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Smokey in the boys' room

The bear crashed through the screen door and there, a mere five feet in front of me, was a jumbo-sized snout.

A black bear takes a break from the chase Monday, May 23, 2011 after being tracked for hours through subdivisions in Ashland, Kentucky. Local police and animal control officers called in a state wildlife biologist from the state.

John Flavell/AP/file

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A little voice in my head told me to stop and check the clatter, which, it seemed, wasn't coming from outside, but rather from the boys' bedroom. This was the same voice that plays in your head during horror movies: "Yeah, right. Dumb girl. She has to do the stupidest things or there would be no movie. I'd never open the door."

My husband and four boys had gone camping for the weekend, and I had been tidying my bedroom. Something about a clean house made freedom sweeter. My first thought had been that a squirrel was making the racket. Previously, the varmint had gnawed through a mesh ventilation window, getting access to the crawl space below.

Unwilling to permit further destruction to our mountain home, I'd started down the hall to scare the critter away. Mid-hall, another sound came. The inventory of house noises fast-forwarded through my mind – squirrel scampering overhead, woodpecker desecrating shingles, pine cone bombing roof, squirrel in vent, chipmunk in water-heater cabinet, carpenter ants eating walls – turned up no matches. I soon learned that was because "bear through screen door" hadn't yet made the house-noise database.

Showing uncharacteristic bravery, I opened the door to the boys' bedroom. Instinctively, I'd assumed a crouch, as if that would make the difference between safe and dead. I was acutely aware of a jumbo-sized snout and nostrils at eye level and a mere five feet away. They were an impressive replication of the stuffed bear's face on my youngest son's nearby bunk, though disconcertingly larger and lifelike. We held each other's gaze, me frozen with the sight of the front half of a furry beast piercing the screen door, and it not moving, likely wondering if I was responsible for the stuffed bear on the bed.

The animal's front feet were on the carpet and his back legs were still on the wood deck outside. I yelled, widening the door opening then slamming it shut. Scare the bear. That's what the Tahoe Bear League says. After the fourth "open door, scream, slam door" sequence I waited with the door closed. Had it left? I stood so still my tail would have been quivering if I'd had one. No sound. Still crouched down, one hand on the knob, I again opened the door and peered in. The bear's round brown furry behind was toddling off around the house.


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