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Re: Bears in TN? A Ride Story from the Past

Thanks for the story.  It was fun.  A nice reprieve (sp) from the postings
of late.  The closest I have come to meeting up with a bear is paw prints
and a pile of steaming bear poop and scratch marks on a tree.  Un nerving
enough for me.  A lady I know that lived in the area told me that she didnt
like to wear her glasses while she rode (me either)  .   She took her horse
out riding one morning and a huge rottweiler showed up on the trail walking
toward her.  She said that her horse got real big and stiff.    She whistled
and spoke to the dog as the dog approached.  The dog stopped on the trail
and stared at her.  She moved her horse closer to it.  A few feet is all
that the horse would give her.  Then all of a sudden the dog stood up on
it's hind legs and walked a few steps towards her.  Her mare took the
controls and whirled and left in a huge hurry.   It took her a few minutes
to get the mare under control.  After the shaking eased (both horse and
rider)  she spoke to her horse,   rottweiler my ass!!!!  True story :-)
                    gesa n clovis
-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 6:34 PM
Subject: RC: Bears in TN? A Ride Story from the Past

Sally Hafkemeyer
Hi Ridecampers,
Iíve been reading and enjoying the postings on riding in the dark,
encountering wildlife (human and otherwise), and ride stories.  They gave me
flashbacks and inspired me to contribute my own 100 miler story which
encompasses (believe it or not) all of the above.  To introduce myself, Iím
probably best described as a Re-Newbie.  I completed aprx 3000 miles between
1982 and 1992.  Took a few years off, and just renewed my AERC membership
this year. Iíve discovered and enjoyed Ridecamp as a great source of info
and updates on whatís new..... thanks to all of you who arenít as shy as I
was about posting.

In the mid-eighties, I was asked to take a part-bred gelding named Bo on his
first 100 miler.  An IAHA ride on the edge of the Smoky Mountains in
Tennessee.  Canít really remember the exact location or ride name.  Boís
owner, Jan Worthington, was entered on another of her horses.  Grace Ramsey
was crewing and her daughter Wendy Mattingley was also riding a good horse
named CL Shurwill.  For me, it was an exciting trip.  I was honored that Jan
and Grace would trust me to take their horse on his first 100, and Iíd never
been to this part of the country before. We arrived with no incidents and
set up camp.  Vetted through just fine, and Friday night I rode Bo (for the
first time) on a short pre-ride warmup.
Saturday morning dawned early and sunny.  A beautiful day.  We were ready to
go with my only  mission being to help Bo complete his first 100  healthy
and sound.  Even though I was  riding for completion only,  Bo got so hyper
that we decided to start out with his stable buddies.  Let him use the
energy going forward on the trail rather than fighting me.  The ride started
with a shout, and we were off.  Now,  Jan and Wendy were riding sweepstakes
horses, so they planned to stay close to the front runners.  My endurance
horse in those days,  Zoey,  was one that needed to go to the back of camp
and hide out until all horses were out of sight,  ( a few stories there,
too) so this up-front start wasnít really my style, but away we went, with
Shurwillís rear in sight.  Boís personal goal was to run as close to his
buddy as horsely possible, so I was working hard to hold him back to a dull
roar and keep a safe distance from Wendy and Shurwill.  The first loop was a
single track switchback around the
mountain.  Up and steep on my right and equally steep going down on my left.
Bo was so worried about being left behind that while Wendy and Shurwill
cruised around the turns, heíd take little short cuts.   Bo didnít see any
need to bennnd around those curves when he could just skip across the end of
those ravines and stay that much closer to his best buddy in the whole
world.  Fifeen minutes into the ride and my honoredí feeling is gone!   My
imagination has taken over and I know what will happen when Bo
missteps................tree bowling, the  latest in extreme sports.
Iím feeliní like survival!

We made it to the first check at 25 miles and vetted through with no
problems.  Made sure I used the bathroom and
we were ready to go out for the next loop.  Jan and I left this check
together with Wendy out ahead of us.  This loop
was less eventful and I remember a much more enjoyable ride.  It was just
the two of us now, and the horses were settled down and happy to move along
at a saner pace.  Both horses vetted through the 50 mile check just fine.
This check was back at camp, so we took the horses to the trailer and let
them eat and rest.  Timeís up and Jan left.  We let Bo stay a few minutes
longer to eat and forget that he had a buddy ahead of him on the trail..
Poor Bo!  He thought he was all done.  He seemed pretty surprised when I put
the saddle back on and rode to the out timer.  Then he pouted.  Kept looking
back to camp and didnít want to go.  In spite of the morningís ride, I  took
sympathy and
let him walk and get mentally rearranged.  After a few miles, he picked up a
trot and was fine about it.  We were also
starting to bond into a better team by now. ( Iíve always enjoyed riding
alone for this reason.)  We kept up an easy trot  into the 75 mile check.
He vetted through in good shape and I was pleased with his new, improved
attitude. He was eating and drinking well.  By now, Iím in love with him (I
get attached so easily) and telling him what a good boy  he is.

