The screaming bears of Montana

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Updated Jul 20, 2015

If you follow along, you know I love seeing wildlife, even though I have a pretty wrecked track record for being able to correctly identify it, because I have become visually impaired with old people eyes in the past few years. I blame having to focus out the side window at an average of 68-70 mph on a continual basis — my eyes have simply given up and my ever-so-active imagination has taken over.

One thing I’m certain I’ve seen, and heard the ferocious cries of, is the elusive and rarely seen Screaming Bear of Montana. For once, this is not a filthy lie. I couldn’t make this up if I tried, I’m fair to middling, but not good enough to create these scenes in my head. You only see things like this on the road.

Bear scaryWe were toodling across Montana on 90 just East of Billings when a full-grown bear came by us at roughly the speed of “vaporize.” He had that Dodge police special pegged so far out his tires were smoking, and he went by so fast I had to take a second to decide if a giant bug had just zipped by us like we were standing still at 70 mph, or if it was really a car. The light display oriented my decision to “bear in hot damn pursuit.”

“Holy crap! Did you even see him?”

“For about a half a second in my mirror before he peeled my damn door off.”

“He is definitely in a hurry, I hope we don’t see something horrible up ahead.”

The CB lit up with, “Was that a bear or a rocket ship, come on??”

George grabbed the mic.

“As fast as he was going, it’ll be 10 minutes before we catch up to know for sure.”

It wasn’t 10 minutes before we saw him again. The road narrowed for construction a few miles up, and the granny lane was closing. As we came up to the merge, we saw the bear, with a driver pulled over in the “Y” before the close. He was marching from his car to the window, and because of where they were stopped and the fact that people wait til the very last second to merge, traffic crawled to about the same pace as the bear had going when he exited his vehicle and slammed the door with enough force to shatter his headlights. We had the unfortunate position of being directly beside him as he stomped up to the window of the waiting truck.

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I had a brief thought to film him, and then I knew if I did and he saw me, he might strongly consider shooting me in the face. This guy was pissed off. He was “you kicked my dog and slept with my wife” pissed off. I had the wing vent open and could hear the bellows begin way before he made it full to the window of the waiting driver. Whatever that guy did was effing awful, and he looked like he’d rather be shot in the jewels with rock salt than be where he was at the moment.

I couldn’t make out what the bear was screaming, but it was terrifying. Spit was flying, his eyes were bugging out, he was beyond being reasonable about anything. As much as I wanted to stare, instinct told me to look straight ahead and be cool, lest I inadvertently make eye contact and inflict the wrath of this extraordinarily irritable bear. George couldn’t watch, because he was threading the needle into one lane, but we both had a definite “deer in headlights” look after the scary display.


A few miles down, when both lanes opened up again and George got back up to cruising speed, our CB buddy came on again.

“You think he’s got that ol’ boy hemmed up for a while?”

“I think that ol’ boy is in a heap of trouble, come on.”

Things were quiet for a couple minutes, an lo and behold our quick friend the angry bear zipped by again in the hammer lane, not quite as fast this time, but definitely putting his foot in it with the rack lit up.

“Good Lord, there’s scary bear again!”

“I saw him this time.”

“I’m glad he’s in front of us and not behind us.”

“I was worried for a second when he was coming up. I think the guy he had pulled is right behind him.”

And no kidding, the green-as-a-seasick-ghost driver was coming up in the rear horizon, very carefully, doing what appeared to be the speed limit and in the granny lane, and a fantastic job keeping it between the mustard and the mayonnaise for someone who has likely had a minor heart attack or brain aneurism recently.

“What the hell? Did he just pull him over to scream at him?”

I had to know. I grabbed the mic.

“Driver, what in the hell did you do to make that bear so mad??”


Our CB friend chimed in.

“He’s maintaining radio silence, or having a hard time talking, driving and changing his drawers all at once.”

We all laughed and rode on. Eventually, we came to a fairly minor-looking accident scene in the median, where scary bear had a guy handcuffed and was hauling him to the cruiser. There were a couple of other troopers on site, but no ambulances.

The guy who got yelled at stayed far behind, and we never heard from him to find out why that bear had to stop him in a pretty unsafe place to scream at him. I can only hope it was a good enough reason to warrant the risk.

So, I might not have seen a tapier in Oregon, or an owl in Washington, but I sure as hell have seen the screaming bears of Montana, and I lived to tell about it.

Only on the highway, folks. #truckingisthebestjobever

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