Observations Made

On being a “Gray” man

Bendigo Strange
As Evening sets in
August 11th, 2022

Whether familiar with the term “Gray Man”or not, were you to conduct the briefest of internet searches one would be met with a definition that goes something akin to this. “A person who can blend in to any environment who does not draw attention for the right or wrong reasons, does not appear neither prey nor threat, while possessing the skills capable of handling any circumstance thrown at them”. If it reads to you like something out of spy fiction, that is because largely it is. Suddenly websites, articles, and social media posts became voracious in their push for the adaptation of one becoming a “gray man”, and for some reason there was always pictures that included wearing a hoodie pulled up, and low over the face. Followed with pictures of whatever micro compact 9mm pistol is the rage, a flashlight, tactical folding blade, and a newer nylon backpack that was just like the older tactical packs only no Velcro or MOLLE panels on the outside.

No doubt, covert operatives from any nation are taught to hone these skills to avoid detection in a very real world. And while you may automatically think of the Agency or MI6, there are a host of nations, both friendly and animus alike who employ a small number of individuals to work in specific areas of the world. Their main tasks can be to develop assets (spies), conduct reconnaissance on military installations, power grids, water supplies, response times to natural or man made disasters, locate sufficient landing areas for water craft, or aircraft, and most frequently act as saboteurs. For the individuals who are employed to conduct covert intelligence operations the ability to blend into whatever society and go unnoticed is quite literally a matter of life or death.

To anyone on the outside of the personal defense culture looking in, this no doubt was a head scratcher. Isn’t this just ditching your (enter favorite veteran t-shirt company name), and wearing clothes from the mall, Target, or what have you?

The “Gray Man” bandwagon was/is simply neotactical fashion, to replace what was once the all black “ninja wear” of the late 80s and 90s, to the Coyote, FDE (Flat Dark Earth), and sand fashion of the first decade plus of the twenty-first century. Kuhls for a while was the brand you wore to blend in, because they sold them at those high end alpine shops, till everyone wore them to gun school. So those had to go. Next came retailers hawking their obvious tactical gear for your life and vehicle, while calling it “gray man”. Leaving the inside of your truck looking like a police cruiser

The irony being, many of these retailers have touted their “veteran owned” status as if to allude to the fact they were all covert operators, when in reality they did their combat tours quite literally in uniform, with regulation hair cuts devoid of facial hair. A veteran owned company, a special forces operator does not make. Point being, that many of the retailers of such goods, had ideas to sell to the burgeoning market, while not actually having any practical work experience behind it.

When I was in my twenties, I was hired by a law firm in the heart of downtown to identify a stalker that was harassing a young attractive paralegal of one of the firm’s partners. By the time I was brought on board her stalker was sending unwanted and bizarre gifts to work, and phone calls were made to her direct line. One has to reach back in time and understand that the internet was not what it is now, and there were not surveillance cameras on every street corner and office building. For the first few days, I put on a suit and tie and followed about a block behind her, running a counter foot surveillance from public parking, noting the contingent of local homeless people in the area during her five to six block walk. Before sunrise the next morning I was seated on a piece of cardboard near the office high rise entrance, unshaven, wearing intentionally modified clothing. Around 9:30 that morning two of the local homeless guys walked over to where I sat, the older of the two waving his palm down indicating for me not to standup, then he sat down. “You too clean and you walk too rigid, like you on guard. Everybody smell the cop on you.”, I mimicked offense and said “I sir, am no cop.” An hour later they had given me strict pointers on how to carry myself, most importantly stop looking defiant. No one is going to give a handout to someone they thought was going to harm them, or to quote my friend “you got a killer look on your face. Relax.” In the process of the tutoring I received, gained a network of spies along four streets. Her stalker it would turn out, was a guy who was older and married and worked in a building three blocks in the opposite direction. They passed each other every morning. Where I was looking for someone following behind her, I figured out he was following ahead of her, every morning walking in her direction only to pass her. Clearly early on he had followed her at some point to find her vehicle, but where they passed one another on the street he could stop, take a few sips of coffee and watch her walk into her office a block away.

