A Campfire Story: One Bear, One Dr. Pepper

I was a Boy Scout for seven years, and my troop went camping every month. So you can imagine how many adventures we had, and how many crazy things we saw and did. But on this particular trip, something occurred that was so singularly frightening and also hilarious, that I thought I’d tell the story here. So prepare yourself, dear reader, for a tale of epic battle. Also, for those who don’t stomach violence too well, this story contains a scene in which a Dr. Pepper bottle gets thrown around and beaten up, so keep that in mind.

Over the years of high school and college, I’ve had several opportunities to join groups of people who I’ve never met before, and often, the groups will play ice-breaker games for people to get to know each other. One of these games is Two Truths and a Lie, in which you tell two truths and a lie about yourself, and everyone has to guess what the lie is. Whenever I had cause to play this game, I always say, “Dr. Pepper once saved me from a bear attack”, which is an exaggeration, but I still count it as one of my truths. And when people find out that it wasn’t the lie, they want to know the story. So this is what I tell them.

The Scouts decided to go camping in the mountains, and even as we were driving into the campsite, we saw bear-traps lying about, and a ranger informed us that they indeed were attempting to catch some bears who had been known to not keep their distance from campers on recent occasions. The ranger said that we should have nothing to worry about, since the bears only came too close every once in a while, so we thought nothing more of it. We set up our campsite, and the Scoutmasters decided to be “real campers” and sleep in the bed of a truck rather than set up a tent. As we Scouts were unloading our gear and setting things up, one of them put down a Dr. Pepper on the edge of the Scoutmasters’ truck. One of them noticed it right away.

“Don’t leave that there,” the Scoutmaster called to the Scout. “We don’t want to be littering.”

“I’ll be right back and I’ll pick it up,” came the reply. But that never happened, and there it sat.

That night, as we were all in our tents, we heard a noise coming through the leaves: a great, big noise, of something plowing through brush and making a racket. Most of us were awakened, and we began to quietly call to one another without leaving our tents. One of the Scouts was near a street lamp, and suddenly he saw the silhouette of what had been making all of the noise.

“Guys,” he called very quietly but also sounding quite frightened. “It’s a bear. It’s right next to my tent.”

We all fell silent, and the bear moved on. We could hear it clearly now, moving through our site. We had set up a huge wooden crate on a tripod stand, and it was full of our food supplies. The bear naturally waltzed on over to it, gave it a sniff, and tried to stand, putting its front paws on the box, which tipped it over, of course, sending it to the ground with a very loud crash. That woke the Scoutmasters up, and they realised all too soon that they were in the open bed of a truck less than ten feet from the bear.

The bear, a bit annoyed by the surprise of the crashing crate, began to paw at and push the crate around with more purpose and agitation than it had before. The Scoutmasters tried to make loud noises in order to scare it off, but the bear would not be deterred from its mission. The Scoutmasters then grew more concerned, because the bear didn’t seem to be frightened by them, but they had made themselves very well-known to the creature. They had to do something to get it out of the campsite. But what?

The same Scoutmaster who had asked the Scout to pick up his Dr. Pepper earlier then turned to the edge of the truck’s bed, to find the bottle still there. Picking it up, he did all he had left to do, and chucked the bottle at the bear. In hindsight, that was probably a really bad idea. Yeah; actually, I have no idea why he did that. The bottle hit the bear square on the head, which caused it to look around in confusion and displeasure. But rather than turn on the Scoutmasters, it took a few more quick swipes at the crate and then sauntered off, not wanting any more of a fight. It was another fifteen minutes before anyone spoke, but once we were sure that the bear was gone, we all breathed a sigh of relief, coming out of our tents to make sure all of the Scoutmasters had come out of the adventure unscathed, which of course, they did.

The next morning, we were the talk of the camp, as our neighbouring sites had heard the commotion in the night, and we spent the morning talking with the ranger and the other campers there about the harrowing tale. And we all remembered and retold countless times after that the battle of the bear and the Dr. Pepper.

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