Bear stories and werewolves: This is My Canada

Black BearI was tagged by Mariellen Ward for This is My Canada (thanks also to Pamela McNaughtan), and for those of you who don’t know, bloggers taking part post on five things they love about this country.

As someone who’s grown up in Manitoba and Alberta, and visited at least six provinces, I can tell you a few things. Not many, but at least five.

So: this is my Canada.

1. Every Canadian has a bear story

I heard this phrase from the England-born parents of two high school friends and suddenly realized it was true. I have more than one.

When I was 10, there was what they call a “problem bear” at the lake my family had a cottage at. In those days the only way in or out was by train (or pontoon plane). I saw the bear once from a distance, mistaking it for a dog; but it wasn’t the sort of thing my friends and I were too worried about. It had been nosing around people’s cottages but nothing huge.

I came back to my friend’s cottage after we had been out hacking around in the forest one day, hoping to get something to eat. His parents and brothers were out, and when we came in we saw one of the cupboard doors on the floor and some packaged food on the counter.  It looked like someone had dropped a bunch of stuff. Then my friend noticed a lot more things had been damaged, including the kitchen window, which had been pushed in and wrecked.

We didn’t touch anything, and quickly realized a bear had tried to get into the cabin and when it found the window was too small it had destroyed about a quarter of the upper kitchen without even getting inside.

That scared the hell out of us, but worse was that night, when the bear came back, looking for more.  My friend’s father heard the bear trying to get in through another window, and he jumped out of bed.  He grabbed his rifle, and as he put it the next morning when I came to visit, “I was bear shooting, but I was also bare shooting — I didn’t have any time to get clothes on.  But I got the son of a bitch.”

It was true: there were bullet holes in the window and blood spattered on the rocks outside.

After that, the park rangers were called in, because a wounded bear that isn’t afraid of people is no joke.  I saw the rangers when they talked to people around the lake and it was pretty clear the bear was going to be hunted down and killed. I never heard when they caught up with it, but we didn’t have any problems with that bear after that.

2. Health care

Seriously, this is a boring one, but I get a lot of traffic here from the United States, so I might as well add my vice to the chorus of Public Health Care Works. We don’t have a perfect health care system, but man, there have been many times I went to see a doctor or needed to go to the hospital to get something checked out (like the time I had a bad cough that was really bronchitis and was down to 10 per cent of my lung capacity), which I would not have been able to afford on my own.

3. Winter

I love winter. It’s magnificent, it’s bleak and bright and bold, and when it hits minus 30 Celsius on the prairies you feel in your bones that you’re alive. I know everyone else hates the cold and snow, and I know a big part of why I love it is I can afford central heating. But it’s a beautiful season, and at least you can dress for it. When it’s brutally hot in the summer, you can’t.

Margaret Atwood

Cover of Margaret Atwood

4. Our writers rock

Every country has its great literature. But if you haven’t read Canadian writers like the savagely satiric Mordecai Richler, bitingly intelligent Margaret Atwood, or pointedly observant Farley Mowat, not to mention Stuart McLean, whose Christmas stories alone will have you in stitches, you are missing out. I’m not even scratching the surface here!  Read Canadian.

5. We are a great haven for werewolves

You may laugh, but it’s true. We defined the first hugely popular female werewolf in Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten and its sequels. Douglas Smith combines Native and European mythologies in his Heroka series, including Spirit Dance. American writer David Wellington chose Canada’s far North to set his fantastic werewolf novels Frostbite and Overwinter. And Margaret Atwood even wrote a poem about them — Update on Werewolves.

So there you have it — five of my reasons why I love Canada.  What are yours? Let me know in the comments!

And be sure to continue on the blog hop. I have tagged the ever-clever Ariel Gordon, Amanda Stratton, and Ninian Poetree.

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10 thoughts on “Bear stories and werewolves: This is My Canada

    • She really does rule. And my friend’s dad, who passed away about 14 years ago, was a sometimes gruff guy who had a great sense of humour. He was making a joke about what happened but even as a kid I could tell he was rattled by it. That scared me almost as much as seeing what the bear had done to the kitchen.

        • I’ve actually had more up-close encounters with them that weren’t as exciting. Ran into one while hiking — it took off immediately and I just froze until it was gone. Also saw some cubs close up while driving slowly on a gravel road — as soon as they saw the car they scooted up a tree while their mama kept an eye on us.

  1. I read Guy Gavriel Kay, and I believe he is Canadian. I also enjoy that Canada is always there – not going anywhere – and that I can visit anytime. I am also hugely enamored of my own personal Canadian, my husband. He is into Canadian bacon and questionable films that make fun of Canadians.

    • Guy Gavriel Kay — yes! He is actually from Winnipeg, and aside from his huge catalogue of great fantasy novel, I love that he got to work with Christopher Tolkien in compiling The Silmarillion.
      I love questionable films that make fun of Canadians, especially when they are hosers like Bob & Doug in Strange Brew.

      • I didn’t know GGK worked with C Tolkien. That is cool. I have read all of GGK’s novels and his 1 book of poetry. One of my all time fave authors.

  2. It’s true about bear stories, we also have many including coming home (we lived in Whistler at the time) in the pitch dark and hearing multiple bears in the trees. We ran towards the house just hoping they wouldn’t come after us. Whistler bears are notorious for being bad news. They start eating berries high in the mountains and by the fall they are in the village breaking into homes and businesses. Crazy bears.

    • Are those grizzly bears? Much worse than the black bears we get out in Manitoba and Ontario, I would think. I have a good friend who lived in Banff and can tell a harrowing story of going out hiking and being treed by a grizzly — he stayed in the tree for hours, just to be sure it was long gone after it came after him.

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