My time on the Rome Police Department, I spent a lot of time doing things that I would never do in life. One of those things was chasing a big brown bear. Chasing a big brown bear is not my idea of having fun. It was something that happens, and when you are a policeman it all goes with a days work. Anything that was a danger to the citizens of Rome was my concern. A 200 pound bear is definitely a threat to the safety of Rome citizens.
The call came in that a bear was in the backyard of a house on Smith Street in North Rome. I decided to ride up to Smith Street to see what was happening. When I got there the other officers were out talking to the people who had called in about the bear. I looked around the house and down into a wooded area. I couldn’t see any bear. I listened to the lady tell the officer how big it was and how it was in her garbage can. I smiled to myself and got back in the car. I thought what’s next a monster like Godzilla or little green men.
The rest of the shift went by without any more bear sightings. When we were checking out to go home the subject was the bear. I listened and smiled to myself, ridiculous there were no bears in the city limits of Rome. I was soon to see just how wrong I was. I went home, forgot about the bear, and had a good night’s sleep.
I walked in to the station the next morning with everyone on the night shift talking about the bear. I listened not putting much stock in the bear talk. With the shift up and running, the bear calls started to come in. It seemed that one of the county police officers had seen the bear on Smith Street. I went up to Smith Street and talked to the county policeman. I listened to him and when he got though telling me about the bear I knew that we had us a big brown problem, a bear. I have never been much of a hunter. The biggest thing that I had ever killed was back in the hard days: a rabbit or squirrel. We killed them because times were hard and that was a source of food. To say that I was going bear hunting didn’t have a good ring to it.
I got back into the patrol car and began to cruise out the area. I eased along hoping that someone else would find the bear instead of me. I remembered what one of my partners said to me. He said, “If it happens you will be in the middle of it because you have nose trouble.” Now I wonder what he meant by that? I pulled up at the corner of Smith and Dwinell Street and I cut off the motor in order to hear the bear if it came my way.
It was quiet for the time of day. I knew that the people in the area had heard about the bear and was staying inside. I remember that I cut off the motor to where I could hear if anything made a noise that sounded like a bear. What I heard did not sound like a bear — it was the loudest scream that I have ever heard. I stepped outside of the car and waited to see if it happened again. Nothing, the area was as quiet as it could be. I got back in the patrol car and began to ease down Dwinell Street. Then I heard a clanging of garbage cans. I stopped the car and began to look the area over. A house sat in a wooded area where the noise came from. I got out and walked over and looked down the bank to the back of the house. I stopped dead in my tracks for what I saw I was not prepared for.
Standing up on his back feet with his head stuck inside a garbage can was a bear. This was a big bear — for the way he was standing at that time he looked to be ten feet tall. He wasn’t 10 feet but a good 6 feet tall when standing upright. He withdrew his head from the garbage can and looked at me. I stood frozen, looking back at him. There was about 50 feet between us. It was downhill to him and I knew that before he could get to me I would be back inside the patrol car. He looked at me a few minutes and decided that I was no threat to him. He put his head back in the garbage can.
With a good view, I called headquarters to let them know I had found the bear. With a call in to Wildlife I moved my cars into a position to try to hem it up. I stood by the side of the car and watched him as he ate. A well decked-out young man with a boombox on his shoulder came dancing down the street. I got his attention and told him to turn off the boom box. He walked over to me and said — I never will forget — “What’s up man.” I pointed toward the bear and said, “A bear.” He laughed and said “I always wanted me a bear steak,” and turned on the boom box. I started to yell at him but … too late. The boom box noise had scared the bear. I turned to the well-dressed dude and said “Get out your knife for here he comes.” I jumped in the car just as the bear came into the road in front of the patrol car. I looked around for the well-dressed dude only to see him running at full speed with his boom box in his hand. I would not be afraid to say that he had made a city block in a second flat. That man could run! When the bear let out roar I saw the boom box fly up and in to the air. He never looked back at the boom box. He turned the corner still running at full speed. It was funny but I couldn’t stop to laugh. The bear had headed toward the Civic Center.
The chase was on, through the projects and on Civic Center hill. One car went to the left side of the Civic Center, one went up the hill and I went around the right side. I had just about made it around to the backside of the hill when out popped the bear a few feet in front of me. I swerved the car and he headed down the hill toward the lake. The car on that side came into view and he headed into the wooded area. We had him fenced in, and hoped we could keep him fenced in until Wildlife got there with the tranquilizer gun. There was a rock on the side of the hill. I watched as the bear climbed the tree and got out on a ledge. He sat down, then laid flat on the rock. He was scared and was trying to hide. With the cars in position we waited for the man from Wildlife.
People listening to their scanners began to arrive. I had to move my cars back to keep the people from scaring the bear. He would stand up when someone in the crowd made a noise. The Wildlife man arrived with the tranquilizer gun. I showed him the bear laying on the ledge. He tried a shot but didn’t have any success in hitting him. He moved into a closer position and motioned for me to move toward the ledge where the bear was. He motioned for me to shake a bush and make a noise. Now what he wanted did not sound good to me. I wondered if he would let me have the gun and him shake the bush. I walked making noise and shaking a bush as I went. Then — full length — the bear stood up. My hand automatically went to my gun. That was when he really looked big. I heard a noise that went “plunk.” The bear let out a roar and reached down to his leg. He had been hit in the leg with a needle. Then “plunk,” again he reached and hit at his stomach. Then again “plunk,” and he let out a roar and, grabbing his stomach, slid down on the ledge. He rolled over against a tree that was growing by the ledge. Then with everything left in him he slid down the tree to the ground. He lay still and Wildlife backed a cage that looked like a long tube in beside him. They placed him in the cage and locked it. I walked over and looked at the bear laying so still. I knew that he was okay, only sleeping. I watched as they pulled out with the bear taking him back to the mountains. We had other bear sightings in the city while I was there, but this was the only encounter for me.
When the shift was over I was glad to go home and forget the bear. The next morning while I was signing out the shift, a patrolman who I will call “Bill” came in and presented me with a pin of a bear. He said, “We decided to make you the official Bear Chaser of the department.”
I took the pin smiling. They all knew how I felt about bear chasing. Out on patrol I went back to the corner of Smith Street to where the well-dressed fellow had went up the hill out of sight. There in the middle of the road lay the remains of a boom box. Someone had hit it with a car and nothing but pieces and bits lay on the road. I remember smiling to myself and thinking what a good day’s work that it had been. The bear at home in the mountains and one busted boom box. Yes, sir, that was one good day’s work.
Lonie Adcock of Rome is a retired Rome Police Department lieutenant. His latest book is “Fact or Fiction.”