Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lighting out for the Territories, 3: Sleeping with grizzlies

              I got interested in the West while working for the Washington Post, years ago. I wanted to write about the vast public lands, what I saw as a "kingdom in the country," and since the editor didn't know what they were, I took off in a van on my own. Below is one chapter from the book that was later published by Houghton Mifflin and has just been rewritten and reissued in paperback:                                                 

                                    Hayduke Lives

      He wintered in Tucson and spent summers up against the Canadian border, spotting fires for the Park Service and tracking grizzlies and photographing them for no particular reason. He liked fine cooking, or so the stories went, and was a fair cook himself. He liked to drink, and had lost the hearing in one ear in a barroom brawl. His nickname was Arapaho, although no one seemed to know why. He was the inspiration behind a major character in Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, a man of large appetites named Hayduke. Twice in different parts of the West I had seen bumper stickers that said "Hayduke Lives." I knew it was true, but finding him was another matter. Telephone numbers I had been given rang funny bells in cabins and throbbing taverns set up on those slivers of mountain fastness between larger chunks of public land. People had seen him here and there, always bound for somewhere else, wife and children in tow. He was in the area, they said; it was the best they could do.
In truth, I didn't want to find him. His real name was Doug Peacock and the area was Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest — prime grizzly habitat. To find Doug Peacock was to risk going into the woods with him. For ten years he had studied and then photographed grizzlies with varying degrees of intimacy. He knew where they swarmed in season, and had collected grizzly footage unlike any other. The seral scrub fields were utterly neglected by hikers, and by Forest Service rangers. Peacock had been relieved of his fire-spotting duties because he criticized their handling of grizzlies. The officials didn't want Peacock at large in their woods, which already had a bad name because of human death by bears.
"I give Peacock more space than my 'learned' colleagues," said a wildlife biologist working for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks a month before. "He's an old-style naturalist and may be the best source on grizzly behavior. It doesn't take a lot to determine what's in bear shit, but Peacock approaches the question with a philosophical as well as a biological concern. I wish I had his passion."
Peacock had last been sighted in Polebridge, a tiny community up the North Fork of the Flathead River, thirteen miles of serious washboard culminating in a scattering of cabins, the Northern Lights saloon, and a general store with a barrel nailed to the wall containing a telephone. Polebridge conveyed the gentle shock of recognition — a reliquary of imagined Western virtues in a charmed state. The Coca-Cola sign on the roof bore an ancient patina of rust, and facsimiles of old Burma-Shave signs beside the dirt road read, "Inconsiderate... sons of bitches... throw their beer cans... in the ditches.                                

Pickups eased onto the grass here so as not to raise too much dust, and men drank at the tiny bar and looked out the window through the fine Montana weather at snow hanging on the escarpment of Starvation Peak. The whiskery bartender had heard that Doug Peacock was in Missoula, attending a convention of grizzly experts, information that secretly pleased me: no one could blame me for eating the Northern Lights' taco salad and moving on, without having to go looking for bears.
The convention was sponsored by something called the Great Bear Foundation. Grizzlies have become the seminal environmental issue in the mountain West, and a symbol of the last truly wild and unmanageable aspect of primeval America. People tend to locate themselves among the political megafauna by their attitudes toward grizzlies. Grizzly habitat also supports woodland caribou and wolves, but big bears cut across every environmental issue, and so it was little wonder that a bear convention had filled up Missoula's Village Red Lion Inn. I telephoned there, and to my surprise soon had Peacock on the line. "I'll ask you to cover your pack if it's a bright color," he said huskily, with a slight stammer, "and to wear camouflage clothes. Sometimes they fly that area in a helicopter."
He and a friend had a trip planned and they didn't want to be spotted by the FS — Peacock's avowed enemies. They would camp in dense bottomland forest less than a football field away from a major grizzly highway, and spend the days photographing. "I don't know how dangerous it is," he added.
He made his living photographing and writing about grizzlies; only three times in his life had he grossed as much as four thousand dollars. Occasionally he hired himself out to television crews needing grizzlies in their telephotos, but mostly he wandered unassigned in the best and really the only unspoiled grizzly habitat in the Lower Forty-eight. "I had to borrow a grand to get up here from Tucson," he said. "We call it migratory poverty."
