Fond Memories of Bears and Snakes The fondest warm weather memories go back to the days when my Father was alive, young, healthy and full of get up and go. He and my Mom always made sure we took a vacation every year. Living in the inner city of Brooklyn, New York they felt it was crucial that my sister and I see how much more there was to life than the city streets. They wanted us to learn that kids cool themselves off on a hot July day in many ways other than fire hydrants turned on full. One year we traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains for summer vacation and all I wanted was to see a bear. My Mom on the other hand was scared stiff of bears. In fact the ONLY thing that scared her more than bears were and still are SNAKES! So, we arrived at the Cades Cove campground in the park and pitched a tent in the rain. Nasty business but fun galore. Well, pitching that tent in the rain worked up an appetite so rather than cook we jumped into our VW Camper and drove to Townsend for some local chow. Goodness I can almost taste that meal now, all these decades later. I can actually hear my Fathers voice and smell the after shave he always used. My eyes tear up when I think back on these days long gone. I loved him so and wish I told him that more often. Anyhow we ate and then got some ice cream. Then we piled back into the camper and headed back to camp. We arrived back as night fell upon us and the rain had ceased. They call them the Great Smoky Mountains because there’s a blue-gray mist that settles on them that looks like smoke. Sure was a thick coat of smoke on that warm July evening. Campfires were blazing, kids riding their bikes and people mingling and walking in and out of patches of camp fire smoke mixed together with that haunting mist the mountains are named after. At the site next to ours we ran into a nice couple with their kids, Mo and Bea were their names. Big fellow very friendly and struck me as the type that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. We sat together around the camp fire and suddenly we heard all sorts of yelling, screaming, shouting, clanging and noise of all types. We rose from our seats and saw a crowd pointing shouting “BEAR!! BEAR!!” Wouldn’t you know it a bear came into camp lured by the aroma of food cooking on charcoal fires. My Mother screamed and looking at my Father said “Mike, you said, you promised that we would never see a bear!” My Father started laughing and said calm down they’re more scared of you than you are of them. We all walked over and standing among the dozens of others watched as the bear ate and looked like a big kid! A park ranger approached and asked us all to move back away from the bear, and simply give it some room. Of course we did and after a short time the bear ran off back into the woods. Well my Mom was shook up bad, real bad. But Dad reassured her that everything would be alright. In the confusion we lost touch of Mo & Bee so we walked back to our tent and noticed that they were inside theirs. We sat by the fire, marshmallow and sticks in hand ready to roast the perfect treats when Mo & Bea approached from the dark. They had a flashlight and we had a lantern burning so although we had some light, it was far from bright at our campsite. Bea sat down and then Moe did as well and Bea said that she and Mo couldn’t leave their little baby alone in the tent all that time because the excitement would upset him. We, my family that is, looked puzzled at each other and then realized that Mo, a big strapping kind of guy, had a BIG snake around his neck shoulder area and was petting it gently. That was the biggest snake I had ever seen and my Mother made one mad dash from her seat knocking stuff over, screaming out loud straight into the VW camper. She cussed, hollered, screamed, tossed stuff in the air and when she got into the camper covered her head with a pillow. She never made it into the tent that night, instead sleeping in the camper. My Father thought that was hysterical as I and my sister did as well. The next day my Mom laid down the law. If Mo & Bea stayed… We must leave. She refused to be in such close proximity to such a massive snake. He was pretty darn big I must admit. We woke to see that Mo & Bea had already left thank goodness, so we stayed. But for the next week my Mom never really relaxed. I sure wish I could go back to that time in my life when my folks would take us on grand adventures every summer. Tell your folks you love them before they’re gone and it’s too late. Dad I love you and Mom you know I love you because I just told you so over the phone.