But itís time to leave this check and what fun..............itís getting
dark.  The nearest horses are an hour ahead and more than an hour behind.
All alone.  The good news is that the last 25 miles is the same as the first
25 miles.  Always a plus in the dark.  But just when I was starting to have
fun,  the husband/pit crew of a  rider behind me started telling about how
many black bears his wife saw that morning.  Front runners scared them  up,
he guessed.  I tried to cover my ears, but it was too late!   A new worry to
carry with me in the dark.  Bears!  We donít have bears in Iowa!!   We donít
WANT bears in Iowa!  And I did NOT want to meet any on the last 25 miles of
a trail I barely know with a horse I barely know when I can barely see and I
ím all ALONE!!!!  But, this is why itís called endurance. If I donít die, Ií
ll complete.  So we left with a heartier than felt goodbye.   The next 10
miles or so was on the road, easy going, but getting darker.  My pit crew
met me for moral support and food for Bo.  What a pig he was.  Good horse!
Shortly after turning off the road, we had to cross a wide, shallow
river/creek.  By  then it was simply dark.
As I started into the water, I noticed a  new trail attraction on the other
side next to where the trail comes out.  A fun group of loud drunks!  They
heard me coming (I tried to tiptoe with no success) and started calling out,
"Come on over!  Join the Party!  Weíve got plenty of beer to share!"   Very
hospitable of them.   Not wanting to offend my "hosts", I called back
"Thanks,  but Iíve got to run.........................!"    Bo, hope youíre
not thirsty,  Ďcause weíre out of here!!!!!    We kicked it in long enough
to get to the other side and picked up a good strong trot up the hill.
(Tennesseeans sure are a hospitable bunch, arenít they.)  Well, allís quiet
again as we can now take our time and work our way back around  on the same
trail I found so exciting this morning.  I like it better in the dark.  Caní
t see what Iím missing.  But now my thoughts turn to bears.  What do I know
about them?  Nocturnal.........not good.  Iím pretty sure theyíll stay out
of my way if they can.  But have you ever noticed how you can get so much
closer to wildlife when youíre horseback?  Not good.   Iím sure Bo would
overreact, and down the mountain we
go.....midnight bowling.  Weíre not making much noise either.  It would be
kinda nice.........if I just hadnít heard about the bears.  What can I do to
make noise?  No one has ever described me as quiet, but I canít think of a
thing to say.  But then, Eureka!  I remember my Catholic school days.  Those
nuns wouldnít let me sing with the class.  Used to tell me to just "mouth
the words".  Welllll............maybe my singing is bad enough to scare a
bear.  Might work and no one else to hear.  Bo promised not to tell.  What
song..........hmmm, everyone's favorite, no problem
remembering the words to "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall"!  So I launched
into a stirring, make up for my childhood, rendition.  We walked and jogged
along in the dark until I was down to 2 Bottles of Beer on the Wall when Bo
stopped dead in his tracks.   No, not a bear.  Two kind and wonderful ride
volunteers stepped out onto the trail to let me know I had arrived at the
last on-trail vet check.  Hooray!  They gave me a time card and then said,
"Wow, what a brave person you are.  We heard you coming in, just singing
without a care.  We would have been
scared to death to be out riding all alone in the dark like this."
Tell me, would you have told them the truth?   I didnít.  Just smiled,
thanked them for being there, and went to find
my pit crew and vet in.  By now, Jan has been long finished and came back
out to lend support and see how weíre doing.  A quick vet through and on to
the last 5 or so miles of trail.  Through the woods, out onto a road, down
the hill and a left turn back into the woods for the last mile to the finish
line and base camp.  Bo seems to know weíre close as heís picking up his
pace.  Or he understands when I tell him weíre headed HOME!  We turned into
the very dark woods (especially after being on the lighter gravel road).  Ií
ve forgotten all about bears and hillbillies, etc.  All of a sudden Bo looks
sharply to the left and shies hard to the right.  I heard something
crackling in the brush about the same time Bo takes off at a run down the
trail.  I couldnít see a thing, but I leaned over his neck and let him run.
donít know what scared him and didnít want to.  I knew we were close to home
and letís just get there.  As the trail circled around behind base camp, I
slowed him to a trot.  He realized where we were, and started loudly calling
out to anyone whoíd listen. (No sneaking in late at night for us!)   I
unsaddled at the trailer and took him to the vets for final check.  He
closed his eyes and acted as though he was sleeping through the vet check.
I could have sworn I heard him snoring softly.  He finished in great shape,
although tired and ready for bed.  Me too.

I hope this wasnít too long.   I got on a roll writing it.  A good memory
for me.
If you hung in there to the end, Thanks for "listening"!
Sally Hafkemeyer

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