Grizzly attack disturbs ice climbing dreams

Ice climbing had a lingering effect. Last week I told you about my first attempt at scaling a frozen Colorado waterfall; of the strenuous hike to the climbing site, sucking air at 11,000 feet, and inching up a wall of ice using axes and sharp-toothed crampons on mountaineering boots. While the adventure was a solid success, the residual effect appears late at night in disheveled, slack-jawed slumber.

It’s haunting my dreams.

I fell into a coma-esque sleep the night we came home from the trip; swaddled in ratty pajamas in my enormous, familiar bed. The bear showed up sometime between turning out the light and drooling into my pillow — a giant ravenous grizzly with a butt that rippled violently beneath its heavy fur coat. It came out of nowhere, chasing me in snarling splendor as I scrambled up that mountain with my ratty pajamas stuffed into mountaineering boots.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. I did what every woman does during vivid, terrifying dreams. I climbed on a propane tank jutting out of the rocks. It was the same tank that sat outside the farmhouse of my youth; the one I scaled to escape the neighbor’s growling dog. That worked as a kid in real life. It was worthless in slumberous imaginings 40 years later involving a man-eating bear.

The bear has visited before. It shows up when I’m stressed, worried, or in the case of ice climbing, perplexed by a life-changing experience. It rattled the windows when bills were due and money was scarce. It knocked my door down when I took my oldest son to the emergency room after he fell from a ladder. It clawed my arm off after moving my youngest son to college. I curse that bear.

So there I was, sitting on my propane tank in pajamas, trying to ward off an attacking bear with mountaineering boots, when it dawned on me that it was after the packet of hot chocolate mix I had in my pocket. Well, that made perfect sense.

“Hunka!” I yelled. “Help me, Hunka!” That made sense, too, except my sleep-scrambled brain rendered the plea, “Wonka! WellweWonka!”

I yelled so loud I woke myself up, in a cold sweat, with arms and legs tangled in twisted sheets. Thankfully, the bear was gone. KaPOOF!

Hunka Burnin’ Hubby was snoring softly, thankfully oblivious to my embarrassing outburst.

“Did I really say Wonka?” I thought to myself. “Good grief, get a grip.”

In the darkness I pondered the spark that attracted the bear. It could have been scaling a frozen waterfall. It could have been the sign in our cabin warning us we were in bear country. Or it could have been the giant cup of hot chocolate I had before I went to bed. At any rate, I rolled over, said a prayer, and went back to bear-less sleep.

The next morning Hunka woke scratching his head.

“I had the weirdest dream,” he said. “I was Willy Wonka riding in a boat rowed by a bear down a river of hot chocolate. We were about to go over a waterfall.”

Perhaps my bear has found a new dreamer to haunt.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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