Grizzlies were a disturbing phenomenon to contemplate. The stories of deaths, maulings, and lesser grizzly misbehavior carried mythic overtones, which did not keep 2 million visitors a year from coming to Glacier National Park. In the last decade or so, well over a hundred people had had their gear damaged by bears. One notorious grizzly ransacked cabins up and down the North Fork valley and even broke into a U-Haul trailer before he was finally shot. Twenty people had been injured by bears in the same time period, and four killed. One killing had involved a man named Laurence Gordon, who hiked to Elizabeth Lake with several religious books in his pack. A bear ate most of him, and left tooth marks on one of his scriptural texts.
Peacock and I were to meet at a cabin set among lodgepole pine, in grazed-over meadow. I got there early and to pass time assembled my fly rod and struck a half-mile through the woods to the North Fork of the Flathead. A semblance of civilization lay just upstream, but the water had that deep green, uncluttered power of wild rivers anywhere. A downed fir took me across to a rocky spit in the middle; I waded in jogging shoes, pushing an old Cahill toward the far bank, hoping a trout would rise. I switched to a wet fly, but it was a difficult stretch to fish in the best of moods. The water ran fast and clear, with dense forest on the far side. I lashed the water. It was not the streaks of cloud across the sun that distracted me, but the prospect of encountering bears the next day in Peacock's company. Finally I put the rod down and took off my clothes and got into the river, which seemed to help.
Peacock arrived in late afternoon, in a small car packed with disposable diapers. His wife, Lisa, drove their two small children like turkeys toward the outdoor privy. Peacock reminded me of an aging tackle at summer football camp; he was wearing shorts and boots and had legs like hairy telephone poles, a slab of chest, a grizzled black beard. He shook my hand and began doing back exercises to relieve the pain from an injury picked up in one of a variety of violent encounters. "A goddamn front's coming in," he said, looking west.
Another car arrived, driven by his friend and photographic assistant, Dan Sullivan. He also had a black beard, and considerably more hair on top. Sullivan lived outside Chicago and owned part of a company that cleaned up toxic waste sites.
We set our packs up under the pines and spread gear on the grass: sleeping bags, sweaters, film in plastic canisters, two camera bodies, a telephoto lens the size of a small cannon, lots of garbage bags. "I don't know how Lewis and Clark did it without garbage bags," Peacock said.
He held up a Bic lighter. It was to be used in case grizzlies came marauding, to light a stash of kindling kept dry at all times in one of the garbage bags, close to a can of lighter fluid. "One night I listened to bears walking around all night, before a sow and her cubs got real close. It was my first time to use fire as a deterrent, and all I had brought was a Newsweek. It didn't burn worth a shit."
We would take along only granola bars and homemade trail mix, which had no scent. We would eat huckleberries, bear fare and a good source of sugar and vitamins. If you ate what the bear ate, so the theory went, you might smell a bit less human. Peacock had occasionally conducted sweats to purge himself of human odors, and stored his clothes in bags with dirt and leaves before putting them on, but there was no time for that now.
"It's a calculated risk," Dan said, carefully wrapping the telephoto in a sweater and the sweater in a garbage bag.
Peacock scratched a biceps when he talked, or beat himself around the shoulders with sticks, blinking furiously. There was something ursine about him. "Grizzlies should be listed as endangered," he said. "Poaching takes a lot of bears, and managing them. They die after being tranquilized, and while being moved. But if the managers stopped , people would be put out of work. We have a bureaucrat for every bear out there."
He blinked some more. "What it does, really, is create more specialists to study what's already been studied." Bear counts, he said, were highly extrapolative; no one really knew how many bears there were in the Glacier-Flathead complex, or in Peacock's chosen spot. "We might well not see a grizzly."
He opened a canteen full of Wild Turkey. "Everyone to his own narcotic. Mine happens to be alcohol."
Dan said, "You wacko 'Nam vet."
It had the ring of something private and long-lived. Peacock had studied Vietnamese in Hawaii before they met, and ended up a medic in the Fifth Special Forces, running a military hospital near My Lai. He was captured by the North Vietnamese but wouldn't bear much questioning about that experience. They released him, he said, because he ate too much.
Lisa assembled chili on the butane stove, unconcerned about the next day's mission. "I don't worry about him up there," she said. "He's at his best then. I worry about him in the bars."
She set a chunk of cheddar on a stump and we cut hunks of it with my Buck knife. The question of tents arose, and whether I should sleep alone in mine. "Can three people fit into our North Face?" Peacock asked, and when Lisa said yes I wanted to hug her.
