Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Story of the Matthew Brady Bear

Way back in the summer of ’81 I was working out of the “old” #2. The strange thing is that this event didn’t come in as a standard alarm; but, as a phone call. I was summoned in one command from the loudspeaker; “Squad … You’re going out!” When I hit the back of Squad 2 Greg Reitzel was already dressed and had that devious smile that we had all come to know. “What’s up?” I asked. He replied, “You don’t want to know; we’re going to rescue a Grizzly bear in a tree”. I knew at that very moment that my career had taken on a whole new perspective.

When we arrived on scene at Mathew Brady Boulevard in Riverside we were faced with a very large crowd of onlookers. The boys in blue told us that the action was taking place in the back yard. I can’t remember everyone on scene but definitely Bud Carpenter was the DC along with Pat Cushing, Bernie Decaire, I and Ratz.

This will be a synopsis of the event and what transpired that historic evening. First of all the humane society showed up with a very large rifle and enough narcotic filled darts to stun and down an elephant if necessary. All I can say at this point is that we were very lucky that Mongo wasn’t there and mistaken identity could very well have been a problem! After firing a cascade of darts into the animal’s posterior the beast hung onto the limb of the tree in a drunken stupor. I counted at one time that he had at least five darts dangling from his most southern region and he hadn’t succumbed yet. He resembled a neighborhood drunk hanging onto a lamppost for dear life!

At one point the boys in blue had a meeting amongst them and informed us that if the bear dropped from the tree that we would be more than safe as they would "take care of the problem" with their weapons arsenal. The testosterone was thick. I was sure that every one of them, which numbered approximately 20, had their own shotguns! There were probably more weapons visible that night than on the morning of the D-Day invasion. I must remind you that at this time the back yards were starting to fill up fairly quickly and the neighbors had most of their family members peering over the fences and bushes to take in the fun. I even saw a few 3 or 4 year olds sitting on their fathers’ shoulders. I’ve often thought if some entrepreneur was in the background selling tickets for the occasion. I pondered at the time, “Hummmmm…. If the bear drops and the boys in blue are staffed with their own shotguns the families sure hadn’t been discussed in the meeting they had!

It was ultimately decided upon that we should grab the rescue net from the squad and prepare for the inevitable drop. As the police barricaded the driveway we positioned ourselves at the ready…. Pat Cushing, who was next to me, noticed something very important; he said to me, “Hey, Lodge, take a look at where we’re located!” When I checked it out we had our backs up against a chain link fence, with the tree next to Pat. Pat wisely stated, “IF the bear drops and is still conscious the first faces he’s going to see is yours and mine and with one swipe we’re looking at plastic surgery. I’m not sure if I like those odds; do you?” Although I wasn’t as good looking as Dennis Axford I quickly agreed and mentioned it to the DC. Needless to say, Bud just shook his head forlornly and told us to get into a new position. It didn’t take us long to find one. When we were ready someone mentioned to the police that they shouldn’t be guarding the driveway so diligently. I think it was the DC who mentioned to them, “Excuse me, Boys but if the bear escapes and we have to make a mad dash for it I believe you might just get run over.” To which the reply was, “Oh ya…. You’re right”.

We stood there for what seemed like ages…and then decided to take a break in the back yard. As luck would have it the grizzly decided to drop during our break. He landed squarely on the net with no one manning it. The only problem is that he was only taking a nap and mistakenly let go of the branch of the tree. The drugs had not taken full effect as of yet. He landed on his back and jumped to his feet, shook his head and did a size up of the area. It was at this crucial time that the boys in blue bolted down the driveway in the direction opposite the bear. In a flashback I remember seeing Bernie Decaire with a pike pole rigged with a snare trying to trap the bear. As Bernie deftly tightened the snare around its neck, the bear literally danced Bernie around the backyard like a ballet dancer on a caffeine high.

I’ve never seen so many people scramble so quickly. Fathers with kids on their shoulders realized that this wasn’t a trip to Barnum and Bailey and made haste to find safe shelter. The bear continued to have his way with Decaire. At one point I could swear, when the bear and I locked eyes, that he thought this was great fun and was grinning as he swung Bernie 4 feet off the ground past the backyard gym set. When he tired of Decaire he made a dash for the driveway, and continuing his size-up, didn’t see any police officers. “So far, so good”, he must have thought.

At one point in the front of the house he jumped about 10 feet up and onto a tree next to the sidewalk and, lacking good judgment because of the drug influence, promptly fell to the ground. I was amazed as when he landed he instantaneously rebounded without a beat and landed on a sturdy branch about twenty feet up and decided to hold up there for awhile. A few of us grabbed the net and positioned ourselves under the tree by the sidewalk and waited. During this time one of the darts fell out and landed on the net. We all must have thought the same thing at the same time, “What if that dart had landed and stuck in me?????” How does one fill out an accident report and explain why you’ve been off work for 3 days laid up in a ghastly narcotic state and not being able to carry on a simple conversation with your dog?

It was at this time that the bear decided to give up the ghost…his head fell back…he swayed to and for… his tongue relaxed and rested beside his cheek…. And then he let go! Most of us held our breath as we felt the weight hit the net. We didn’t breathe for about 30 seconds and it was then that we realized that the Grizzly wasn’t moving. It was very strange to peer into each others eyes, darting back and forth, as we slowly dropped the net just below eye level. The bear was out cold and snoring!

What happened next was rather uncanny. What began as small chatter among the crowd slowly became a cheer and then a roaring applause as we all realized what had happened. We had defeated the beast! The “hunters and gatherers” had succeeded!

In the aftermath it was strange that not one spent shotgun shell was found in the vicinity of the battle. Oh, before I forget… the Grizzly turned out to be a bear cub…but it sure looked huge during the event.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I Didn't Attend Because .................

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