Banff, a Bear, and Bathing in a Sink

A Note Before We Start: My spam told me today that it "harmonized with [my] writings." Well, I didn't hear no harmonizing, honey. If you're going to claim harmonization I want to her some singing. 

Now to topic (and I'm going to have to hurry because the husbandini has brought home a gourmet veggie pizza complete with artichoke hearts for dinner, and I am all about the artichoke hearts. I may have to keep the sprained back for the rest of my life so I don't have to cook dinner and can eat artichoke hearts for every meal. Plus Filet Mignon. One needs one's Filet):

How far back do your memories go? Back to when you were 10? 5? 3? I ask because over on Challenging the Gnome we had a really great guest post from Kristin Johnson yesterday called "Gnome, Gnome on the Range" (clickify here if you want to read it. And you should. It's good.) It's about taking risks as a writer and just charging forward. It's also about her family's foray into the South Dakota Badlands and Yellowstone Park, and their desire to meet a bear.

Well, I read the post and all of a sudden a really exciting memory from my childhood burst into my brain. A memory I think I'll share. Because, like I said, it's exciting. Better than TV. And this is my blog.

We were living in Montana at the time–my dad being part of a B-52 Bomber crew and stationed at Glasgow Airforce Base–and we'd taken a little break from life to go up to Banff in Alberta Canada for a quick looksee at the Canadian Rockies. There were five of us kidlets and my folks figured we'd need something more than a pup-tent to coral us all, so they borrowed a friend's camper. The kind that  slaps into the bed of a very large pickup truck. Then we packed everyone up and headed out.

Now I have to say that I don't think there were extended cab pickups back in the day, so I really don't know where they put us all while they were driving. And I don't have any memories of the journey. So I'm thinking we were all hanging out in the back, falling off the bunk beds on every turn and generally having a riotous time. But whatev. Seatbelt laws were pretty much non-existent in the 1960's. And yes, I was alive back then. I'll pause while you take that in.

Anyway, we got up to Banff, checked out the absolutely gorgeous Lake Louise (and did not stay at the palatial hotel on its shores, much to all of us kids' massive disappointment), visited a museum (all of whose displays were in cases that hit me right at eye level so I couldn't see down into them. Naturally I left and went back to the camper, giving my 'rents a coronary because I was only 3 years old. What? I wasn't lost! I was bored!) and made camp, building teepees and generally having a grand ole time.

So, night came and we went to bed. My oldest brother and sister slept up in the cab of the truck. The rest of us piled into the back. I'm pretty sure I slept in the sink. I kind of have a memory of it. I bathed there–that I remember for sure. It was somewhat humiliating, because everyone else was hanging around reading and stuff during the scrub-down. Don't know how my three year-old psyche recovered.

Well, we all hit the sleeping bags and had been snoring for some time, when all of a sudden there was an earthquake. Only, it wasn't really an earthquake. It was, in fact, a ginormous—I mean GINORMOUS—grizzly bear. And it saw two tasty little morsles sleeping in this giant glass and steel can, and it wanted them. Wanted. Them. Now.

First the grizz decided to be direct and just punch its way in to get the snacks. His left-hook cracked and splintered the windshield, but it did not gain the bear access. It then tried all kinds of other punching and scratching methods to get in, to no avail. Finally, in what I assume was the height of slathering frustration, the beast stood in front of the truck, placed its paws on either side of the headlights, and rocked that truck back and forth on its wheels hoping to shake its meal out of its blasted wrapper. Rock rock shake bounce squeak!  All with my very oldest sibs sitting inside staring with eyes like dinner plates at this furry behemoth. (Side note: Do you remember the children's song Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear? I had a soap-on-a-rope Fuzzy Wuzzy. It came with the song, which went like this: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. If Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair he wasn't fuzzy, wuzee?  Weirdly, as the soap disappeared the bear slowly grew hair. So by the time the soap was gone Fuzzy was in fact Fuzzy. I tell you this so you know that this grizzly bear was much MUCH bigger than my soap-on-a-rope.) 

The sudden growling and shaking, accompanied by panicked shrieking, had the affect of scaring the living shortcake out of everyone. Not the least of whom were my parents, who were afraid my sibs would leave the cab and try to get back into the camper with them, becoming bear fodder in the process.

Luckily this did not happen. My oldest brother and sister, while probably terrified, were also really smart. They stayed put. The bear eventually got bored and left. And we had to drive a fairly beat-up camper back to our friends in Montana and explain what had happened. I assume our insurance paid for bear wear repair.

Well. Isn't that funny? Not the bear. The bear was horrifying.  I mean, I haven't thought about that experience in years. Kristine brought a whole bunch of childhood memories spinning back into my brain just by mentioning bears in Yellowstone. And I've gotta say, I'm not surprised I remember this one even though I was only three. There was a grizzly involved. And bathing in a sink. And getting "lost" (psh) at a museum.

I should probably write this memory down. Along with the other ones it stirred. I mean, I can seriously remember figuring out how to talk. No lie. My mom can corroborate the memory. What do you remember about your life? Have you made note of it so no one forgets? How far back can you go?

I think we all ought to take a few notes on our lives. History needs to remember us. If nothing else, your kids definitely do. Also, look at all the great writing prompts one could glean from my story! It's chock full of them. You've got 'em too, peeps. Have at it!

About Janiel 433 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. Holy crap on a cracker! How could you have forgotten that? I’d be dreaming about it nightly! Bears are one of the few creatures that terrify me. But I like the moral of your story regarding writing. So many early memories, some of which make no sense. But that makes them even more fun to write about/speculate on.

    • Well, I was three and asleep in the sink. Didn’t know what was going on until later. If I’d seen the bear with my own eyes I suspect the image would have been burned into my retinas and I’d never have forgotten.

      Yeah, what a thing. o~O

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.