14 June 2009

Western Road Trip, Day 8: Tall Tales and Bear Squat Spring

Our focus today was the Canyon area, the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls. In the afternoon, after we had waited out a rainstorm, Jenny, Ellie, Jonah, Owen, my mom and I took a four-mile hike out to a place called Clear Lake.

The American trappers who first explored this area considered it far too civilized to merely tell folks what they had seen. They constructed long and wondrous "yarns" (tall tales) about their adventures and tell them around the fire on long, snow-bound winter nights. For example, one of my favorite tales, told by Jim Bridger, was about Eight-hour Canyon. Apparently you could wrap up to go to sleep, whisper, "Good mornin'," and eight hours later the echo would return to wake you up.

This is my best try.

There is a canyon down in Southwest Yallerstone called the Saw Saw. I been there once. It's the sunniest place in the park, with all kinds of pepper plants growin' along the sides of the canyon. I seen halapeeners, chillies, yellers and reds. I seen stalks of fresh cilantro just a wavin' in the wind. I seen onions that--when theys ripe--just pop outta the ground and burst into a thousand pieces before your eyes. And the whole canyon floor is tamaters--red and ripe.

Well about harvest time, these here peppers have nowheres to do, hain't nobody been to Saw Saw Canyon and seen what I seen--or et what I et. They just bulge right out in the sun, ready to split their skin. And then they do, come the new moon of July. Why that day they just break open. The juice and the pieces of tomato, cilantro, onion, halapeener and every thing else just float to the bottom of the canyon and drain into these wells, just a boilin' and a bubblin'--like nearly everythin' else in the Yellerstone.

The night I seen this miracle, I just had to try some. It smelled so good. But it was too hot to eat or drink straight. I needed something round and crispy to dip into the bubblin' well. I climbed out of the canyon, and guess what I seen right there? I seen the field littered with buffalo chips--perfectly round, crispy, and they broke with a nice crunch.

Right after Ellie nailed me with this snowball, I got her right back with the closest thing I could find--a dried buffalo chip. I smacked her right on the bottom with it. She was really ticked--and she sure didn't like all the jokes about toilet paper I made the rest of the hike either.
I filled up my bag with them thar buffalo chips and got back into the canyon. I reached down into the bubblin' well with one o' them chips, covered the whole thing with the peppery stuff, and took a big bite. Mmmm mmmm! I do believe that that was the first chip in Saw Saw anybody ever et.

Well not long after I took my first bite, I heard a growlin' up the canyon, and I know'd that Old Ephriam (this was the name the mountain men gave the grizzly bear) had found his way inside Saw Saw. Well he just scratched the ground and started a lickin' up the juice that had spilled there. Since he was a'blockin' the only way out, I hid in one of the wells to watch.

That b'ar sniffed up a pepper plant, and then he started eatin'. He must've thought them thar halapeeners was huckleberries to see him swaller them down one after t'other. He et and et fer three days, not stoppin' to drink or sleep, just a poppin' them peppers down.

Now I know a little 'bout peppers--and I know ever'thin' about chips in Saw Saw--and I know that the pain doesn't hit ya until ya stop eatin'. But when it does--especially after them halapeeners--you better watch out! Well the bear stopped eatin' them peppers, and it was bound to happen. I heard a squeal, and then I saw his tongue fall out of his mouth and roll all the way past his toes. He started pantin' and he ran up to one of the wells and stuck his head down inside, swallowin' gallons of the stuff for the chips. Then he squealed even louder and ran on all fours back up the canyon, his tongue still lollin' and draggin' behind his back legs.

This pretty little gravel arm of land in Yellowstone Lake got even prettier when Jenny claimed it and checked out the view. We called it Jenny's Spit, and it made it into my story!
I followed that b'ar. I just had to see what would happen. He ran past Old Faithful and didn't slow down. I don't think he even noticed Jenny's Spit, the cutest little piece o' land in Yellerstone Lake.

I followed him until we reached Clear Lake, and then I watched him stick his head in that there lake and drink it dry.

Well that b'ar just a sat on the shore there, his belly pokin' out halfway to the Great Salty, his tongue still lollin' out his mouth and twitchin' around his toes, and I thought that he finally looked happy--the way he had felt the first time he tasted them peppers in the Saw Saw.
Jonah "Bear" Dittes pauses to take in the view of Clear Lake during our hike.

All a sudden I seen that b'ar's eyes just start to bulge and water. He reached his big ol' paws around his back as if somethin' was a fixin' to come outta his back side! Oh, I know'd I should a give him some privacy and leff him alone, but I just a had to watch.

Sho nuff, that b'ar started a diggin'. He dug a way down into that hillside there next to Clear Lake. And when the rumblin' sounded like one o' them earthquakes of the Yellerstone, I saw him turn and a squat right over that there hole.

Three days of pepper-eatin' and one day of lake-drankin' came outta that there b'ar in 90 seconds. The geyser that ripped down outta that there b'ar lifted him clear off the ground, near as high as the pine tops. It melted the snow in the whole a Yellerstone, and it stank so bad that I saw the Upper Falls run back'ards just to get away from the stench.

I don't know how I survived, quite frankly, save I was meant to tell you the story. When it was all over, that b'ar just a trotted off like how d'ya do. But that spring remained, just a bubblin' and a gurglin' away. In fact, should you bravely follow the Clear Lake Trail in the Yellerstone, you'll see the spring thar--all brown and still a bubblin' to this day.
My mom inspects Bear Squat Spring before anyone had named it or written a silly tale about it.