Peeling Down For Summer

Every new season has its pleasures and its risks

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

Sorry to hear your Aunt Liddy died," Nub said to Asa.

"Her own damn fault," Asa said, "She peeled down too soon."

During the hot spell known as July and the first couple weeks of August, I spend a lot of time at camp on the lake. Ada and Urban's camp is across the lake and down a-ways. I can see it clearly with binoculars from our dock. One afternoon, I got a call from Ada: "Get in your kayak and paddle down here quick," she said, "if you want to see a bear in our big pine tree."

I threw on my life preserver, climbed into the kayak and paddled across the lake and down a-ways toward their place fast as I could. As I drew closer, I could see Ada in the window, her arms raised, hands pressed to the glass. Her mouth was open; she seemed to be yelling something, but I couldn't hear what. Then I spotted a couple other neighbors, Pudgy and Joe, on Joe's beach. They were sitting in lawn chairs, looking in the direction of Ada and Urban's camp next door. They were yelling something, too, but I still couldn't make out what.

In the big pine tree, I spotted it - a young bear, black as oil and clinging to the trunk about 20 feet up. A couple of other boats had anchored just off Ada and Urban's dock. Those folks were watching the bear, too. And on the other side of the picnic table I glimpsed Urban with a camera, snapping away.

I paddled in as close as I dared. Wanted to get a good look at that bear before he ran off. When I let up on the paddling and the kayak stilled, I could finally make out what Joe and Pudgy were yelling. They were yelling, "Urban, go in the house and put some pants on!"

"In the big pine tree, I spotted it - a young bear, black as oil and clinging to the trunk about 20 feet up."

Seems Urban had been taking a nap when Ada spotted the bear. Seems he had something in common with the Governor of Vermont.

This past spring the Governor of our Neighboring State of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, made national news with a close encounter of the bear kind. Yup, he was home in Montpelier, minding his own business, when a ruckus in the yard turned out to be four bears cleaning out his bird feeders. In New Hampshire we know to take down our feeders in the spring to avoid such predicaments, but I guess they do things different in Vermont.

Anyway, Governor Shumlin runs out of the house to shoo the intruders off and rescue his feeders, but the bears refuse to shoo. They run a little ways, then come back kinda ticked off over their interrupted meal. Hibernation makes bears hungry and, evidently, cranky.

"I was within three feet of getting arrrh," the Governor told a local paper. (Not sure exactly what "getting arrrh" means - must be a Vermont expression - but it doesn't sound good.)

That wasn't the best part. The best part was when Governor Shumlin admitted that during that early morning bear encounter he was somewhat underdressed. "Real Vermont boys don't wear pajamas," he said.

Truth is a lot of us don't. We find sleeping more comfortable au naturel (that's French for stark naked). Especially during the hot spell known as July and the first couple weeks of August. Sure, during the cold spell known as October through April, we're apt to bundle up some as a survival tactic. But come spring, we peel down. NH


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