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Adventures of the VRBO® Bear

My Early Years – Counting Coup

Ma says I've always been too energetic and filled with wanderlust for my own good, and because of that, one of my earliest bear cub memories could have easily been my last. What a naughty little bear I used to be! <grin>

Well, as I recall, it was a bright sunny morning in the beautiful Rocky Mountains , near our den... and I had awakened early with a hankering to go exploring and be out-and-about. I remember trying to be very-very quiet as I crept outside our snug little cave looking for adventure that day. I surely didn't want to get growled at by waking up Ma and Pa too early.

As I slipped out of our den, I spotted a little ground squirrel stretched out belly up on a log, blithely sunning himself, with his head lolling to the side and his eyes tightly closed. I could barely contain my excitement… oh what a wonderful, awesome opportunity this was! I wanted to shout for joy and dance a jig, but didn't want to alert the squirrel to my presence. "Shhhh… we are hunting squirrels; we must be vewy-vewy-qwiet!"

Have you ever "counted coup" on a squirrel? Talk about a thrilling challenge! My Pa has done it, and I knew if I could just sneak up on the little fella and be quick enough, I'd be able to touch his tail when he wasn't looking... and then I'd have counted coup on my first squirrel and made both me and my Pa proud. (It would be just like one of my favorite bedtime stories Pa used to tell me... only better, because I would be the coup-counting-hero this time!)

Hook, line, and sinker... I was totally caught and ready to be off on this daring mission impossible. Quietly, carefully, I crept closer and closer... but just when it seemed that success was a quick tap away, the little squirrel flipped to his feet spinning to face me, all in one instant, and then he was off like a flash. Well, I wasn't about to give up on this game too soon, so I ambled along following the squirrel... all the while trying to look uninterested in his chattering antics, pretending that I was merely out for a morning stroll. On and on this game went. I would just be an easy tag away from the little rascal when he would flick his tail and chitter-chatter at me in his scolding voice, and then he'd scamper away yet again.

I think it was my stomach rumbling that finally made me realize it was way past breakfast time. In fact, it was nearly noon because the sun was almost directly over head. It was then that panic began to set in, and I gulped as my stomach did a belly flop, and I realized with a sinking feeling that the forest around me did not look familiar at all. I did a quick 360-degree turn, but nothing looked familiar. W-w-where was I? Oh n-n-noooo! I-I-I w-w-was l-l-lost!!! I couldn't bear it. So I sat right down in the dirt, threw back my head and bawled: "Mmmmmmmmaaaaaaa... Ppppppppaaaaaaa... Wwwwwaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!"

I don't think I had ever felt so forlorn and miserable before in my entire life. What a sad pity-party I had sitting there all by myself. Think, think, think. What to do? I guess it was then that I realized what great parents I really had. With a spark of hope beginning to flicker in my mind, I knew they would be out looking for me. YES, they would! And I also realized at that moment that they had actually taught me just about all the tricks and skills I would need to be ok for a bit on my own and that I could even be able to start finding my way back home all by myself.

So I stopped sniffling, got off my duff, straightened my spine, made an about-face, and I started marching back up the hill. Silly me, it wasn't really that hard to follow my original trail, and before I had gone very far, I spotted Ma and Pa waiting patiently for me on the next mountain ridge. No doubt about it, I was sure one happy-happy bear cub when I reached our home cave that day… that is, after Ma scolded me but good until my ears hurt, and Pa grounded me for the entire next week. Of course I will also fondly remember the "best-ever" berry patch we stopped at as we wound our way back home that day too. I don't think my little belly has been quite the same since!

Blue Eyes, a Wandering Star, and My Dream

You know, my Ma and Pa always said I must have been born under a wandering star... and I think they must have been right... I DO LOVE TO TRAVEL! And bless their hearts, my folks have also helped me to understand from my wee early cub days that I am a most unique bear too. I was gifted with "blue eyes," and that is a very-very rare thing for a brown bear to have!

I like to think that the big blue sky and the mysterious blue ocean depths reflected in my unique eye color is part of the unending pull, and the ebb and flow as it were, that calls me to travel and adventure.

I guess I should probably confess to you right now too, that another reason I feel drawn to travel is my secret dream… you know, "a dream is a wish your heart makes." I hope to someday find a beautiful blue-eyed girl bear of my own that I can share my love for travel, adventure, and life with. I just know she's out there somewhere... and you can bet I'm going to find her one day… that's a promise!!!

