is not furry, per se, but he has a great attachment to bears as well. I didn't feel sad. I didn't feel mad. I felt numb. I couldn't take my eyes from the gaping mouth with a pained look frozen on its muzzle. It's teeth were very clean and healthy looking. It looked like the poor creature had been rotting there for a couple of months. Despite the smell I put my hand over its back paw. My hand was just slightly bigger. I ran my finger over its gums and its nose. One claw had fallen off and was laying on its chest. I took the claw with me. Hopefully my friend will be able to retrieve the skull next Spring and put it in a place of reverence.
We were told by my friend's neighbor that given the seemingly healthy condition of the teeth and the position in which the bear was found, it was most likely shot by a hunter/poacher/redneck. And so it was with renewed vigor with which we attacked the road. We both agreed that humans really suck, and the fewer that can get access to the area, the better. A beautiful creature no longer lives thanks to some fucking asshole that thought shooting a living being was fun. I'm still numb.