Her husband owned a .44 magnum, bought from a friend who acquired it from a Blackfoot; Peacock suspected that the pistol had quite a provenance. He didn't carry it when he was working, and he didn't allow those traveling with him to arm themselves. The presence of a gun changed the relationship between people and bears, he said, and offered false assurance. For months I had been surrounded by guns and now when I wanted one, they were disallowed.
We ate supper from paper plates.
"Why do you like bears so much?" I asked, hoping for some reassurance.
"They don't reduce to the idea that we have a dominion," Peacock said. "They're old-time outlaws and sons of bitches. They can kill and eat you. It's a contradiction to say we can manage such a critter. We should just back off, but we've never been able to do that — it's part of our Manifest Destiny not to." And then, "Bears represent a domain where man isn't king, a magic place — our last chance to take a walk in the big woods.                                                  

That night I woke up to the howling of coyotes, an ethereal yapping that echoed through the valley of the North Fork. It made me shiver but also thrilled me. I was afraid of morning but at the same time driven toward it, and was up at dawn, lacing my boots. A light came on in the cabin, and soon we were tossing packs into the back of a pickup. Lisa and the kids would travel with us to the jump-off point, and she would drive the truck back.
The four adults piled into the front seat, our laps full of cameras, sweaters, and children wrapped in blankets. The little girl threw up after a few minutes of the washboard road, eliciting from her father a profane condemnation of microorganisms in the drinking water. Lisa took care of it, commenting on the beauty of morning sun on mountains knitted in granite, heavily firred, with elephantine rocks amidst the greenery. The Bob Marshall lay miles to the south and east, beyond the stately, cerulean cadence of the Flathead River, and beyond that the Rocky Mountain Front — one enormous conduit for things wild, and imagined.
A few miles away lay the Great Western, the ag center, the acupuncturist's, Montana Earth Pottery, Retiro Cabins, and the used car lots of Kalispell — what Peacock called Cowsmell, in another century.
On a deserted road on the valley floor, Peacock pulled over and he, Dan Sullivan, and I bailed out like a helitack team and hauled our packs from the truck. As Lisa drove off, we scrambled through scrub aspen and into the woods by way of an abandoned trail, careful to stay out of sight of a passing car that might contain a government ranger.
Within half a mile we came upon dry grizzly scat, crumbling and full of hawthorn berries. We crossed a terrace of ferns and, traveling in single file, entered a stand of huge climax larches. Thorny devil's club raked our packs, but otherwise we moved silently. More scat, very fresh, lay like a loaf of black braided bread in the middle of the trail. Anything capable of such a spectacular dump deserved respect. Peacock picked up some, examined and sniffed it, the naturalist in search of components. He passed the specimen along; it smelled like smokeless tobacco to me.
Glacier grizzlies were smaller than those in Yellowstone but could still weigh close to six hundred pounds. This one had left a print in the bed of the stream where we filled the canteens; it was a broad dish with the crown of claw marks that distinguishes grizzly tracks from those of the black bear, as if there could have been any doubt left by the size of the print.
After an hour we emerged into sunlight, facing a mountainside covered with ruddy shrubs. "Huckleberries," Peacock said. "The leaves have already turned."
We stashed the tent and sleeping gear in a side valley and bushwhacked up near-vertical slopes thick with the huckleberry bushes. Within minutes our shirts were soaked with sweat. Peacock stopped to wring out his camouflage bandana and picked some berries — fat, glossy nubs of flavor better than anything I had experienced from a supermarket. Centuries of cross-hybridization had produced hues from black to crimson, tastes from tart to sweet. The bears gorged on the berries in season, sweeping the mountainsides until the first frost killed the fruit.
The huckleberries thinned out as we climbed. Fewer shrubs and more sunlight meant even lusher crops, however, skirted by elk and deer trails converging at the ridge's rocky spine. Scrub fir afforded some cover. A towering snag leaned out starkly against the gathering cirrus, and behind us the mountains reared like upended funnels, snow tight in the crevices. Heavy timber lay below, on both sides of a ridge, in landlocked valleys.
Nothing moved among the deadfall or around the muddy melt ponds in the valleys' end zones. We took off the packs and covered the brightly colored cloth with garbage bags. Peacock unlimbered his tripod. From the stand of larch directly below came the staccato call of a shafted flicker. "Something's bothered it," he said, maneuvering his good ear in that direction. "I can hear them breathing."
Bears slept a lot, lying on what he called day beds, a ludicrous description when applied to anything as large as a grizzly. It was not a good idea to disturb one on a day bed, but then it was a worse idea to disturb one feeding or drinking or caring for its young. "I think it's a sow with cubs. Sometimes the cubs get up and want to play, like kids, and she has to slap 'em down."
