summer, we toured the Smoky Mountains in Kentucky. We toured
with one of my Dad's good friends Mr. Gatta and his family.
On his own, my Dad is a lot of fun, but combined with his
good friend, the two of them are hysterical together, at times
the amusement of seeing our good friends and their own three
children, on long car rides, there isn't a whole lot to do.
We even brought our dog with us, but the novelty of having
a schnauzer leap up and down off of the seats of the van grows
old after the 47th time, even for the dog. No amount of toys
in the back seat, scenery out the windows or 1970s rock tunes
can ease the boredom, however comic books are a godsend.
a comic took me away to an adventure of my own, whether it
was having super powers and battling the enemies of the universe,
laughing at the antics of Mickey, Goofy, Donald Duck and his
nephews or even the (eventually) forbidden horror comics.
These gruesome tales (of which Tales From The Crypt are based
on) gave me more nightmares in dark rooms than anything I
could dream up, yet I had to read on. They dealt with gruesome
subject matter and the cover always showed something lurking
in the depths of a basement that had me reading until I finished
or the pages shook with terror.
was either reading a superhero comic or a horror comic when
the family van made an unauthorized stop. The Gatta's station
wagon was not far behind and also stopped. My father and Mr.
Gatta left the safety of the vehicle to see what was going
on. Apparently there was some commotion up ahead that had
cars stopped in both directions. Dad and Mr. Gatta decided
to check out the situation.
curious and headstrong, they walked ahead, their wives staying
With The Children. Most of the other drivers stayed in their
vehicles, confident that the state troopers had things under
control and they could continue driving. Of course, The Men
knew that this was only the start of the adventure. Instead
of driving to the adventure, the adventure had come to us!
adventure in this case was a huge monstrous black bear. He
was nine feet tall and probably was just as bored as I was.
He emerged from the trees to stake out the picnic sites by
the side of the road, perhaps lured by the smell from the
trash cans. He looked deceptively gentle and sweet, with huge
furry paws that could have taken off the side of the van in
an accidental brush. His huge teeth gleamed in the July sun,
his jowls and moist nose quivering, torn between a free meal
and the shiny cars making a continual racket. The ground seemed
to shake when he lumbered in our direction and his growl shook
the windows as if he were confused at this new audience.
father decided to capture his photo. With our mothers yelling
both for the men to come back and for the kids to stay in
the vehicle, they probably were disturbing the bear more than
my father. Heedless of the danger, perhaps emboldened by the
fact that this was free, they continued on. All the time,
the other cars were honking, mothers were screaming and the
bear was growling and roaring. I'm sure that this display
wasn't what the bear wanted and eventually he yawned, scratched
himself and barreled back into the trees.
whole process delayed us by no more than thirty or forty minutes,
even though it took some time to get everyone back into their
vehicles. Eventually the cars ahead of us moved ahead and
my father climbed back into the van. Sweating a little from
the excitement, he had a huge smile on his face and he handed
the camera to my quivering mother. He leaned back to make
sure that the whole family was in the vehicle and he glanced
over to me.
about that bear, Dan?!"
looked down from my Adventure comic book and blinked at him
from behind my glasses. "What bear, Dad?"
had missed it all! I blame it on my poor hearing, which has
never been very good, or perhaps it was my devotion to reading.
I have always been able to Tune Out The World when reading.
Whatever the reason, in my search for something exciting,
I had missed the best adventure of all. To this day, "What
bear, Dad?" remains one of the family's favorite phrases
when one of us (usually me) has missed something unique that
can never be repeated.