BEAR

Long-time county commissioner the late Jim Ham used to assure his Reedy Creek Road friends and family that rattlesnakes never came north of Maynards Mill Road.

Oh sure Crawford County was full of them. And a few may slither up into Monroe County. But there was a hard and fast rule built into The Creation. They couldn’t cross north of Maynards Mill, a long east-west road that supposedly kept the rattlers out of civilization.

Our friend David Rogers lives just south of Maynards Mill. He loves wildlife, keeps a lot of animals, including donkeys, and loves to hunt deer. And he has killed no fewer than half a dozen rattlesnakes in the past year. I don’t live too far north of Rogers. I have been getting nervous.

“You keep them down there below Maynards Mill!” I told him.

We already know that armadillos, once a foreign creature known only to hot climes like Florida and Arizona, have made their march into Georgia. Or have they? Last year we killed several at the house and saw even more. It was fun really. I have not seen one this year. But I digress.

It had not been but a few days since we moved to South Monroe last year when my wife (she’s always the one who finds the snakes) noticed a rattler in the yard. I was at the office, on deadline. Thankfully our friend Jarrett Hill lives nearby and likes to shoot. That rattler had a bad day. So did Jim Ham’s infallable rule.

Nonetheless, we haven’t seen any rattlers since last year. But Rogers has seen a bevy of them. Will they stay south of Manyards Mill? I don’t know.

Then this weekend Rogers welcomed, well, saw, a new species at his estate. A hunting camera captured a giant black bear sitting on his deer feeder like a pre-diabetic Walmart shopper riding a scooter down the cookie aisle (see front page). 

Long-time Monroe Outdoors columnist Terry Johnson, not one prone to hyperbole, flatly told me: “That’s the biggest one I’ve seen in Monroe County in my 40 years.”

While I want the snakes to stay with Rogers, I admit I’m kind of intrigued by bears. After all, our family has two polar bears, disguised at Great Pyrenees dogs. What’s not to love about bears?

The chance of seeing a bear in the wild always takes me back to 2003 when I was publisher of the Sandersville Progress. I will never forget the day a wild bear made its way downtown, and turned that city upside down.

Traffic shutdown. Old ladies ran to their cars. It was like The Rapture. City police officers chased the poor bear with guns drawn as DNR rangers closed in with tranquilizer rifles. I dispatched our summer intern (they always get the fun jobs) to join the chase with a camera. He captured a photo of a police officer with his mouth agape sprinting away from the bear at full speed. It was hilarious, and of course wound up running six columns wide across the entire front page.

Bear stories make the best stories. Some of my favorite books growing up came from the Berenstain Bears and Winnie the Pooh. In fact my college roommates called me Pooh Bear since I had the bad habit of dripping honey toast all over the kitchen.

This newspaper’s founder Don Daniel calls himself The Bear, and has a collection of them at his log cabin home.

As for Rogers, he’s not a big fan. As you can read on the front page, he considers them pests who complicate deer hunting efforts.

For those of us whose major deer hunting accomplishment is surviving an 8-foot drop out of a stand, that’s not a problem.

So send the bear to me David. Between summertime and COVID, the news can get slow. Unleashing a bear on downtown Forsyth may be just what this little weekly fish wrapper needs.