Adopting the “vagrant” method would be one I would go on to use and develop for the next twenty years. Rarely is the method the linchpin to the solution, but rather a way to pick up puzzle pieces, along the way. For a week one summer I stood near a highway overpass with an obligatory “homeless vet” and “God Bless anything helps” sign just to ID a vehicle a target drove, and which direction on the highway they got on. This in turned allowed me to set up a vehicle surveillance the following week. Slow methodical work. I also made just under $300 in the course of a week standing there.

I thought about all of this late last week when I needed to adopt a modified vagrant, slightly meth-head appearance to delve into an on going Client circumstance. In this instance a foray into a various bits of rural American towns that are off the main arteries of the interstate highway system. Where there are unlicensed, hidden in plain sight strip clubs, bars and even casinos. Some are out of the way, others hidden behind the glass of old strip mall store fronts. Where you watch the old guy in a wheel chair, who lost his leg to diabetes, do a bump of coke with a hooker. Meth is usually the choice, so the presence of cocaine takes you back a bit. Small town America can not shake the devastating effect of drug culture.

Walking past them on the sidewalk you enter into the storefront and joke to yourself “light on the store and heavy on the front”, pay the door guy the five dollar fee and he slides you over a “membership card” and a pen. “Keep this on you while you are here. You can come and go until close as long as you present the card. I have to wand you for weapons and have you lift up your shirt”. The last part kind of surprises you because they didn’t do that the last time. The wand lights up and makes it wurgurbeep sound as it passes over your crotch and then right pocket. “What’s in your pockets?” So you pull out three quarters, a bic lighter and a Swiss Army Knife, and shoot him a raised eyebrow. He scoffs and says “yeah a pen knife is the least of my worries dad”. You kind of feel that one, but at the same time understand that his dismissal at your not quite twenty years age gap works to your advantage. So you slide them back in your pocket, while realizing that he made the mistake of assuming the well worn Smith & Wesson J frame .38 and Otanashi Noh Ken tactical folder riding in your crotch holster was the brass zipper on your frayed and stained cargo shorts. “Gotta let me look through your bag too,” At first you wonder if bringing the manatee colored Umlindi Pack from Hill People Gear is a mistake, especially since you didn’t cut the HPG tag off. He leans down and unzips the top and says “hey there aren’t needles in here are there? I don’t care if you got ‘em I just don’t want to get stuck.”, “nah man just clothes and shit”. He does a cursory poke through the bag, pulls the water bottle from the side pouch and gives it a quick sniff to make sure you’re not bringing in booze, because after all, the illegal “gentleman’s” club wants you to buy theirs. BYOB this is not. He hands the pack back, as you make out the butt of his pistol. Yup, a full size Hi-Point in a black nylon velcro tabbed holster, worn cross draw none the less. Despite his thirty pounds and two inches (and twenty years junior), you feel relatively sure that if need be you could walk out of here with it. Then just for fun you say “Whoa! You guys are serious. I was in here back in the winter and I don’t remember anyone packing a 9 caliber hand cannon.” The flat face look wins another quick dismissive toned response “9mm. There’s no such thing as a 9 caliber pistol, and that plywood on the door was from some guys trying to rob us back in June. Shot the door out as they left.”

So for the next hour while the covert camera on your person records away, you make mental notes on as much as you can. Your head feeling oily and greasy from the dirty, gun-oil stained black bandana that’s tied over your head. The reddish and white tinged spots from where your old favorite “gun shirt” with the skull on front got hit with bleach at some point melds perfectly with the long passed frayed and ripped, knee length cargo shorts and torn up hiking boots. Yet the boots are valuable, as they provide not only solid foot protection but anti-slip traction. You can fight in them (and with them) and run. Just before you leave, you pick up your backpack, head into the bathroom to discover one of the “strippers” providing VIP service to a customer. Passing by he offers you a nod and a fist bump at you while grinning. To not fully acknowledge the bathroom debauchery is two fold, one being moralistic and out of place, so you do. Giving the fist bump over the top of her head and laughing you add “fuckin’ full service” with an unlit Swisher Sweet between your lips. The second social feux pas in not acknowledging his in delicto however, could quickly be seen as a slight, where you could quickly find yourself in a confined space with a lean, aggressive fighter a couple or more decades younger than you, and clearly armed with a truck stop tactical folder. Slipping into the stall you pull the snubnosed .38 and knife from their deep concealment, and into your waistband for faster access should the need arise. No sense in hampering yourself for the 1/8 of a mile walk back to the truck.

