I spent the summer of ’94 living in Nome
while my dad did contract work for the military, cleaning up old World War II
installations that were left behind to rust. One bright summer day I was standing in a local gift shop
, buying my weekly dose of ice cream
when my mom came over to me and said:
"Sam, the teller just told me that a polar bear is on the east side of town!! We have to call your dad!"
My mom is terrified of bears
, and although our house is on the other side of Nome
, in a town of only 3500 people, no one is that far from anyone else. We hurried back to our apartment with my two younger brothers and called my dad, who was working at the high school
10 minutes away. Being the person he is, he predictably rushed back in the Suburban
to pick us up and go check it out.
Conservatively, half the town had left their houses to see the bear
. Polar bears
rarely stroll down into the area around Nome during the summer; the main type of bears you'd see would be little grizzlies
munching on blue berries
This wasn't a little grizzly
. This was a full blown "mess with me and I'll fuck you up
" polar bear
. Before anyone had come, he had found a dead seal
on the beach, and was munching on it. The road ran perpendicular to the beach, leaving about 1/8 between shore and roadside. Locals lined the pavement, parked in trucks and anything they could get their hands on, standing on the roofs so they could get a better view.
After driving the 2 miles from our house, we pulled up to the mass of cars, and climbed onto the roof. We were several hundred feet away from the bear
, which was then sitting docile on its rear, looking shiftily at the crowd. Off on the ocean a lone fishing boat
snuck its way closer to the shore for a better look.
I don't know what people thought would happen. Take a hungry wild animal
, the top of its food chain
and surround him with people leaving no access for escape. What were we waiting for? Did he need to do a little dance
and then we'd go home? Something had to happen; all the people were entranced, including me.
A small boy took it upon himself to solve us of our problems, and cause all new ones. An Eskimo
boy of no more than 7 picked up a small rock
, and with a surprisingly good effort, threw it as hard as he could at the bear
. No one likes having things thrown at them, so although he didn't hit anything but sand
, the bear
made a growling bark
and reared up on it's hind legs, promptly scaring the living shit
of everyone who was standing on their roofs.
then started to charge right towards our car. My dad grabbed me and my brother and dragged us into the car. I turned around just in time in the chaos of people rushing for their vehicles and doors slamming to see a lone Eskimo
raise a rifle
, and with delicate grace, shot the polar bear 3 times in the side. The bear didn't break stride after the first shot, stopped after the second, and fell on the third.
Each shot looked like a red paintball
had struck, leaving a little bit of paint that just continued to spew. The huge beast, more yellow than white from the dirtiness of living on land, slowly stopped moving, and its coat turned pinkish red. We didn’t stick around
who shot it got to keep the coat, much to the uproar of the non-native population
. The bear
had been in the area for a week, but the authorities didn’t tell anyone because “they didn’t want a panic or an incident.” No mention was made of the little boy
in the papers, it appears only I and a select few saw him throw the rock.
I grew up after that, seeing the mob-like attraction of a crowd to something dangerous
, then being surprised when someone does something stupid and things get out of hand. I was 11 years old.