I have no idea. Let’s say it was a minute or two. A very long minute or two. The bear plainly did not feel threatened by my presence. Did not feel I was going to cross that small space between us and start beating him about the head and shoulders with that turkey I was carrying. And the bear’s nonchalance was, in turn, reassuring to me. I didn’t feel as though it might suddenly cover that insignificant gap between us and give me a proper mauling.
I believe, in fact, that I felt fairly sure he wouldn’t. But I wasn’t going to make the first move even if I could have. And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. I was immobilized by something.
Finally, the bear dropped his head and moved off. No haste or urgency. He just seemed to amble away, as though he’d seen enough strange sights for one day and might as well get on with his life. My day had been made.
* * *
I told that story a lot and bored a lot of people who were obliged to listen to it. Some of them more than once. A few of my listeners asked if I’d been afraid that the bear would attack and I’d told them, honestly, that I had not. That, in fact, I was awfully sure he would not. Because, like everything else in the woods, I was not a threat to him. Not even an inconvenience. I might have been a meal, though. But while bears are omnivores, humans don’t seem to interest them as a possible food source, even when they are very hungry. Which is often the case.