Powerful inferences, I thought, from nothing more than a bird call in a shadowy clump of trees. I sat on a rock, my shirt gone clammy in the wind. Dan knelt beside me, a pair of heavy tank-spotting binoculars dangling from his neck. He pointed to the slope opposite and said softly, "Look, there's a grizzly bear."
At first I couldn't see it. Then a small piece of the mountain lurched, and amidst the huckleberry bushes honey-colored haunches took shape, then the hump between the shoulders that makes grizzlies so different from other bears: muscle that drives the powerful forelegs. The bushes shook as if in an earthquake. The bear turned and gazed speculatively down toward the pond. It resembled several animals in one skin, each doing its job while the whole supple contraption loped downhill, the contrasting gold hair and black undercoat adding to its fluidity. It stopped at the water's edge and stared vaguely in our direction. A grizzly's eyesight doesn't amount to much if you compare it with the extreme acuity of its ears and nose.
I could feel the cold wind on my damp shirt. Peacock had the bear in his telescopic lens and began to pump the shutter. We stood two hundred yards above the bear but he heard the clicking. He could have reached us in a minute but wheeled and lumbered into the larches, out of sight, breaking large limbs along the way. Miraculously, a smaller grizzly ran out the other side of the woods, frightened by the bear we had frightened. "They're constantly displacing each other," Peacock said, "like a game of billiards."
I could hear them breathing now.
"They're more wary than I expected. Must be a big son of a bitch around here somewhere."
Dan pointed again. "There's a grizzly bear," he repeated.
This one was hugely black, and untouched by fickle breezes that had taken our spoor into the valley. Peacock needed something more than photographs of bear asses to sell, and this one was not cooperating. He and Sullivan watched it with hands on hips. They had worked together for eight years, the master and the willing disciple. It seemed a curious relationship based on little money and much trouble, not to mention risk. Peacock had seen his first grizzly in the Brooks Range, in Alaska, while on a University of Michigan field trip as a major in natural sciences, but that experience didn't take. Then he saw another one in a meadow in Yellowstone and never got over it.
I pulled on a wool shirt and crawled over the ridge, to check the other basin. A bear stood directly below me, on the shore of the melt pond, white in the sun. Lewis and Clark had encountered many blond grizzlies and had given their reputed whiteness worldwide notoriety. Aldo Leopold wrote a century and a half later, "Each generation in turn will ask: where is the big white bear? It will be a sorry answer to say he went under while conservationists weren't looking." 
This bear waded into the shallow water and lolled on an elbow. I motioned to Dan, and he and Peacock scrambled over and set up the tripod among scrub pines.
"I think that's Happy Bear," Peacock said, grunting as he wielded the big lens. He had names for a few regulars. This one concentrated on swirls of mud rising from the bottom of the pond, pawing with curled claws, motions of great delicacy.
Happy Bear pushed his nose under the surface and came up with a tree in his teeth, twelve feet long and water-logged, held by one end in apparently effortless perusal.
Bears are built like medieval catapults, all internal straps and pulleys. The sloped shoulders and oracular head conceal more force than would seem necessary for the needs of an omnivore that often grazes like a cow. Bear-baiters in New Spain had turned wild steers loose on chained grizzlies that broke half a dozen bovine necks before a horn found home. Grizzlies were as unpredictable as they were versatile and preferred corms, sedges, and berries to red meat; but they were prepared to move boulders just to get at a chipmunk.
Trees as an escape route were not recommended by Peacock. Bears could cover a hundred yards faster than a linebacker for the NFL, he said, and pull you down again. His favored defense was talking to bears, and moving his head from side to side, peaceable ursine body language. "It's best to stand your ground and reason with them."
His dreams of bears were full of carnage and death, he said, which made the waking moments less fearful. "I don't plan to get mauled," he said, "but you never know." Dominant grizzlies chased and killed full-grown bull elk just for the hell of it, when there was abundant food elsewhere. They could be almost artful. The grizzly that ate Laurence Gordon, according to one writer, peeled Gordon's booted feet like bananas.
Wind tore at the pages of my notebook; Happy Bear seemed to hear it. He dropped the tree and ambled from the pond. He shook himself, a six-hundred-pound golden retriever, and climbed up onto a toppled Doug fir. He ran up and down the log with comic grace, rocking back and forth. He gazed in our direction, then turned his attention to huckleberries and fed slowly out of sight.
