Steady work and the lack of material goods afforded him lazy days of a cowboy life when he wanted it, freely choosing a long ride in the mountains to a days wage at a local rancher’s property. And while the nation was in a state of cultural progress – seeing a TV in every living room, the advent of the teenager and the birth of rock n’ roll – Ira shrugged off such silly things as idle, drawing into the safety of his trusted two hands that could bring about all that he needed in life.
One summer morning Ira drove his rickety old jeep into town for supplies understanding that he was about to celebrate his Daniel Boone-esque status among the young boys who recently flaunted the coonskin caps. While such things as celebrity didn’t matter to him, he knew that it was inevitable on this day.
Days earlier he had heard the distressed cries of an animal on his property that he could not identify. He loaded up his shotgun and setout to put the agitated animal out of its misery. Following the cries, he came upon two black bear cubs, no bigger than a small dog. Orphaned or abandoned by their mother, the cubs were hungry and unable to feed themselves. Their hunger superceded their fear of Ira and neither of the two bears moved away as he approached. Instead, they stared at him with large, sad eyes as if to ask, “Are you my mother?”
Always an animal lover, Ira took the two bears as his own and on this particular day, concerned about leaving them alone – either inside or outside of his house or barn – he chose to bring them into town with a string tied around each of their necks. The muffled whispers of passersby turned to outright gasps as people stopped to ask him about his unique pets. It had been many years since Ira had associated with as many people in one day and, although polite in his responses, he was eager to return to the solace of his homestead.
It wasn’t long before the cubs grew to adolescence and an instinctual aggression took over. Ira knew that keeping them much longer would hinder their growth as well as put his life, and the lives of those around him, in danger. He hiked to the edge of the forest, a quarter mile south of his cabin, bears in tow, chasing one another and running like rambunctious children all the way. They did not know that they were to be orphaned once more.
Ira knew that he could not expect the two cubs to simply wander away from him to forge life on their own. He understood that his role had become a parental one and that they sought refuge and protection from him. Ignoring his very human emotions of attachment, Ira loaded his rifle, aimed toward the rough-housing bears and fired. The shot startled the bears enough that they began to run, howling in fear as they went. Twenty yards out both bears seemed to realize that they were not running toward their safeguard and their guardian. In confusion, each bear turned to run to Ira, expecting him to embrace his parental duties, expecting him to defend. Instead they found another shot aimed in their direction, driving a wedge between them and their protector.
It would be several more shots and another half hour before Ira would turn and walk indignantly back to his cabin, free of the only real company that he reliably had. He knew that chasing the bears off was the right course of action but, unlike the parent sending a child out into the world, a sense of pride and happiness did not follow. Though he tried to convince himself that he was grateful for the return of peace in his home, he was aware that this was a farce. For the first time in many years, Ira felt a real sense of loneliness.