The one thing I have found in traversing this type of landscape, is that if a person is not traveling in a vehicle, ie; they are on foot or the ever present bicycle, there is always a backpack present. This works only in your favor.

About three or four years back, I was hired to penetrate the satellite office for a company whose employee was up to no good, and regularly absent from the office where he was the sole occupying force. For two or three weeks straight, both in the middle of the day and evening I would venture into the office building dressed in whatever I chose to wear in order to blend into that landscape of lawyers, insurance agents, and small office rental America. When they decided they were going to terminate his employment they asked if I could go in the night before and obtain all relevant documents and his desktop PC, to which I obliged. After spending the better part of an afternoon going through the office collecting what was needed, I left well after dark with the contents in tow in a roller suitcase, dressed in a Filson Mackinaw jacket, khakis and leather boots, and a messenger bag on my shoulder. Walking out, with the lady across the hall to the elevator bank she asked “how long have you worked in that office?” I laughed, then lied “two years too long.” She simply added “Isn’t that all of us.” As the elevator doors opened she bid me a good evening.

What we term “tactical” gear is not as out of place in American culture as one may be lead to believe. For instance, the retailers TJ Max and Marshals carry on the regular, backpacks, fanny packs and duffel bags in OD Green, Black, knock off camo and Coyote complete with MOLLE panels. Every major hardware store sells one handed, pocket clip knives work knives, and I know a large swath of guys who carry a pocket clipped knife who either don’t own a gun, or are anti-gun. This mythos of a knife in the top of your pocket equates you to carrying a firearm is little more than none sense. Hang around the outside of a truck stop sometime and observe all of the guys looking for handout or rides across the country. Most all of them have a knife and I would venture to guess that less than 5% of them have a firearm. The same could be said of sitting in a sandwich shop, taco or burger joint during the lunch rush. The average blue collar guy (and gal) carry a one handed folder every day. There might be a gun under the seat or in the arm rest, but the majority of laborers aren’t carrying a gun at work. This is America after all.

The “Gray Man” methodology is well intentioned in it’s more honest areas, but we also need to call a spade a spade. Some of this is nothing more than slick marketing, convincing you to spend three hundred dollars on a shirt and pant ensemble to make it look like you spent $150 at Kohls.

In all of my years, which can now be marked by having successfully traversing from one century to another working surveillances, protection details and being situationally present ; there was always one thing that made people stand out of the crowd more than anything. It was and remains how they acted, or carried themselves. The guy who always starts problems in a nightclub, wedding, or social event telegraphs his intentions a half hour or more before the show starts.

Having worked in any myriad of environments both domestically and abroad my clothing never made me “stand out”. Having, at times, a rough edged demeanor certainly did.

All that to say, blending into the landscape from which you live and work around on a daily basis isn’t difficult, its nothing more than common sense. But for the love of God, if you go to Europe, leave the white socks at home.

Be your own Bodyguard?

Is the common internet utterance based in reality?

Bendigo Strange

Near Dark

July 27th, 2022

In China there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affections for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It was said that he died of fright. He was probably a man who always spoke big words but acted differently when faced with the real thing.” -Yamamoto Tsunetomo

If you have delved even remotely beneath the surface water of the personal defense world that exists on line you have no doubt seen the phrase “be your own bodyguard” buttoned up next to a #.

While no doubt the phrase is meant to imply that your personal safety is your responsibility. A statement that many of us certainly agree with, and even a cursory examination of the last few years has brought legions into the fold as first time gun sales have soared through the stratosphere. But as one old sage put it; buying a guitar, a musician doth not make.