We sat down to eat trail mix. "This is a loveless place," Peacock said, "kind of ugly, with no macho peaks to climb. Fortunately, it's not everybody's idea of an alpine holiday. The fact that grizzlies use it shows how adaptable they are. They only come here in late summer and fall, and they'll go back up there" — he gestured toward the mountains to the northeast — "and dig dens on north-facing slopes, to get the warmth of the snowpack."
He liked Glacier grizzlies because they had not been trapped and tinkered with like those in Yellowstone. "Benign neglect is best, but wildlife biology has become the new cottage industry. How often do you have to perform an experiment to learn the same thing? Biologists are intrigued by computers and technology, they prefer collaring and tracking with a helicopter to sitting on a ridge looking at bears."
The assertive, or dominant, bear — what Peacock called the old-time outlaw — was systematically being culled from the population. They tended to get into trouble and eventually found themselves at the wrong end of a .30/06. Managers favored the shy bear that avoided man, thereby contributing to the deprivation of the gene pool. When all grizzlies became shy, according to Peacock, they would be less than grizzlies.                                                   

He stretched out in the intermittent sun. Dan did the same. I was too exhilarated to sleep and began to browse on huckleberries, on my hands and knees, looking down into the east basin. Two elk cows had appeared in the lower valley, and a big buck mule deer lay in the shadow of mountain ash, uneasy amidst all that grizzly spoor. What had earlier appeared to be lifeless burned-over second-growth timber had come alive now that bears and men had taken to their day beds.
Peacock slept, murmuring, "Dance!... Dance!..."

A sow and a cub moved down the far slope, followed by a young adult. Peacock woke up to watch. "I think it's an atypical grouping," he said. "Sometimes young bears will hang around their mother when she has new cubs, and she'll tolerate them up to a point." He had seen as many as eleven bears at once in a basin. "I've seen them put on as much as hundred and fifty pounds in six weeks here, just on berries."
Berries had stained our hands and mouths purple; drops of huckleberry juice punctuated our shirts like bullet holes. "The most dangerous time is late September, when the berries fail. There's about a week of stress, when bears are competing, and changing territory, looking for new food. Two of the six deaths in this park have occurred then."
We were to sleep in the valley, which had more cover than the ridge. Of the seven grizzlies we had seen, five had gone off in the general direction of our camp. Bears migrating down from the higher ranges, where the huckleberries were less plentiful, also used that trail. We wanted to pitch the tent as far from it as possible. There was no reason the bears should get off the trail, Peacock said, sensing my reluctance to see the sun leave us. It was descending through broad banks of gray nimbus riding in from the west — heavy weather on the way.
We packed the cameras and trail mix and started down, leaving a full canteen so we would have to pack up less water the next day. A flock of buff-colored Canada jays drifted silently overhead. Where the trail dropped steeply we paused to watch another bear nosing about in ruddy shrubs on the far side of the drainage. That made eight.
The woods lay in shadow. We crossed the trail without encountering bears or bear sign, retrieved the tent we had stashed coming in, and moved on. Then we came upon a second bear highway.
"Shit," whispered Dan. We were running out of places to sleep.
"We don't have a lot of time to screw around," Peacock said. "It's getting dark. Go another fifty yards, and set up." Beyond that, another mountain rose.
He walked off alone, to fill the canteens. We were camping, I realized, in the midst of huckleberry bushes. Evergreens kept out the sun, so these didn't bear fruit. The thickly interwoven branches snared our legs, and Dan and I ripped them out by the roots and kicked up centuries of decayed deadfall to make an island amidst the hummocks. We worked quickly, with wonderfully concentrated minds.
"Sometimes bears just go crazy," Dan said. "Like people." In 1967, after fifty-seven years during which no one had been killed by bears in Glacier, two campers perished on the same night, in different campsites, in the grip of different grizzly bears.
Peacock returned with the water. We ate granola, then wrapped it and the trail mix in a garbage bag and suspended it from a snag fifty yards from the tent. Peacock assigned me the task of kindling the fire, should we need one; he handed me the Bic. "Don't worry," he said, "you'll have plenty of time."
That was not reassuring. We blew up our mattresses and spread our sleeping bags inside the tent; I made sure I was between Dan and Peacock. Peacock had once taken Arnold Schwarzenegger into the woods to look at bears, for a television special. Dan did a good imitation of the muscle man in the wild. "Peacoke, Peacoke," he whispered now, in an Austrian accent. "Dese bears are hooge, Peacock! Dey gonna make me fweak out!"
