A tattoo I have on my ribs to commemorate Bashful
On May 17th, 2021, various Simon’s Rock listservs received an email regarding a bear-sighting, something quite common for a campus in the middle of the woods. There are a few bear-regulars that stop by our small home: one mother bear and now two new cubs, as well as a fourth larger bear I named Bashful. The mother bear lived, at one time, in a small dugout under a tree that was way, way, way behind the Interpretive Trail. Not on the trail, but straight back from it, like––if, when you entered––you continued on directly forward. I discovered this during my first semester, Fall 2017, when I scoured the woods searching for scenic forest greens with my best friend. We stumbled upon the mother(to-be)’s den. It would not be until the following semester that I tried to fight a bear
I know it was late in the year because it was warm enough to take a blissful drive through nature. That’s what I was doing: taking in the scenery of Great Barrington, Massachusetts with one of my best friends, but not the friend who found the bear with me. I digress… It was on this scenic drive we encountered the bear, the famed bear, the one that’s not just any bear. This was Bashful.
I named this bear “Bashful” because he looked particularly confused. For example, at the time he was stumbling about someone’s lawn. In Great Barrington this bear was fumbling with trash in some good, kind-hearted citizen’s lawn!
I, being a new 18-year-old (in fact, having turned 18 that very day) decided that the best course of action was to fight this bear. Something about a masculinity contest? I’m not sure if it is a thing that should ever be repeated, but I definitely did it—more on this later. At that moment I decided it was my prerogative—nay, my civic duty—to lead this bear away from this innocent person’s house trash. I stomped on my brakes, parked in their driveway and, in a near-incomprehensible rush of speech, spewed, “I’m fighting this bear.”
I threw my keys in my pocket and promptly hopped out. I made direct eye contact with this bear, bashful were its eyes. It knew I meant business—not like taxes or finance, but a tussle. Bashful looked confused, or maybe annoyed. He looked at me, back into the woods behind him, and returned to his prior interest of scavenging through garbage. I yelled out, “HEY YOU BEAR! FIGHT ME YOU COWARD,” and assumed a position which I hoped made me look large. I heard my friend shout from behind in encouragement, “COWARD BEAR, FIGHT US!” before joining me, giving us even greater magnitude. We were screaming; it’s a wonder the poor house owners didn’t come outside. Maybe they were afraid of the bear. We weren’t. I started at the bear, my friend following my lead, and we ran. Bashful spooked, jolting his head upward, fearful of what was to come.
He promptly took off. Bashful is a bear, so he was understandably much faster than two teenagers. We stopped where he’d been gnawing on the trash, and I decided that if we were to fight this bear over trash we could at least close the bin. We returned it to the side of the house where it belonged.
Before we left, I heard the bear rustling in the oundleafy distance, so I shouted again, “BASHFUL, I CHALLENGE YOU TO ANOTHER FIGHT!” only to hear the rustling grow further and further away.
Tonight, at dusk, I challenge Bashful one last fight before I leave Simon’s Rock for good. The terms: No claws—unless you are willing to provide me with five knives for each appendage—and no biting. We shall partake in a battle of fisticuffs, said battle ending when one of us (most likely you) ends up unconscious or taps out. The first rule is don’t tell anyone.