This morning I came upon this sign along the woodland way leading into downtown Northampton.
People who live along the woodland way often let their cats run free. They don't realize there are things in the woods that are dangerous to cats. Like bears for example, who may see somebody's clueless, pampered kitty wondering through the woods as a tasty snack.
It is not uncommon for bears to appear near the woodland way, like earlier this year on Barrett Street.
On some occasions they have actually come into downtown itself and had to be tranquilzed and returned to the woods. Why do they come into town? We like to think of bears as they appear on National Geographic specials, sitting by a beautiful brook with majestic mountains in the background as they catch a flopping fish in their mouth. But the truth is bears are also enthusiastic dumpster divers and will be just as pleased sitting by a garbage can as a babbling brook.
I once encountered a bear on the woodland way without even realizing it at the time. I was walking along this stretch of the way returning home late one night.
It was pitch dark, but I am not afraid on the woodland way, having never encountered anything to be concerned about, until one night as I was innocently walking along I heard something behind me. It sounded at first like chains being dragged along the pavement. Then I realized that I knew what that sound was - claws scraping on asphalt. I just assumed it was a dog behind me, but the sound of each animal footstep was louder than I had ever heard before.
At that point a voice I always believe soundlessly told me "Stay calm and pick up your pace." I started to walk faster without looking behind me. The claws on tar sound stayed with me but never got any closer. Finally I was near the Jackson Street overpass where there is a street light that shines on the path. The noisy walker behind me declined to come into the light and instead rumbled off into the woods. I felt relieved to have the dog stop following me, and then promptly forgot about it.
The next day the newspaper was full of accounts of bear sightings all along the woodland way. Apparently a bear had been going down the path, detouring into all the nearby backyards to break into garbage cans. Now I knew why my mysterious companion the night before had been so loud - because it was so big! I realized I had unwittingly had a close encounter with a bear!
It's a good thing I didn't actually see it, or I wouldn't be writing this now. If I had looked at that bear, actually perceiving those big claws, those very sharp teeth and those huge black arms that can hug you so tightly your whole ribcage shatters, then I'm certain I would have been so terrified that I would have had a massive fatal heart attack and fallen down dead on the spot. The bear, seeing his victim already dead, would've just walked away.
The first jogger of the following morning would have found me lying there, never to rise again. I doubt I would have gotten much sympathy. When the autopsy revealed that I had died of a sudden heart attack, everyone would have shook their heads knowingly and said, "All the drugs he took all those years must have damaged his heart. Frankly it's surprising he lived as long as he did."
And nobody would have ever known that I had really been killed by a bear.
That damn Barney Frank was at the Log Cabin in Holyoke last night where he was, believe it or not, being honored by Valley Democrats. You would think that after all the billions his incompetence has cost the American taxpayers in the sub prime loan debacle, of which he was one of the principal architects and defenders, that Frank would at least have had the decency to resign.
That Congressman Frank was honored in our Valley is no surprise, as it is typical in these parts that the bigger the scoundrel the higher the honors. Here's a few Ray Drewnowski photos of the local media covering the embarrassing event.
When the Rain Comes
The remnants of Hurricane Ida (my grandmother's first name was Ida) are passing through our Valley today. Here's a psychedelic poster at the bus stop this morning.
At UMass today I ran into the Marching Band enroute to the big football game.
Here they are passing beneath the Southwest tunnel.
Tuba tooters trail behind.
Outside the stadium the bad weather does nothing to discourage tailgating. Some brought their own shelter which they erected complete with flags.
Hardier fans thought all was well as long as one hand was free to hold an umbrella while the other held a beer.
Music suited to the weather.