09 May, 2010

Coffee Break - Hospitals, WW II, Kittens, and Bears

Brown-Bear.jpg picture by caseyklahn

So Embarrassing.

 There is never a dull moment around here.  I wanted to have a cup of coffee with my readers and bring you up to date.  Much of studio life takes place outside the walls of the studio.  My studio is on my property in rural eastern Washington, and my family life and other country happenings this week have kept me away from art and this screen.

1. My son, Carson, stayed overnight in the hospital last week with a skin disease.  His skin is now almost clear, and he is doing great.  It was hard for the parents of an eight year old, but for him it was like a stay in a luxury hotel.  He missed school all week except half a day, and last night, I took him to the movies.  I have been updating peeps via Facebook.

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2. Yesterday, May 8th, commemorated the end of WW II in Europe.  Sixty-five years ago the unconditional surrender went into effect and was dubbed V-E Day.  The US press was absent, for the most part, in commemorating this, but I see that the UK and much of Europe, and Canada did have ample press regarding this important date.  Since my US audience needs remedial history on this, I have prepared a set of five facts you didn't know about V-E Day, which is at the bottom of this post.

3. Let's do the bear story next.  Yesterday morning I found myself in the woods alone with a bear.  This has happened to me a handful of times, but I usually don't get too charged up about it.  The American Black Bear is pretty much like a big, cuddly dog who leaves you alone if you leave him alone.  This one was different. This bruin was very large, and uncomfortably close.  I estimated about 70 yards away, and above me.  His color was an amazing cinnamon brown, but not like the brown or blond that marks the back of Black Bears sometimes.  This guy was head to claw cinnamon brown, and flawless.  Because of the size, and the unusual color, I started doing the checklist in my head that is titled: "Is This a Grizzly?"

He was looking at me.  I was looking at him and doing the field taxonomy that any sane woodsman does in his head. First, you look for the hump at the shoulders.  Since he was above me, I couldn't make one out, but I did note the distance from shoulder to chest was massive.  The head also lacked that dog shape common to Black Bears.  Instead, it was big and round - I would say massive.  He turned his head once, and then gazed back at me.  He had heard me crashing over branches and had come up to see what the noise was all about.  He was calculating his moves, too.  Is this little thing dangerous to me?  Should I saunter off, or give him the growl?  What does he taste like?

coffee.<span class=The bear's decision was to walk in my direction, which is either the common curiosity of bears, or the run-up to you-know-what.  By this time, I had finished my list, and my new task was egress. He had me tactically, because he was on a level contour, and I had to ascend diagonally to get to the field and "outta there."  As I made my way up, I could see his bright red coat coming through the trees.

So, that was fun.  The neighbor saw a large bear track on the road the other day, too.  A guy looks for this kind of commiseration when he has an out-sized story to tell.  Was this a Brown Bear?  I'll never know.  If he was a Black, then he gets the prize for beauty, and is in my top 3 for size.  I did see a Grizzly in the wild one other time, but it was a roadside event in Banff.  That was a monstrous bear, tearing at roots like a machine, and I would say twice the size of my bear from yesterday.  Except yesterday, I didn't have a car.

4. How to top that?  All the news I have left is the two litters of kittens we have.  My 7 year old daughter finds them much more engaging than my bear story.

Now, all that energy can be channeled into the studio.  See you next time.

Five facts about VE-Day: 

1.  The unconditional surrender document was signed on the 7th of May, and ratified on the 8th.  The allies wanted to avoid the troubles surrounding the WW I armistice by having the German High Command as signators this time.
2. No head of state was present at either the German surrender ceremony or the Japanese one on September 2, 1945.
3. The surrender in the Mediterranean Theater was the 2nd of May, 1945.
4. Susan Hibbert typed the document of surrender in English.
5. The surrender of Italy on September 3rd of 1943 had some wiggle room at first, and only later became "unconditional."

