The Blackfoot Bar

Wayne veers right just missing the snowplow as he aims his cruiser into the whiteout.

The dispatcher reports something about loud noises in an old bar on the Blackfoot River Highway. Through the snow the entrance to the parking lot is barely discernable. Once a rollicking non stop party, the bar that once thrived here was sold by the owners in 1990 to finance their retirement.  Strict DUI laws enacted since have incarcerated or reformed most of the clientele who once patronized it. Twenty miles out of Missoula- too far for drunks to drive with no license and no bar can survive long without drunks- not in Montana.

Wayne pulls off the highway and parks close to the front door. He checks in with dispatch and switches off the headlights. He allows his eyes to adjust to the dark. He unholsters his service weapon, chambers a round and snaps the safety on. He eases out of the vehicle and crouches near the fender listening for noise. First nothing – then faintly at first but getting louder scratching and clawing then banging and scuffling – then scratching and clawing  again. Wayne yells out. “Who’s in there?” Not a sound now,

just the wind in the Ponderosas and the gentle whisking of snow blowing past his feet.

“Whoever is in there” Wayne hollers “this is the sheriff. Come out with your hands in the air.”  This time there is a barely audible growl. Then silence again.

Wayne takes his flashlight out of his holster and with his weapon pointed he peaks through the soot stained cobwebbed front window of the old Bar. Seeing nothing, he flicks on the 6 battery flashlight. The room illuminates and explodes as Furniture scatters everywhere. An old wood stove rolls across the floor as a huge furry object shoots past and flips a pool table upside down. Two smaller furry objects scoot to the safety of the bigger object.  Its Red eyes glare at Wayne through the window. Cursing, Wayne slowly retreats to the cruiser, flicks on the radio and Alerts Dispatch. He is told that a game officer needs to be sent to the scene. Wayne backs the car away from the building and waits.

An old silver pickup with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks decals pulls into the parking lot behind Wayne. The sides of the truck are scarred with scrapes and dents.  The truck pulls an even older flatbed trailer with a culvert trap in the back. The game warden is slightly overweight and still in his slippers as he gets out talking to Wayne. Snow lands on his red balding head and melts dripping on his checkered service jacket.

“Two bears inside” Wayne tells him “one huge sow with two cubs.”

“Can she get out?” the warden asks him.

“Not without help” Wayne answers “looks like she pushed the door in and the wind shoved it shut. She’s trying to bash it open but it’s pretty strong- what do you suggest?”

“Well” the stocky warden considers while he wipes at his head. “normally, I would have to call my partner and we would dart it with a tranquilizer but if all she wants is to get out I have a big pole. We could push the door open and hope she comes out.”

“It better be a really big pole” Wayne says. “And who said anything about we.”

“We could let her winter there” the warden says with a grin.

“It’s your call.” Wayne says with a shrug.

“Cover me?” The game warden says with a sheepish grin, offering a large freckled hand through the open window. “Name’s Jim.”

“OK Jim. Lead the way.”

Jim unhooks the snare pole from its cradle on the culvert trap. He tries not to think about the fact that bears can cover 100 yards in 3 seconds and that the snare pole is only twenty feet long.  Jim laces up his work boots in the warm cab of Wayne’s cruiser and eyes the shotgun mounted between their seats.

“You might want to use that 12 gauge in case it’s a grizzly.” Jim says.

“Oh, come on” Wayne says with a grin that gets weaker when he sees that Jim is not joking.

“OK Jim, whatever you think- you’re the boss.”

Wayne grabs the shotgun and chambers a round while Jim shoulders the pole.

They can hear a scuffling inside, probably the cubs just teasing each other. Then there is the lowest rumble Wayne has ever heard or maybe he only feels it?  Then silence again. Jim approaches the door with the snare pole. He’s only used this pole once before to pluck a body from the Blackfoot river. Jim taps at the door to test it first and then with all his weight he shoves the door open. There is a crash in the back of the bar but nothing comes out. Jim props the door open with the pole and steps away.

“Can you see anything?” Wayne whispers.

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2 Comments

  1. […] The Blackfoot Bar […]

  2. Ok, was he drunk? Interesting story so far.


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