In my younger years, when I was being reared into the World’s fifth oldest profession one was taught that a “bodyguard” was a four letter word. A Protection Specialist was an individual who pursued his craft purposefully and that a “bodyguard” was a no neck thug who relied on his sheer physical structure or the bulging handgun underneath a cheap suit to thwart any undesirables. As I ventured forth into the world to protect the lives of more than a few executives and private families, I soon learned that there are more “bodyguards” than professional protectors. The water being wide between the two.

I also quickly came to realize that the average person held no such distinctions between the two, and the bodyguard was to the protection professional as the Marine is to the Soldier. That is to imply that the terms were interchangeable, thus one should not read that as a dig to neither the Marine nor Soldier.

This water became further muddied as the culture of conceal carry arose from it’s humble beginnings to having it’s own celebrity culture. As did the phrase “Be your own bodyguard” when it was borrowed by, then up and country singer, Miranda Lambert who touted that she carried a gun and didn’t have a security detail because, as she said “I’m my own bodyguard”. It spurred a lot of heart swelling among the gun culture and country music fans for very obvious reasons. The statement really said “I’m one of yours”, boots and all.

A journalist I knew at the time asked me what I thought about that and I said “One can be a Country singer or a Bodyguard, but one can not be both”. A year or two later a celebrity type magazine showed her out shopping and crossing the street, “bodyguard” in tow. Because as her star rose, so did the threat level against her personal safety.

The term we know, and that she made somewhat popular, gained traction in an earlier era as Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite and the Modern Technique, touted the phrase after he returned from some foreign locale, where he had trained a presidential guard in the Modern Technique. He stated, in effect, that a bodyguard was in essence a mercenary and that he was paid to be there. Someone with more money and ill intent could pay a higher sum and compromising the integrity of the security structure. Thus declaring “one must be their own bodyguard”. No doubt Cooper saw the potential for a coup in the making through loyalty that is only as strong as the money it is printed on, or ideology adhered to. A lesson Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of India, learned the hard way when she was assassinated by two of her own bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, on October 31st, 1984.

One could suspect that Indira knew something was afoot, and that her life was in danger. During her last speech, given the day before her assassination she said “I am alive today, I may not be there tomorrow … I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it  … Even if I died in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it. Every drop of my blood … will contribute to the growth of this nation and to make it strong and dynamic.”

She was shot over thirty times by both a Sten SMG and a .38 Special revolver. One could argue that this somewhat reinforces the point of “be your own bodyguard” but, one can hardly be the head of state and in charge of one’s own security.

By contrast, famed World War II General turned President of France, Charles de Gaulle was advised by the head of his security early into his presidency that de Gaulle should not attend a state event due to the threat of an possible assassination attempt. De Gaulle simply replied “My job is to be the President of France. Your job is to protect the President of France”. While de Gaulle was famous for his arrogance, he also was not wrong in that instance.

We’ve come to a place in time where someone can simply throw whatever label they choose upon themselves and decree it so. Reason be damned. From a societal standpoint one would not have to venture too far down this line of of thought to recognize the obvious actors, but we have to also look at the more subtle labels as well. Many of the early social media darlings of the tactical world had prior military experience perhaps, but not combat experience. Or they had come to fame for their shooting prowess that stood on it’s own, but they decided they needed to sex it up a bit and allude to a clandestine background that simply never existed, unwillingly to say “I’m simply a gifted marksman, firearms enthusiast and believe in the personal right to self-defense”. The problem became in the Afghanistan and Iraq War era Special Operations warriors caught the most glamour of praise, and thus the borrowed and stolen valor arose.

With the pandemic came the rise of the “expert virologists”. Not just limited to that friend of social media but well into the medical field as well. Doctors from all disciplines were overnight weighing in on the local news channels, relevant experience be damned. So one might see, in a world where men and women who have made a profession in the realm of Executive Protection or being a “Bodyguard” the layman attaching a label to themselves that otherwise does not fit, something of a ding. Worse yet a hashtag to garner a following.

