The Blacksburg Bear Who Came to Dinner

It’s logical that Blacksburg, Virginia, USA, home of Virginia Tech, can be considered a “foreign destination” to our international students and faculty, at least until they make it their home.

This is the story, loosely translated from the Dutch, of an international scholar who visited our library. A teacher at a high-level gymnasium in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Erna Trossèl had an interesting “American” adventure in our university town. Nestled as we are on the edge of the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of birds in the trees and enchanted to see a small herd of whitetail deer grazing in our back yard. But she wasn’t prepared for a black bear!  

“The only news around here is we had a BIG BLACK BEAR in sister Tecla’s yard.”

It was I who spotted the black bear. About 9:00pm we heard a crash outside, which was the big blue plastic trash-bag container smashing over, and I rushed to the big picture-window in the front and was shocked to see the unmistakable hulking figure of a bear ripping through the trash-bags that had spilled from the container! The bear had sunk his nose greedily into the bag with the shrimp tails left over from dinner, it appeared later. Paul grabbed one of those big, black, heavy, long-handled flashlights with 4 large batteries inside and headed for the door. I stopped him at the stairs, expressing my belief that even such a huge American-style  flashlight would not deter a bear…

“I know, thanks Erna,” he said, “but don’t worry, I have a dog…”

The dog he referred to was indeed a rather ferocious, but very sweet, Doberman named Sadi who bellows a “big-dawg” bark at strangers who approach the house. But she showed she was intelligent that night, too. When Paul called her from her mat to accompany him outside, she simply wouldn’t budge. This perplexed us all for about 10 seconds because Sadi is very nasty to anybody she doesn’t know, and though not a huge dog, she is totally fearless. But maybe not totally, for although she fears no human, bears scare Sadi bark-less.

“Smart dog,” Paul said, “doesn’t mess with anything that is eight or ten times bigger than she is! Haha!”

He laughed nervously, and it was clear the situation was dangerous. Sadi finally went to the door after he hollered at her, but she absolutely refused to go out ahead of him, or behind him either for that matter. That’s when he paused and said, “Well if Sadie won’t go out, why in hell am I thinking of going out with nothing but a flashlight in one hand??” He took the cue from an animal who knows merely by smelling not to get in a hungry bear’s path.

Wat een avontuur!


So I held the door ready to slam shut behind him if needed as he stuck his head out—and the bear saw him and ran off, his humping figure disappearing in the night as Paul yelled at him to “git!” That’s the right spelling, he says it is pure South Texan for “go away” to a “critter.” He waited 15 minutes and then went out and cleaned up the mess off the driveway. Later that night I looked out the same window at the “scene of the crime”and saw a baby opossum licking where the shrimp tails had been scattered around the driveway. The next day Tecla and Shantal took me to the local French bakery and “the marauding bear” was the buzz from the surrounding tables. Apparently it had made the rounds in the neighborhood—right along the tree line where sister Tecla lives overlooking the forest. Wat een avontuur!