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“Daddy, I shot a bear.”

"Daddy, I shot a bear."

“Daddy, I shot a bear.”

“Hot spit! Did you have a tag?”

“No.”

“I will fly down and help you with it.”

He flew from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, YXE, in his two seat, Green and White Citabria airplane, to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, YDQ,  973.90 air miles, to help me flesh and stretch my bear skin, the summer of 1982.

William Fernuik, my father, fleshed the bear I shot

He fleshed the bear hide and stretched the bear on a large sheet of plywood. After the bear hide dried, he took the bear skin home with him, in the back of his airplane, and paid to have it tanned. He mailed the skin to me several years later when I lived in Tokyo, Japan.

The black bear came every day to the compost pile behind the dining hall at the fly in gas plant  north of Dawson’s Creek, British Columbia, Canada. The men were fed in the evening in the large dining hall. I don’t remember what time dinner was, but my Aunt was the cook, and she served it every night at the same time. I was her helper. I peeled potatoes, set the table, helped clean up, vacuumed, changed bedding, washed and dried the sheets and made the beds.

We were flown in from Dawson Creek. Two weeks in the bush, and two weeks off, a summer job  between my junior and senior year, as a photography major, at The Alberta College of Art, in Calgary, Alberta.

Often we had extra crews come in and they were housed in several small single wide trailers beside the main building. I had to walk within a few feet of the compost pile to clean the bunks.

The camp was not fenced. The bear could not be relocated. He would come back to the compost pile, an easy meal.

The bear had to be shot.

One of the men had a gun. He was going to shoot the bear.

“May I shoot the bear?” He lend me his rifle.

I stood on the back porch and shot the bear as the men of the camp were eating their dinner. I  braced myself, took a deep breath, and slowly pulled the trigger. A clean shot into the heart. One bullet to take down the bear, and another bullet to make sure it was dead. The second shot by the owner of the gun.

The black bear lay on the ground, dead. After dinner two men started to skin the bear. I came outside with my skinning knife and showed them how to skin the bear, like my father had taught me, with the Buck knife my father gave me on my birthday, the year before. A center cut down the middle of the stomach, the same way you would skin a beaver. Both bears and beavers have a lot of fat. You can not pull off the hide like a sock after you do the leg cuts, like you can on a fox or a coyote.

We put the bear hide in the freezer and I took it to my Aunt and Uncles in Dawson Creek when we flew out at the end of the two weeks.

The bear hide moved from Japan to California  in 1990 when I married my husband.  It has been packed and unpacked when we moved  from California to Illinois, from Illinois to Minnesota, from Minnesota back to California, and from California to Pennsylvania, where I live now.

The bear hide is on the floor beside my bed. My bare feet touch it every morning when I wake up. The claws have fallen off, and the nose fell off last week. 

The bear skin beside my bed

If I vase breaks I don’t save it. I will save the bear. 

Today is the day my father died, sixteen years ago. 

I miss you Daddy.

————-

Thank you for reading my story. If you would like to comment you can click on the bear’s nose, or scroll to the bottom of the page.

The bear's nose

 

 

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Now I know why you eat peas and sardines. Pamela you are fearless and brave in every way EXCEPT when it comes to food.

    • Hello Patricia,
      I did eat sushi when I lived in Japan, and I once ate the meat of a fish that was staring at me. No, I lied. It tried to look at me, I covered it’s eye with a piece of mint.
      I am not scared of food, I am lazy. It I can save time by opening a can of sardines over cooking, I will take the can of sardines every time. Just think of all the time I waste cooking food that I can spend writing or painting.
      (But, if you come to visit, I promise to cook you real food.)

      • One day we will come and visit and James will teach you to cook. I’m lazy too.

  • Kathy Storrie

    I think Shelley D. is right. You could write a YA novel about a girl and her dad and the bear or memoirs about you and your dad. I am writing memoirs starting with my childhood and I’m remembering more things than I realized plus it’s very satisfying and therapeutic. Just a suggestion. Whatever you write people will want to read it.

    • Kathy,
      I would love to read your memoirs. How fun to write to write the down and share them.
      Perhaps I will get your last sentence put on my arm in a tattoo. Thank you for encouraging me.

      • Kathy Storrie

        I think I’ve sent you my last two memoirs using Mail Chimp. Didn’t you get them? One is called “I Broke the Eighth Commandment” and the last one is “I Was a Heathen”. Check your spam.My blog is called “Story by Storrie”

  • Pamela Black

    You are such a brave woman. In so many ways. Thanks for sharing yourself with the world.

    • Brave or impulsive? I wonder if they are the same? You are very welcome Pamela, sometimes it is hard to share, but I hope my sharing helps someone else.

  • Hot spit! That’s a hilarious euphemism. It sounds like your dad taught you how to take care of yourself at an early age. Thanks for sharing a little about him. Have a blessed day.

    • Thank you Michael,
      I pray you and your family have a day filled with joy and sunshine.
      My dad taught me to say, “I can make that,” and “I can do that.” If I didn’t know how I just needed to learn.

  • I love how your dad made every effort to be a part of your life. He always seemed to move out of his own comfort zone to join you in yours, no cost spared. I really think you need to use these father-daughter moments to write young-adult stories. And, the fact that the bear’s nose fell off (and you gave us a picture of it) added a touch of humor to such a tender time). Beautiful.

    • Good Morning Shelley,
      Thank you for your perspective about my father. The stories have been a part of my life, filed away, I never realized how much he meant to me. And I never realized how far he went to help me.
      Thank you for the suggestions to write young-adult stories. Perhaps a story about a young girl who learns how to trap, hunt and skin animals to be close to her father?
      When I write the story Shelley, you will be the first person I sent it to.

      • You’ve already written your promotion line. I’d be honored to be the first to read it.

  • JeNan Merrill

    You have had such experiences – all fascinating, all something to learn from. I always feel your emotions when you write, too. A wonderful story with strong, unbreakable connections.

    • Good Morning JeNan,
      Thank you. Stories keep my fathers memories alive, for me and my children. So many stories to tell. I wish I had written his down.

  • And now of course it’s more than 16 years ago. How do I know? Right after you shot the bear Peggy disappeared. September 12th, the same year. You certainly have a lot of adventures in you. I’m sure you miss your Dad. He sounds like a wonderful person.

    • Good Morning Anne,
      I miss your sister too. Your stories have helped me see your life and Peggy. I pray you are comforted.
      My dad is dead, but he is alive in my mind.

  • MaryAnne

    Sixteen years ago, and your memories are fresh like it was just yesterday….
    What a great teacher you had, I’m sure your dad was proud of you.
    I could never shoot a bear, let alone skin one. You are an amazing person Pamela
    with many talents. Prayers and a hug for remembering what can be the most important of life’s lessons. Your dad sounds awesome.

    • Good Morning MaryAnne,
      I shot the bear thirty-two years ago. Some stories stay with you. If you ever need a bear skinned I can still show you how.
      Today I wouldn’t shoot a bear, but then, my father isn’t alive for me to want to impress.
      Thank you for your prayers and hugs. Your kindness means a lot to me.
      Today I send you prayers and hugs too.

  • Tara

    Woah – what a story and a process. I can see the bond between your father and you, Pamela, just by the way you worked together with this great, big, creature. That last picture is amazing.

    • Hello Tara,
      The nose is on the top of my bookcase. An odd thing to save, but I can’t “bear” to throw it away.