An individual should absolutely take a pro-active approach to their personal safety and their skill set towards personal defense. The world is continually reaffirming the fact that when the feces hits the impeller no one is going to save you, one is going to have to contend with the bad men of the world alone. Prevailing or dying. Thus, given rise to the moniker “be your own bodyguard”, and the prevailing sales of the latest and greatest concealed holsters, lighting fast mag changes and what we’ve come to call the Three T’s. Trauma Training and Tourniquets. All, everyone of the aforementioned are important skills to have, but these are tools in a tool box. However, in the world of Executive Protection having to deploy those skills has historically meant there were failures of the protection personnel leading up to that point. In other words, the skills with a firearm are not a primary skill of executive protection and that, personal security is a different capability than personal defense, while understanding the two are married to one another

So with that in mind, we are going to explore what the essential qualities are for someone in the field of Executive Protection in a series of articles. How that translates into the everyday life of people not employed in the field but concerned about their personal safety, security, and defense.

I will close with this. Do I think that the average person can in fact “be their own bodyguard”? I do not. The role of a Protector is a servants position, in that you are literally in the employment of another person to look after their personal security while they do their job and live everyday life. No one would run with the hashtags “be your own Navy SEAL” or “Be your own Special Forces”, and we all understand why. With that said, I also fully understand the context of which the phrase is implied, and as my mentor drove home to me over and over, you have to be willing to adapt.

So keep an eye out on the Guns, Gear, and Skills page for this new series.

You won’t get a lot of shaves like that

Bendigo Strange

Big Horn Mountains (near Cloud Peak Wilderness)

July 4th, 2022

Originally you were supposed to get up just past sunrise and take the girl to climb those big rock faces just north of camp, then head to town to see what Buffalo, Wyoming does for Independence Day. Yet neither of those things had occurred.

Instead it’s the last day in one of your favorite camps, on one of your best trips, where nothing bad had occurred except for both the kid and the dog scraping their chins open. The later coming through an open mountain meadow on a dead run not seeing the rock, and going over it chin then feet. When she stumbled to her feet she tested her jaw in such a human way that you expected her to say something about the pain. That was early in the trip and it had all been fine after that.

So with nothing else to do you start to pack up what parts of camp you can, drink coffee and fish one of the last donuts out of the box. You wander over to the creek that is pure snow melt running off the peaks above camp to watch the last vestiges of youth in your little girl, play in the cold water as you sit in the camp chair almost feeling the chill of the water on her bare feet against the smooth stones of the creek bed.

The full shade of the pines feels perfect, unlike the tent just up the slight rise that sits in full sun not twenty feet away. And now on the last day at 3 0’clock you run a hand over your head feeling the six days of stubble that you had planned to have shaved when you all made the trek to Sheridan for lunch. Then the old school hipster barber closed early that day, having missed out on the opportunity of a stranger take a straight razor to your skull.

Finally you succumb to it. Pulling yourself up, and throwing the latches on the camp box you dig around to find a stainless camp mug. The one you bought in Colorado twenty years ago when you spent a week in the Rockies investigating a scheme for a Client who is probably long since dead, and pair it with the camp mirror you bought at the Sports Lure in Buffalo. Finding your shaving kit, along with towel you set it all to rest on the pine needle floor.

A few minutes later, you feel the tingle of the shaving cream on your head. The first few razor strokes leave clean, smooth lines of bare skin, the razor clanking around the steel mug of water that came out of the creek. The cup rests again on the upended bundle of firewood used as a makeshift table and you look into the mirror, making another pass with the razor.

In the old days they wore what was termed moccasins around camp, not a true buckskin moccasin but something more akin to a soft leather slip on shoe, like the Sperry Topsiders you loved as a kid because you didn’t have to wear socks with them. You replaced that idea with the ever popular river sandals that mark the passage of summer with their strange tan line on your feet that are now outstretched against the forest floor. Remembering the summer, as teenagers, when you and Bill went hard after black tipped sharks and the day you sun burned the top of your feet so bad you couldn’t wear shoes for a week. Back then you loved the ocean and the beach more than anything, but it was the only place you were cut loose as a kid to roam. The mountains of course would sing their siren song and you hadn’t seen the beach in a long while, and the mountains never as much as you wanted. You had made the choice years back to keep an urban life so you could make a living that involved people and not mountains. “Fool”.

