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American Black Bear (c) Larry Master, masterimages.org

The Last Man in Willapa

By Robert Michael Pyle

Before, there were bears. Then there was
Weyerhaueser, and Crown, and hounds. Together,
hound-hunters and timberbeasts wiped out
the black bears of Willapa, who had a taste
for sweet cambium of Douglas-fir. When
the companies pulled out, and hounds were banned
from the hunt, the bears began to come back.

More and more people saw black bears here.
Birdfeeders went down. Rumors flew. The years
went by. Everyone, it seemed, was seeing bears.
Everyone, that is, except him. He saw a puma, he saw
bobcats. He saw otters and mink and muskrats. He even saw
the elusive aplodontia, miscalled mountain beaver.
As for bears—He couldn’t find one for the life of him.

Bear (c) Susan Morgan

Bear sketch (c) Susan Morgan

Then came a day when the hired hand ran in
from the woods. He’d met a bear, “a big one,” he said,
by the fire pit. They couldn’t spot it again, but found
its big splat, made of wild honeycomb. Days later,
another, full of chunky pears. And what happened
in between? Walking down the mail path,
the Last Man in Willapa to see a bear
saw a bear—right beside his mailbox.

Poem (c) Robert Michael Pyle, 2020
Featured Image: American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) (c) Larry Master, masterimages.org

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