Bear photo: Madfelix.
Kittens photo: Lorie Klahn


Katherine Kean said...

Wow, glad you made your way clear of the bear! Two litters of kittens does inded sound engaging.

Anonymous said...

Geez Casey, what an encounter. Did you continue to breathe? I think you will never forget this - any painting coming out of this. My heart probably would have stopped entirely to beat - I don't know. But the fascination of such an encounter - priceless.
And thos kittens - oh my - this is cuteness overload. And believe me - I can fully understand your daughter!!! LOL

Casey Klahn said...

Two litters makes for quite a mother's day...I should know better than to try to overshadow that with foolish bear stories.

Thanks for commenting, Katherine and Petra.

Unknown said...

This is the most exciting blog post that I've ever read!! The suspense about the bear incident had me reading rapidly to get to the end. Whew! I hope your son is completely well, now. And, the kittens are delightful!! I share your disappointment in the press and appreciate the time you took to remind us of VE-Day. How quickly we forget!

Jala Pfaff said...

Glad your son's okay, the bear sounds amazing, and the kittens are adorable.

Jeanette Jobson said...

You have had adventures, haven't you?

I'm glad your son is on the mend, always good news.

Bears! I always have a fear of meeting a bear when I'm out walking in the woods. I haven't but see signs of them from time to time. You were lucky too see the bear up close but probably wished you hadn't in some ways! Good that it wasn't in a bad mood.

The kittens are precious. Yes I can see how they'd override the bear story in the eyes of a 7 year old. :)

And VE Day is always present in the media and hearts in Canada and always should be.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Skin rash and kitten and bears, oh my! That's a long hospital stay for a little guy, and I'm glad to hear that he is better! Scary stuff.

But worse is the bear story! You stayed calm and didn't run away like a girl (or like food) and that's why you lived to tell the tale, no doubt.

Honestly, as I make preparations for an Alaska boating adventure, bears are on my mind. Thanks, I think, for the story.

Jacob V said...

Reminds me of the time we were hiking in the Olympics and we watched that big black bear walking parallel with two hikers for over a quarter mile on the other side of a row of trees, and when the couple got up to the pass where we were watching from, and were told about the bear, they gave us a you’re full of it look and hiked on.

Casey Klahn said...

Yeah, Jake. They are as curious as we are. i think, in retrospect, that he was giving me his puffed up look because I saw him, and we were close. He was watching me for a couple of minutes, I reckon, because when I looked up, he was staring at me.

Casey Klahn said...

Kvan, I left comments at your blog. Have fun in Alaska.

Thanks for everything, Jeanette. Glad Canada has a longer memory than the American press does.

And thanks to Jala and Kathy. Always appreciate your comments.

tess stieben said...

Black bears will stalk people in the woods, and have been known to view our race as food. It seems to me that I have heard of more Black Bear attacks on people than Grizzly attacks; so in reality, Black Bears are not really cuddly no matter how cute they look.

Casey Klahn said...

I'm happy you commented, Teresa!

My own view is that my upbringing on the Olympic peninsula taught me to not fear the Black Bear. I think I'm right when I say there are no examples of attacks there. Now, I get the impression that B.C. has more Black Bear attacks, and so I wonder if temperaments vary by locale.

One local here says much what I know to be true - the Black Bear isn't a threat, in general. Caution is due, but I'm not upset by Black Bear.

I think mine wanted to be seen to push me away from his lair. As with big deer, they are only seen if they are willing to be seen. Otherwise, they stay out of sight. This guy presented himself, and then fluffed his fur for effect.

I didn't much appreciate his walking towards me, but I have seen that before and it always worked out well. I'm upset with myself for reacting with concern, but I guess there were some factors involved. Wonder where he is today? The sighting took place about a mile north of my house.

Brian McGurgan said...

Glad you had an exciting bear encounter and came out none the worse for the wear, Casey. It certainly sounds like a grizzly bear to me but then again we don't see many bears here is Queens so I'm probably not the best judge...