The razor scrapes the last of the hair from your head, while the towel removes the wayward bits of shaving cream. The scalp now feeling soft, clean and slightly rubbery as a slight breeze makes itself known. The wide brimmed hat hangs on a bent pine nearby with your gun belt and shirt. Stepping back out into the sun, especially now having been freshly scalped requires the hat, but you’re not ready. Not ready to see the big tent drop tomorrow, to hear the tail gate on the Ford close, not ready to lose the stars that don’t appear in the summer night mountain sky until damn near eleven. Your toes feel the conflict of pine needles against bare feet, their sharp and soft contrast mingled together. Pleasure and pain always seemingly equidistant apart.

The old teak wood chair squeaks as you look down the creek to see the girl, still in the cold mountain runoff that makes the creek, and reach for your coffee. Looking past the clarity of the creek and as deep into the stand of pines as possible, knowing you won’t get a lot of shaves like that.

Of Wolves, Dogs and Children

Imagine for a moment that wolves were a pervasive problem across the country.

We were left with contending at any given moment a solitary wolf slipping into the school yard, play ground, or birthday party and attacking children. The public out cry began to build and the government in all of it’s infinite wisdom decided it should step in.

After much conferring with people who knew nothing about wolves and had never seen a wolf decided that the only real answer was to not risk another child’s life. From the Senate to the White House a solution was provided.

Every domestic dog that weighed over 25lbs was to be rounded up and slaughtered.

Dog owners and lovers became enraged “our dogs are not wolves”, yet the Government responded “we have talked with experts and have concluded that since dogs are all descendents from the wolf we can not afford, for the sake of the children, to risk what we see as ticking time bombs in our homes. We feel that every dog lover can be reasonable and accept that dogs 25lb and under can keep the average dog lover happy”.

The public pointed back “but what are you going to do about the wolves coming out from the woods and attacking our children?”

Of course such a question could not be effectively answered because wolves are wild and one does not know where they all live.

Dogs on the other hand live in homes and have rabies tags and there are records where they live.

Such is the philosophy of gun control.

In the Big Country

We had camped West of Glacier National Park by about fifty miles, halfway between Kalispell and Whitefish in a National Forest campground and nine miles back, off a Forest Service road. Far enough back that cell phone reception was non existent. A rare thing in the twenty-first year of the twenty-first century.

Our camp sat in a valley surrounded by pines and very little ground cover, giving one sufficient shade during the unexpected heat wave the NorthWest was under going in June. I liked this camp because you could see fifty yards in any direction, and in some cases further. We had scouted another camp site some forty miles away, earlier in the day and another lake ago that I did not like. There the pines had been almost claustrophobically close to one another, and brush that ranged from three to six feet high. Despite being located along a beautiful mountain lake, in the far northern reaches of the lower forty-eight, I did not like it. I did not like it in a strategic sense. A career spent making threat assessments you learn to weigh various potential outcomes, while also understanding that living risk adverse is no way to live.

I had once read of an account of a couple of Russian lumberjacks somewhere deep in the Taiga. They had been walking through a particular thick forest when a Brown bear emerged, took hold of one of the men and simply disappeared with him. Later when they recovered the various pieces of him, the most predominant part they found were his pants that had been torn from him as he was dragged through the forest.

Montana, is of course what we commonly refer to as “bear country”though much of the U.S Missouri is technically bear country. Strong conservation efforts having made great strides to help return Ursus Americanus , or the American Black Bear to thriving numbers in much of their original range, but when one says “bear country” in America, we mean only one thing. Grizzly Country. Ursus Arctos Horribillis, named in the Latin for literally being horrible, by naturalist George Ord.

Being something of a common sense individual, and having been in “big bear” country more than a few times, I am fully aware that most people who live there and never see or interact with one, ranchers aside of course. So while the topic of Grizzlies between Myself, the Wife, and a certain ten year old Daughter whom I shall refer to as Utilivu*, came up often on our annual pilgrimage westward, as well as in camp, we didn’t hide out in our little Rockwood Roo, anticipating death by fur at any given moment. Like all responsible outdoorspeople we made sure the campfire was drowned out before bedding down. We locked the cooler up in the truck per campsite mandate (this being my least favorite activity) . More than a couple of nights I was tempted to slide it under the camper, and invite McDuff to lay on, but one knows how well Macbeth faired after such an invite.

