As we pause in our everyday routine to celebrate the Thanksgiving season, it is


obvious that we have an awful lot to be thankful for. Terry Morris of Vanceboro


might have more than most folks.


He recently survived a violent encounter with a


black bear that was like something out of a horror movie.


It began when the avid outdoorsman’s hounds bayed (cornered) a large bear in a


thicket. Morris and a couple of other hunters made their way through the dense


cover and, when the bear was spotted, one of them took a non-lethal shot. The


enraged animal turned and sprinted straight toward Morris.


He brought his rifle up, pulled the trigger, and heard “click” – misfire. The bear


reached out, grabbed Morris and pulled him underneath him, biting and clawing.


The man fought, literally for his life, and hollered for help. After what must have


seemed like an eternity, he ended up on his back with his arm in the bear’s mouth.


Then, a shotgun roared and bear collapsed. It was so big (about 500 lb.) that the


hunter who had fired the shot, had to have help getting the animal off his friend.


At the hospital, Morris received four stitches in his left hand and other


treatment. He also heard a lot of comments about how lucky he was to be alive. He


described it recently as a sobering experience but it hasn’t quelled his enthusiasm


for bear hunting. It has, however, given him something for which to be very thankful.


I’ve never had something quite that dramatic happen to me in the outdoors but I


have experienced some things that prompted me afterward to look toward Heaven


and mumble under my breath. I’ve been lost; up to my neck in water while duck


hunting; iced in at a camp which could only be reached by water; and thought my


wife might have drowned in some river rapids. All of those and a few others were


some scary moments that I was thankful to have survived.


But, as I reflect on a lifetime in the woods and on the water, it occurs to me that


the things I have the greatest appreciation for were not the near-misses but rather


some of the moments, experiences and people we are often tempted to take for


granted. Some of the things I am most thankful for are when I was privileged to be


in a place at a time when it left an indelible memory. There have been untold


numbers of those and each one was – and still is – incredibly special.


For example, there was the January morning in the Great Smokey Mountains


National Park when two college friends and I stood outside a trail shelter at a spot


called Big Tom Gap and watched the sun rise over the mountains. The temperature


was well below zero but, thanks to multiple layers of carefully-selected clothing,


we were comfortable. What was most amazing, though, was not the cold; it was the


vista in nearly every direction.


I have never seen the air so clear and still. We could


see as far as our eyes would focus and everywhere we looked it appeared surreal. It


was difficult for us to get our gear together and begin the day’s hike because we


found ourselves just standing and marveling at what we were viewing. In all the


time I have spent in the mountains, I still have never seen anything like it.


I am thankful that such places exist, even today in our often too-congested, too-


polluted, too-everything world. I am also thankful that there are individuals and


groups who work tirelessly to protect and preserve such places.


We should all


channel our thanks into supporting such folks and organizations.


I am probably most thankful, however, for the opportunity to grow up and


spend my adult life in a family environment that allowed me to explore and enjoy


the natural world and all it has to offer. I was privileged to come along before


“reality” was something you had to experience from a plugged-in device or on


some kind of electronic screen. Reality for me as a kid was sitting next to my


grandma on the bank of farm pond, munching on a Moon Pie, and watching a


small orange cork floating on the still water. Every so often the cork would dip


under and reality would turn into a fat, purple/black bluegill tugging on the end of


my cane pole’s line.


I am thankful that scenes like that, and others that were similar, have been part


of my life for a long time. And that those moments often included friends and


loved ones, some of whom are no longer with us.


Many of them involved furry friends like Trapper, Cody, Rosie, Blaze and others. Each of those was, of course, a hunting dog. But, more than that, they were family members who held – and still hold – a special place in my heart. One, Harley, is still with our family at fourteen years old. I wish I could make her understand how thankful I am for all the good


times we’ve shared over the years. Maybe she does know.


A son and daughter, both of whom have a innate love of the natural world that


surrounds them and who, as adults, work to make that world better; and a wife who


has supported our explorations and, sometimes, frustrating antics over the years – I


give thanks for them every day. Most of all, I am thankful that The Almighty has


blessed me in so many ways for so long, even in those times when I may not have


deserved it.


And, I’m thankful He saved my friend from the bear. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Ed Wall can be contacted at edwall@embarqmail.com or 252-o671-3207. His web site is edwalloutdoors.com