Last night, I was innocently driving home about 10:00 when my cell phone rings. It's my teenage daughter, freaking out. There's a bear outside. She just saw it through the sliding glass door -- a big, black, fuzzy shape running into the woods. The dog is going ballistic. She is hiding under her bed. (Daughter, not dog. Dog is still barking frantically.)
This has happened before, seeing a bear come out of the woods. It's why I stopped feeding birds during the summer a few years ago. We haven't had one around since. I, of course, panic at the thought of only a screen door between my child and a ferocious wild animal with teeth and claws that growls and stands up on its hind legs. (I also wonder why she called me and not her father, who is driving the van ahead of me. I guess even when you're a teenager and you freak, it's Mom you dial.)
So I keep her on the phone until we lose service in the hills, reassuring her that the bear was last seen running away, it won't try to get in with the dog barking (golden retriever, very protective), and how cool it is to see such an unusual animal, and trying to turn off my writer brain that is showing me coming home and finding them both bleeding, or worse.
A few minutes later, my husband, who has no idea of the mayhem awaiting us, pulls into the driveway, which is fairly long, and comes to a dead halt as soon as his headlights pick up the house. I almost slam into him. And in our headlights, I see not one, but three huge forms racing across the lawn. I think I screamed. One bear I can cope with. Not three.
And then I realise that the bears are galloping, not running, and they have very long legs for bears, and that they are, in fact, our neighbor's three horses. I am so weak with relief that I can hardly call her from the car to tell her that her babies are loose and have come over for the apples on the ground below our trees.
The horses are in full panic mode, set off the sudden arrival of two cars and headlights, not helped by the frantic dog inside. I hop out, so relieved that they aren't bears, shut off my scary headlights, and head onto the lawn toward them (they know me, since I feed them when their owners are gone). I really don't want them heading for the main road. They recognise me and stop racing around. They trot over, I catch hold of the only one wearing a halter (who, incidentally, is small, fuzzy and black), and start up a conversation with the other two. They all seem to think I'm more interesting than the apples underfoot. I grew up with horses and always enjoy their company.
Then I realise for the first time that my husband has only just gotten out of the van, whose headlights are lighting us up now. And he is not coming up onto the lawn. He has never been around horses, and he calls up in a shaky voice,"You okay up there?"
I answer that they're fine, just after the apples, and that I've got hold of them, and they aren't heading for the road, and I added that they aren't bears. Of course, he has no idea why I would say that, and then the neighbors arrive with a bucket of grain, and are very happy that I've gotten everybody calmed down and under control. They all leave, my daughter comes out, we park the cars, and then I realise my husband is still staring at me with an odd expression. "You are quite the horse tamer," he said, and I see it for the first time as he must have -- me heading in the dark into a melee of panicked horses.
So we both had a jolt of fear for someone we love last night. I guess it's all relative.
But how my daughter could mistake a black pony for a bear is beyond me.