That all said, while we did not live in constant concern of an encounter with a massive bruin, a .45 revolver of one of two makes rode tucked in a Barranti Leather holster inside my waistband, loaded with Buffalo Bore’s finest loads.

The first story I remember reading about a Grizzly attack was the one that attacked Game Warden Lou Kris in Montana back in the mid to late 1980s. He ended the fracas with his 357, but not before the bear chomped on his knee hard enough that it broke his leg.

Grizzly Bears are a lot like Great Whites. Their mere name elicits any variety of response, let alone a certain healthy fear of them. You know the likely hood of being killed or even attacked by one is incredibly low, even when you place yourself in their environ, but it’s never zero.

Back in 2017, we were camped out in our big 12×12 Cabelas “Green tent”, North of Ketchum, Idaho well into the Sawtooths. I was told this was “technically bear country” but So & So had lived there thirty years and had never seen a Grizzly. With the sunsets being practically at ten p.m. in the early summer the stars didn’t truly show themselves until almost 1am. The women in bed, and dozing off at the fire I was awakened by something crashing through the brush on the hillside behind our camp. Surely, it was an elk, because So & So had never seen a Grizzly in his thirty years of living in the area. I pulled the .30-30 lever gun that hung by the sling off the back of the camp chair, listened for a few moments, searching with the big flashlight, then the infrared monocular made by Leupold to no avail. I conveniently also decided to go to bed. Rifle along side my leg and my Ruger .45 Flat-top loaded quite literally for bear, on my chest.

A few weeks later we were back home, the mountains now out of our visual range, though not out of our spiritual, I sat reading the happenings around Ketchum, and longing for mountain life. I caught a small headline.

“Bear prompts campground closures at North Fork”

Apparently Idaho Fish & Game had to remove a troublesome Grizzly from the area after it raided the campground, and “grabbed the foot of a camper sleeping on the ground”. The article felt obliged to mention that the woman was not injured nor was the sleeping bag damaged, though it did have saliva on it.

It also turned out to be where we had been camped. So much for So & So’s thirty years of inexperience.

This year after leaving Montana in early July, I heard the ill fated story of the California woman who was dragged from her tent and mauled to death by a four hundred pound Grizzly. Camped out in town none the less. She and her companions had broken the cardinal rule of camping in bear country.

They had food in their tent.

I suppose one could take complete umbrage to this. Citing that it’s not proper to call out the deceased for their transgressions. None the less, her death came from a result of poor decision making, and a simple one easily avoided. Perhaps we don’t think it “fair” I suppose. The bear doesn’t know what fair is.

The three of us, talked about this at dinner one night. Utilivu noting that she had this fear in the back of her head the whole time we were camped in Montana, what if there was a bear stalking her. My wife rolled her eyes and remarked “you think the bear is a ninja with night vision goggles on constantly hunting and stalking?” I pointed out, that, yes in fact, that is exactly what the bear is.

Years back, fishing a slough for catfish around sunset, my buddy and I heard the howls of coyotes incredibly close to us in a nearby field. Deciding he would go and investigate he inadvertently walked right into the middle of the pack as he came out of some tall cane stalks. Hearing his yelling I walked out to see what was going on, only to find four or five coyotes running in a circle around him, yapping and barking. I fired a shot from the black powder revolver I was carrying and it proved to be enough. The coyotes scattered and ran, leaving he and I looking at each other as if to say “did that really just happen?”.

We take for granted the idea that a predator is always a predator, as they have to be. The coyote, the bear, the wolf, the hawk, the owl. They are always hunting in order to eat. In order to provide sustenance for themselves or the pack. We visit. We hike, we climb, we hunt, we camp, but we visit.

The Bear is always the Bear.

* ( Utilivu : those of you who are fans of novelist Jack Carr, this is more akin to calling a big man “Tiny”)