Essay: Camping in a Brave New Wild

Stewart B. Shelley

I don’t go camping anymore.

The contents of a pamphlet proffered recently by an earnest young park ranger should explain why:

The National Park Service (USNPS) welcomes you to Yosemite National Park. Enjoy your camping experience, and remember: this is bear country! In the event that you are awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of your tent being ripped asunder, remain calm and carry out the following instructions.

Step #1. Announce in a firm, but reassuring voice, “Good evening, Mr./Ms. Bear. You are intruding. Please understand that I am armed in full compliance with USNPS regulations, and am willing to defend my family, my property, and myself.” During this greeting, it is important to keep your voice well-modulated, and free of any telltale signs of fear, such as vocal tremors, and screams which might be mistaken for those of a little girl. Like all animals, bears can sense fear, and such behavior will almost certainly increase the likelihood of attack. It is also recommended that you avoid direct eye contact at this time, since it tends to piss bears off.

Note: In the event that the bear has not yet attacked, you are required by law to repeat the above greeting in Spanish. If you do not speak Spanish, and an interpreter is unavailable, you can maintain compliance by utilizing Native American Sign Language. In the event that the bear has commenced his/ her attack, you may proceed immediately to step number two.

Step #2. Retrieve your USNPS approved firearm from its USNPS approved gun safe, remembering to keep the weapon pointed down range and in “safe” mode until you are ready to fire. Failure to do so may be an infringement of the bear’s civil rights. Such infringements are punishable by up to ten years in a federal correctional institution. Note: If your weapon is not stowed in an approved gun safe, you may in some cases be authorized to store it next to your person, as long as it is properly fitted with a USNPS approved trigger lock. In this case, the best course of action is to scramble around the tent searching frantically for your USNPS trigger lock key, unlock the trigger lock, remove it carefully, and proceed to step number three.

Step #3. Determine the intent of the bear. The bear may merely be searching for S’mores, or other light snacks, in which case you are not authorized to kill him/her. In such cases you should sternly remind the animal (in English and Spanish or Native American Sign Language) that he/she is in violation of USNPS regulations, and will be held responsible for damages and/or assigned 30 hours of community service if such behavior does not stop.

Note: Any small children in your party may be reasonably mistaken for tidbits. Therefore, you are not empowered to shoot until and unless the bear has actually demonstrated its intent to attack by grabbing said child and making movements which could reasonably be interpreted as feeding behavior. You are not required to wait for actual munching, though your case in court will undoubtedly be strengthened if the child in question is missing one or more appendages.

Once intent has been determined, you may shoot the bear. This should be relatively easy, as in all probability, the animal will be rather close by the time you have gone through steps one through three, above. If you survive the experience, immediately remove your soiled underwear. Wash it, being careful to follow USNPS Soiled Underwear Washing Procedures. A pamphlet detailing these procedures may be obtained at your nearest park ranger station. It is also permissible to burn the garment, if washing proves inadequate (a distinct possibility), or if environmentally friendly cleaning agents are unavailable. In this case, you must be sure to follow alternate campfire regulations, as outlined in the appropriate pamphlet, available at your nearest ranger station. Remember, it is unlawful to burn soiled underwear in any campfire used primarily for cooking.

Speaking of soiled underwear, you may experience unusual “elimination” events for several days following the incident. Post-attack fecal matter tends to be somewhat runny, and is characterized by a peculiar greenish coloration,
and a truly gawdawful odor. If you do not survive the incident, your next of kin are welcome to identify your remains by sifting through bear feces in the area. It’s a harmless enough activity, and the bears find it amusing.

We hope that you have found this information useful, and again wish you a safe and enjoyable camping trip.

U.S. National Parks Service

P. S. In the event that you are attacked by wolves instead of bears, repeat steps one through three above, remembering to substitute the words “Mr./ Ms. Wolf” for “Mr./Ms. Bear.” It is not necessary to repeat the greeting in Spanish, as almost all wolves in Yosemite National Park hail from Canada. A simple, “Halt, eh,” will suffice.

P. P. S. This document was printed on recycled paper, which can be conveniently substituted for toilet paper.


Stewart B. Shelley is a retired English teacher. He is a multiple winner of the Masonic Lodge Essay Writing Award, has written one novel, “The Last Word,” and is currently working on three others. He is also the author of more than a dozen short stories and several essays. “Camping in a Brave New Wild” is his first work to be published.

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