I lay there, exhausted, wishing we smelled a little less anthropoid, and that the walls of the tent were made of kryptonite.
Peacock yawned. "After a couple of weeks in here I'll be able to sleep through the elk and just wake up for the bears."
Impending rain seemed about to break over the night range, although no drops fell. I thought perversely of food — thick burgers, Pralines 'n' Cream. If a bear came, the fire — presuming I had time to light one — would simply put off the inevitable. I had heard stories of people hitting bears with packs and sticks and surviving; others played dead and in fact did not end up that way.
After an hour, Peacock said, ''I'm going under now. Sleep light."
He snored softly, twice, before some self-regulating mechanism shut him down. A few minutes later he snored twice more and then lapsed into silence again. So it went. I imagined a bear approaching, parting the reinforced nylon with dextrous claws, and the heat of his huckleberry breath.
I dreamed I was riding a train across a strange and sullen landscape, telephone in hand, trying to make a reservation at a restaurant the name of which I had forgotten.

Silent dawn, and the smell of rain hanging above the forest like something thwarted. The other two slept on. Cautiously, I crawled out of the tent, laced my boots, and stood up under the still, green canopy. The absence of birdsong could not dampen the exaltation I felt at simply being alive and bathed in light, such as it was.
I navigated the surrounding shrubs, moving carefully down-breeze, until I reached the edge of the clearing. On the far side and a quarter of a mile up the slope, a grizzly took his breakfast with stately deliberation, a magnificent Rorschach blot on autumn reds and golds. Watching him, I felt a kind of post-coital sadness, as if I had outstripped imagination and was left with a large, primal force as mysterious as it had ever been. That raw piece of burned-over, undevelopable mountain where he browsed was his salvation, and maybe mine, too.
We saw four more grizzlies that day, in the east basin, too distant to be photographed. Our presence had roiled the air currents, sending them rippling like the water in a good fishing hole. Then the rain came suddenly in the late afternoon. Big drops rattled against the garbage bags and the hoods of our ponchos, making hearing difficult and rendering the descent from the ridge treacherous. On the trail beyond the stream we found grizzly tracks over our bootprints from the day before. "Let's make a little noise," Peacock said, his fierce bearded face running with water.
I whipped my poncho and drummed my Vibram soles on the springy earth, and a red-tailed hawk screamed at us from the larch tops.
At last I saw the road glistening through the gathering mist. We skidded down the hill, and Peacock scattered leaves over the asphalt — a signal to Lisa, who was scheduled to come looking for us. We hid our packs and set out toward town, soaked and cold. A valiant young couple in an old Volkswagen bus picked us up, and we listened to James Taylor over the knock of the engine.
In West Glacier we found a tavern where Peacock was known and the barmaid gave us free beer. I bought rounds of Stolichnaya — his favorite vodka — and we knocked them back. It was happening too quickly, something precious was slipping away: thirteen grizzlies in thirty-six hours, leaching into puddles about our boots.
Lisa arrived with incredible dispatch, hugged her husband, and told him they had only a hundred dollars left in the bank, and the rent yet to pay. "Shit," he said, "down to the wire again."
She touched his cheek.
Holding a Stoly in one hand and a can of Rainier in the other, wearing a tattered green sweater and sopping cords, Peacock looked older than he had on the mountain, his thinning hair in disarray. Members of the Sierra Club were coming up to have Peacock show them grizzlies the following week. Then Peacock wanted to fish the Yellowstone with a friend. Then the friend and his friend wanted Peacock to show them grizzlies in Glacier. He belonged to a large informal net where one needed an independent income; Peacock had none.
We drove north through the dusk, the car full of groceries, children, camping gear, and anxiety. Somewhere north of the ranger station Dan put on the brakes and Peacock leapt out of the car. He ran through the woods, stooping and pulling things from the wet earth. The berries are failing, I thought.
He displayed a dozen in the lap of his poncho. ''I'm going to make chanterelle soup!"
And he did, too, using powdered milk and loads of garlic, in the cabin on the North Fork. There we drank a bottle of Bordeaux I had carried for ·thousands of miles amidst clothes and gear, and then another. The kids hung happily on Peacock's legs, while Dan took turns tossing them into the air.
In the dry heat of blazing aspen logs, with four hard walls around me, I remembered a dark, majestic creature browsing contentedly on a mountainside.                                                                                  

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