Casey Klahn said...

You don't see them in Queens because they don't WANT to be seen. Or, because it's urban - you decide.

My only decision is Brown or Black Bear. I had to do the Brown Bear inventory on the spot, but in retrospect he was not half the size of the one Grizzly I saw in Banff. Just bigger than the average bear.

Celeste Bergin said...

gadzooks--I would have died of fright (the bear encounter).
Kittens are much more my speed.
My brother's birthday was May 8. He always said that he thought he was conceived on V-J day?

Casey Klahn said...

Your brother caught the good birthday. It was my ignominy to be born on September 3rd., which is the date in 1939 that the UK and allied powers declared war on Germany - the essential beginning of WW II. Precipitated by the invasion of Poland by the Nazis on the 1/2 Sept - depending on what side of the date line you were on.

I am such a WW II nerd. It's because my father told me his combat stories when I was young. Of course, my generation has idolized the one we call the Greatest Generation. I am considering starting a blog about my late father's stories - which are numerous. I do have about a half dozen artworks done, and want to do more in the way of figures.

Carole Buschmann said...

I love your bear story besides relating from affinity to your child stories because I had the exeperience of a coyote looking me carefully in the eye from 100 feet away leaping over an enclosure and coming my way- enough said I am here to tell the tale. But prett remarkable!

Casey Klahn said...

Without a doubt the coyote is the smartest creature in the woods, and he could tell everything about you: a.) you're not a threat b.)what you last ate c.)if you were afraid of him or not. They are very cunning, but not very brave. The best option for them is to always run away, unless in the city or a national park, where they know they aren't being hunted. Then they remain curious and will have little respect for people.

As you know, coyotes attack people very, very rarely. I have recently become much more impressed with their ability to hunt and eat large deer. They are really good at this, and many a large doe has been a meal.

Living in the country as I do, I see them constantly. 2 this week. Once I had one rise up only a few feet from me, as I was walking quietly and there was grain stubble hiding him. I winded him, and so he was pretty surprised and he gave me his best threatening posture and then took off running.

If you love wildlife, there's nothing like living in the country!

Lisa McShane said...

Wow Casey, how did I miss this post?

I believe that it's a griz. Once I organized a hearing before the state senate on grizzly recovery (not reintroduction, but simply not killing them when they wander in from elsewhere.) Among the many fun facts I learned, this stood out:

the size of the grizzly varies according to the abundance of their food source. In Alaska, where there are abundant sources of high quality protein, brown bears are larger. In the North Cascades, with little to eat but vegetation, grizzly bears are much, much smaller. At that size it's easy to confuse them visually w/ black bears.

Anyway - how exciting either way! I've only been up close and personal with a small black bear and that woke me up for the rest of the day!

Casey Klahn said...

Lisa: I didn't know that the North Cascades grizzlies were smaller. Of course, I had those guys in the back of my mind when I considered griz in this area, too. Also, their range is over 100 miles, which makes one wonder.

On the Black Bear side of the argument, cinnamon is a coloration found among Blacks. I just never saw this before, and it was very difficult to see a pic of one so uniformly cinnamon as this one. I had the distinct impression of brown - as in an all brown bear. My experience of color flaws on Blacks is brown back - black underside.

I shot a range with a rangefinder the other day and now revise my estimate to about 50 yards from my bear - which is chilling. He was close and wanted to show himself to me - and tactically he was above. He knew all that, as he is a predator.

In the end, one could have a trail camera photo of a griz, and a cast of his prints, and see one personally, and even get griz to sign an affidavit that you saw him, and yet the game department still won't consider it as a sighting. It must be sighted by a game biologist in the employment of the government to be a sighting. This condition makes me think that more of a given animal are present than official numbers represent. Wolves are an example. Farmers see many, but the game department sees fewer.

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