Carl Mays: Dealing with constant change is a part of living

May. 16, 2013 @ 11:48 PM

We’ve had a home in Gatlinburg for 41 years and have seen many bears. But the one we saw this week was the biggest by far.

At early dusk as I walked past the sliding glass door that looks out onto the patio and mountains, a big black figure strolling in our backyard caught my eye. I thought, “Cow?”

As I stopped and stared, I realized it was a very huge bear. Previous yard-bears have been like many of the bears you see in the Smoky Mountains – “lean and hungry-looking,” like Julius Caesar described Cassius in Shakespeare’s drama. But this was anything but a Cassius-type bear.

I called to Jean and she watched the bear walk past our bedroom window, through the side yard and to the carport. I got my camera. I’ve taken pictures of resident bears before, but never one this size. I snapped just before the bear walked behind our vehicles. Mostly all I got was a flash reflection in the window. When I went outside, the bear had vanished among the trees.

As Jean and I marveled at the size of this creature, it made me think of all the bears we have seen through the years. Our first sighted yard-bear was back in the early ’70s, when we lived in Montgomery Woods. Our dog Fluff never forgot that bear. She wouldn’t get off the porch for quite a while, and she never again roamed the surrounding forest as she once did, always sticking closer to the house.

When we moved to Old Cartertown Road, bears ventured onto our ground-level deck. We once saw a bear sniffing our deck swing, as if he were thinking about sitting for a spell. This time, Fluff wanted to become a “house dog.”

When we moved to Skyline Drive and more woods, bears continued to visit frequently. By this time, Fluff had become pretty well adjusted to bear smells and sightings. I suppose she had begun to think, “Hey, these things are just natural here.”

When we moved into our current Gatlinburg home on Mountain Drive, again surrounded by woods, Fluff had pretty well accepted the fact that wherever we lived she was going to be sharing the area with those unique-smelling creatures with that lean and hungry look. And they were hungry. That’s why we eventually had to build a shed in which to put our trash containers.

Fluff, half collie and half German shepherd, passed away at age 16. Later, after having a couple of cats named Tonto and Ranger, then a rabbit named Thumper, a cross between a Belgian hare and jackrabbit, we adopted a yellow lab named Ginger.

Ginger and I were hiking up the mountain the first time she sniffed the distinctive bear odor. Her tail dropped between her legs, ears lowered, and she rushed down the mountain faster than a speeding bullet.

Later, however, similar to Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady singing about Eliza Doolittle with “I’ve grown accustomed to her face,” Ginger not only grew accustomed to bears, but she treed one behind our house. I finally had to wrestle her away so the bear could escape. Ginger died at age ten, but she had certainly told the bears a thing or two before she left us – and them.

So, what’s the point of this column (since my columns usually have some kind of point)? Well, consider the words of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.”

Consider also the words of British theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit