Conserving Water in California

March 7th, 2015 18 Comments



Of all the unpleasant sensations a man may experience in this vale of tears, one at the top of the list is doing something, all by yourself somewhere, and suddenly knowing with absolute certainty that you are not alone. And at no time, in no place, is this sensation more unpleasant than when you’re using the bathroom.

If you live in America, you are well aware that California is the throes of a severe drought. In the interests of doing my bit to conserve water, I usually step outside to pee. Darleen and I live in a relatively isolated rural area. My closest neighbors, one to the north, one to the south, are each about a quarter of a mile away, and in each case their homes are hidden by the folds of the hill behind my house. When I step outside near my propane tank, I know I have absolute privacy.

So it was a singularly unpleasant experience to be standing outside, doing my little bit for water conservation, to suddenly have that instinctive primal sensation that I was not alone. My immediate reaction was to look down the driveway. It’s at least a third of a mile, perhaps more, in a straight line to my front gate, and nowhere, along any part of that winding drive, was there any sign of life. From my front gate to the hardtop is another half mile or more, and there was no one there either. There was no one in the pasture to the south, and no one in the pasture to the north.

Then I looked up the hill.

It’s a remarkably steep hill, a sort of open savannah stood on end, grassland dotted with oaks and studded with random boulders, with good visibility in most places for over a hundred yards. And there, about fifty yards away, gazing impassively down at me, was a bear. A very large black bear.

For those of you who live in cities and have only seen bears in zoos, ambling lazily along behind protective fencing and entrapping moats, fifty yards may seem like a nice, safe, comfortable distance; you might even think that is too great distance at which to observe a bear.

For those of us who have experienced a bear’s tender mercies, up close and personal, in the wild, unconfined by fence or moat or fear of man or dog, fifty yards is a clear violation of what psychiatrists call “my personal space.” And for those of us who have painful firsthand knowledge of just how fast a bear can move (faster than a Quarter horse for over a quarter of mile), fifty yards is much too goddamned close.

And there I was, anchored, as it were, by the business at hand, and with the wrong gun in said hand, and too small a caliber at that. Or, as Dan Bronson unkindly said later when I told him what had happened, “That’s not when you want to be holding a squirt gun.”

I think I’ll find other ways to conserve water.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Better a bear then a person.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure, but did you just insult yourself? My sister-in-law lives in a place that has no running water. So she does her business outside. I mean all of her business. Now men can get away with this easier then a women can for obvious reasons. My husband and our son went there a few years back for his father’s funeral. They both stayed at her place. He said he went outside to pee at night and the next thing you know he felt something sniffing his leg. It was her dog and the dog starting barking at him. Fortunately, the dog
    was reality tame and didn’t harm him.

    He also came up and personal with a skunk. He went outside to sit and drink his coffee in the evening. Then he said he felt something sniffing him. He looked down and there was a skunk sniffing his leg. He immediately froze and was afraid to move because he might startle the skunk. The skunk turned around and lifted its tail as if it was going to spray him. However, the skunk didn’t feel threatened so it turned around and walked away. He immediately came in after that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Look at this way it could be worse. It could have been a mountain lion.

    A mountain lion was caught roaming around a California mall.

  4. Anonymous says:

    No, don’t. The bear might have been looking at you, but it probably didn’t see you; it smelled you instead. It clearly was observing you marking your territory, because it did not charge at you. I think you were lucky to have been doing exactly what you were doing at that particular time.
    Or else the bear ran back to its buddies and said, ” You’ll never guess what I just saw!”

  5. Anonymous says:

    On another note, perhaps you could ask everyone in Boston to send you a Ziploc bag full of snow.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Albert Hammond lyrics
    Albert Hammond Lyrics

    It Never Rains In Southern California Lyrics

    from It Never Rains in Southern California
    Music Video
    “It Never Rains In Southern California” is track #1 on the album It Never Rains in Southern California. It was written by Hammond, Albert / Hazlewood, Mike.

    Got on board a westbound seven forty seven
    Didn’t think before deciding what to do
    All that talk of opportunities, TV breaks and movies
    Rang true, sure rang true

    Seems it never rains in Southern California
    Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
    It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
    It pours, man, it pours

    Out of work, I’m out of my head
    Out of self respect, I’m out of bread
    I’m under loved, I’m underfed
    I wanna go home

    It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
    It pours, man, it pours

    Will you tell the folks back home I nearly made it?
    Had offers but don’t know which one to take
    Please, don’t tell ’em how you found me
    Don’t tell ’em how you found me
    Gimme a break, gimme a break

    Seems it never rains in Southern California
    Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
    It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
    It pours, man, it pours

    Hammond, Albert / Hazlewood, Mike

    Published by
    Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
    print correct Terms of Use
    Send “It Never Rains In S…” Ringtone to your Mobile
    Featured Video more videos
    What’s That Line?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Well JP,
    I needed a laugh today and I’m sorry to say you provided it. Thank you for the
    wonderful story.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dans le journal de ce matin, il y a un article sur les rues très fréquentées par les fêtards de Hambourg en Allemagne. Les personnes habitant ce quartier en ont assez de toutes ces personnes qui urinent sur leur maison. Ils ont enduit leurs murs d’une peinture spéciale qui repousse les liquides. L’urine qui arrive sur ce mur rebondit et arrive sur les chaussures des noctambules indélicats. Un écriteau y a été installé « ne pissez pas ici ou c’est retour à l’envoyeur » !!!
    Je n’habite pas au milieu de grands espaces comme vous, mais une maison dans une petite ville. J’ai donc des voisins. L’un d’entre eux avait pris l’habitude de faire pipi sur mon garage. Il pensait être seul au monde. Il ne pensait pas que je l’avais surpris. Je lui ai demandé (avec délicatesse 😉 ) de cesser ces agissements.
    Si un jour je le vois recommencer, soit je mets une peinture spéciale sur mon mur ou bien je fais venir un ours de Californie et la vengeance sera terrible 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think that would be a smart idea to figure out some other way. We have seen black bears up close as the area used to live in they were even roaming at our local cemetery. I just thank God they were not grizzlies from what I saw about grizzlies in a real life medical drama show I saw once where it showed the damage a grizzly can do. Get an empty plastic jug and stay in the house where it is safe and then take it and dump the contents. Believe me having lived in the country before have learned many different tricks. You and Darleen take good care.
    Nancy Darlene

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the laugh, I need at least one daily. I thought black bears were much worse than grizzlies if being attacked. Personally I don’t want to meet either one when I am outside and far away from a secure place from which to watch them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Both black bears or grizzlies/browns(or sloth bears or Asiatic black bears, or polar bears, or even those cute little sun bears!) can and do regularly rearrange human anatomy. I knew a college friend that had a hideous scar on his side–looked like a huge shark bite! I couldn’t help but ask what the hell? And he informed me it was an old black bear bite wound–but NOT yer typical bear story! He was one of the original descendants of the Plott family in the western mountains of North Carolina, the very family that developed those world famous bear dogs named appropriately enough Plott Hounds(INTENSE hunting dogs–I had one once). He was maintaining family heritage as a houndsman and bear hunter, and even raised a black bear cub periodically(and likely very illegally!) as a “pet” to help train his hounds with–let the dogs chase and tree and hold at bay his “pet” bear. Well, the problem for “training” was, this bear and the dogs knew each other so well, they often didn’t react very aggressively to each other, and one day, this fellow was rather irked at his bear’s lackadaisical ignoring of his hounds baying, and to “stir him up a bit” gave the bear a poke in the ribs with a stick. Now, I’ve always heard this is just not a wise thing to do–in fact it has become a cliche’ saying, as most of you know! The saying obviously has some factual history as to it’s origin! The “pet” bear DID react, but quite fairly didn’t take it out on the dogs, but the actual perpetrator! I did feel compelled to tell the feller he got exactly what he deserved!… And I HOPE, by relating this tale, JP, you will feel obligated to swap a like one with me. Yeah, been waitin’ ta hear about yer own personal bear mauling for some time now, and here you are teasing us with the suggestion again! Please DO make it a full-fledged Parkisonian post, to do it justice! Or explain where else we can read about it. Or explain why you can’t relate it because of the statue of libertashuns hasn’t yet run out, or maybe the relating of it might could compromise some lady of note, er whatever!…..And dang, JP, you CONTINUED to urinate after realizing a bear was that close watching you? Talk about COJONES! Something like that would halt the flow instantaneously for me! I have trouble getting it going in any public bathroom, for crying out loud! But I do often “conserve” toilet water by going outside–a communal activity much appreciated by my pack of dogs. Maybe yer local California bears now have a saying regarding the obvious verification of something–like, perhaps, “does a human piss in his yard”?….L.B.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The bear went over the mountain
    the bear went over the mountain
    The bear went over the mountain
    to see what he could see
    and that he could see
    was Eww, never mind.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Parker,

    I enjoyed your story enough that I disturbed my couch-snoozing wife with laughter. There’s nothing quite so sobering as instantly falling from the top of the food chain to the bottom.

    Warren Wilson

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hello JP,

    50 yards downhill is just a question of a few seconds. That means a fifty -fifty chance. Fifty percent the bear could be hungy… and fifty percent not.
    I really also think you should find another way to dispose your precious gift to nature 😉 .
    And don’t moan about your friend Dan. The laugh is always on the loser… Remember what you did at his little condor problem.. You’re might not quite even with each other, yet 😉 .
    But I loved the post. I missed the sense of humor a little bit recently.

    Take care!


  15. Anonymous says:

    I came upon a bear and her cubs while hiking a trail in the Smokies. It wasn’t my first bear encounter but it was my first encounter with my husband (city boy for sure) and my kids in tow. She didn’t seem to mind us being there as long as we didn’t try to come further up the trail. After making as much noise as possible it was obvious she had no intention of moving off the trail and letting us pass. So, as the afternoon sun started to fade, we reluctantly made our way back down the trail. about a mile down we ran into two men who knew the area well and carried firearms for that very reason and they helped us get back to our car just before it got pitch black. She was still there by the way, but they had enough experience or stupidity to confidently shoo her off the trail without hurting her or us. My kids have no interest in seeing bears ever again and I came home and took a firearms safety class and got my pistol permit just in case because I love the mountains and can’t stay away.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi JP
    I deliver newspapers at night and had a similar experience. You are normally on alert for the 2 legged wild animals at 2am in the morning. So I wasn’t ready, when I stepped out of the car, rolling a newspaper, looked up and was staring into the dark eyes of a mountain lion.
    You see my route runs along a cliff front of a small town, the mountains and Olympic National Park is about 5 miles behind me. So I usually see raccoons and deer in the downtown area my route is. Not this beautiful example of a hunter at work. We stood looking at each other, both wondering what we should do. Everything I have read about making your self larger, staying put careful backing away ran through my head, but you see I have to deliver this paper. A sense of duty and pride, plus I would loose $1 if I didn’t delivered the paper,and the 6am call asking if I had delivered it. Now $1 doesn’t sound a lot but on a fixed income ever penny counts. They only pay you 14 cents to deliver a paper to start with.
    So I turned slowly towards the tube nailed to the wall of the house keeping one eye on the wild cat, the other on the path. The lions head followed me, keeping me in view. I had left my car door open, but I knew the animal would be a lot faster then me. I dropped the paper in the tube and started to walk back towards the car, thus moving towards the lion. My small arms instructor always said visualize how you plan to do things. So I ran though my head what I would do if the cat moved towards me. I would dive into the car, grab the door handle shut the door, roll the window up. The lion stepped towards me, I stepped forward, it stepped closer, only five feet to the car, a slow dance. Now I am not fit person, 50 years old and its dark night. But any TV detective would have been proud of my dive into the car, door slammed, window up.
    That’s when I heard the laughed, well in my head. The lion looked at me and I could swear it had a big grin on its face, well smirk at least. Chalk another up one for the animal kingdom, I can heard now as it bounded in front of the car and behind the next house and how the talk went when it got home, “Hey guys guest what I did tonight, you see there was this women delivering newspapers, and I just had to mess with her.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    I saw this on the internet so I don’t know how true it is, but I think people in California have a good reason to be concerned.

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