MYOB or Not?

It’s one of the first lessons taught in kindergarten: MYOB. Short for Mind Your Own Business. Good advice for all of us, most of the time.

Thus my dilemma on a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last weekend. George and I were lucky enough to score a river spot at Elkmont Campground and were walking the loop on Saturday afternoon with granddaughters Emmie, 18 months old, and 10-week-old Clara (who, in truth, wasn’t actually walking) when we noticed a fat orange pumpkin perched on a rock in front of a neighboring campsite. Emmie was delighted until she discovered it had a scary ghost face carved into it. Then she burst into tears.

A fun-size Hershey bar offered by the pumpkin carver quickly worked its magic and we wandered on.

By the time we completed the circle, seven jack-o-lanterns dotted the campsite. They were amazing. In addition to the scary ghost face, there was a UT football helmet. A traditional triangle-eyed, snaggle-toothed face. A bat. A black cat. A cartoon character with whom I am unfamiliar. Best of all was a droopy-eyed Jack who had either partied too hardy or come down with the stomach virus and vomited pumpkin seeds all over the rock.

At dusk, the babies went home. Every radio in the campground, including ours, was tuned to the Tennessee-Alabama game. As darkness descended, a lovely soft glow coming from the jack-o-lantern campsite caught our eye. Hoping that a short walk might change the Vols’ luck, we meandered up the road with nothing but the candlelight guiding our footsteps.

Wondering, as we do on every visit to the Smokies, if hungry black bears might be watching our every move.

We’re so paranoid about bear-proofing our campsite that we won’t even leave a salt shaker unattended on the picnic table. But despite warnings and an occasional expensive ticket from park rangers, some campers aren’t so conscientious about food storage. As we drew near the jack-o-lanterns, a terrible thought occurred to me.

Pumpkins are food.

Should I say something to these friendly fellow campers who had provided us not only with wonderful Halloween decorations but also with Hershey bars? They were camping in flimsy tents and had several children with them. Perhaps they were newbies who weren’t bear-aware. Would it be a kindness to warn them that they might be setting themselves up for trouble? Or should I follow the MYOB rule and say nothing?

They, too, were listening to the ballgame. We all groaned when the Crimson Tide scored yet another touchdown. In the stunned silence that followed, I saw my chance and jumped on it. “Your jack-o-lanterns are awesome,” I said. “But I sure hope the bears aren’t planning to make a midnight snack of them.”

Everyone laughed. And I headed back to my own campsite, satisfied that I’d done my duty while minding my own business as much as I could. If bears visited Elkmont that night, I didn’t see or hear them. By the time I started my loop walk on Sunday morning, the jack-o-lantern site had been vacated. There were no smashed pumpkins or bear paw prints on the muddy ground.

But there was a murder of crows gathered around the rocks, happily chowing down on the pumpkin seeds vomited up by the unfortunate sick-to-his-stomach jack-o-lantern.

(November 2, 2014)



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