How I Became the VRBO Bear

Well, let me tell you about how I became known as "The Blue-Eyed VRBO Bear" -- the goodwill ambassador to Vacation Rental Owners around the world. It happened on my first real walk-about…

Some moments in your life you just never forget, and this was one of them.  I was no longer a baby cub and I was getting restless.  I was ready to see more of the world and face the challenge of surviving on my own.  It was late spring when Ma and Pa sat me down to talk with me about my future… 

I can still recall the tender but tough love in their eyes and voices as we had that talk and they let me know that their door would always be open in welcome for me if I ever came back home, but that it was time for me to leave their den and face the big wide world on my own.  Quite simply, it was time for me to grow up, strike out on my own, and live my own life.  And so, with their blessings, lots of loving nuzzles, and many bear hugs (not to mention a number of cautions and remember this-and-that's from Ma), I was on my way.  I don't know why, but southwest sounded like as good direction as any to head in, and so I left the only home I'd known and headed toward the distant mountain peaks of the Great Divide.

It's hard to describe, but there is a wonderful sense of freedom that comes from striking out on your own and exploring this beautiful world… to boldly go where no man has gone before… to see and experience new places and new things.  It just feels good to me, all the way down to my paws.  As I ambled along each day, for the most part, I tried to stay away from people (Ma had especially told to be "wary of strangers!")… but one morning I smelled a delicious aroma wafting on the breeze that I just couldn't help but want to check-out.  So I began sniffing and searching out the source of that heavenly smell… ahhh, due west and downhill.

The high mountains still had a good snowpack on them, so all the lower stream banks were nigh to bursting with the spring thaw well on its way; I heard the rapidly flowing stream running down the hill long before I saw it.  And there, nestled in the pines on a small fairly level spot near the rocky bank, I spied the campsite that the wonderful smell was coming from.  Peeking through the trees and bushes, I saw a campfire, and sitting to the edge of it, a big frying pan with bacon sizzling in it (oh yum), and a tall man was happily humming a tune as he flipped pancakes over a green camp stove that was setting on the end of a picnic table near the fire. (Mmmh, maybe he would drop something that I could come back and eat later.)

Oooh, and I spied butter and syrup on the table. (Mmmh, I love sweets!)  There was a smiling lady there too, setting out plates on that table… plus there were two male young-uns nearby that were busy stuffing mini marshmallows into both their mouths and also into their cups of hot cocoa.  If I was lucky, they would drop a bunch of marshmallows by accident… oh what a feast this would be!   I decided that my tummy would be very happy to come back later and look for leftover tidbits and crumbs… so I carefully backed away and turned to follow the stream up the hill for a bit to give this family time to eat and then hopefully leave their campsite for awhile.  I was sure wishing that those boys would be extra-sloppy eaters today!

Well, the roaring stream running at full spate easily covered any brush sounds I might have made as I quickly worked my way up the hill, so I had no worries of being discovered that morning and was soon quite a ways from the campsite.  Ah, and what a great day it was… not a cloud in the sky… the promise of a great feast later… I was happy!  I tipped my muzzle up in the air to check once again for any other tempting aromas there might be wafting on the breeze, when in amazement, I froze like a rock as my eyes spotted a little squirrel curled up and snoozing in the sunshine on the branch of a large aspen tree stretched out over the stream just ahead.  Now ain't this a double blessing I thought!

You know me… a squirrel… and a sleeping one at that, was just too great a temptation to pass up.  Surely this was my lucky day!?!  Some wonderful breakfast treats would soon be mine and I was going to finally count coup on a squirrel… it was a done-deal in my mind.  Carpe diem… "Seize the day!"  Oh, but I sure wish my Pa was here to see me do this! 

Ok, calm down… plan-the-work and work-the-plan.  I had to concentrate.  I knew if I was really quiet and careful, I was just certain I could climb up that tree, shimmy out on that tree branch, and count coup on that squirrel before I could count to 1000.  I really doubted if the little fella would even hear me if I did make a little noise because the roaring stream below him was so loud.

So slowly, quietly, up the tree I climbed with the utmost care.  I was probably a good 15 feet off the ground when I finally reached the squirrel's branch.  Mmmh, funny… that branch didn't look nearly as big to me from up in the tree as it had from the ground.  Oh well, I thought, I'm still just a little bear… it should hold.

So mustering up my dwindling courage (I've never had a very good head for heights you know), I carefully inched my way out onto the limb… all the while holding my breath, trying not to look down, thinking "steady-steady," and of course praying that the squirrel would stay asleep and that the branch would hold.

As I recall, I was about two thirds of the way out on that branch when I froze, paralyzed with fear. Oh no, how was I ever going to be able to turn around to get back down!?! PANIC. (Oh dear, dear, dear… what to do?) Mmmh, well I guess I'll just have to back-up. Yeah… that's what I'll do… I'll back-up when I'm done. Whew!I'm glad I'd stopped to think that one through a wee bit. Now keep a clear head, I told myself… it's just a little further.

So onward I inched… and before I knew it, I was within a foot of my prize. All of a sudden, faster than I could say "Ma" or "Pa," several things happened almost simultaneously: I swung out my paw and tapped the squirrel on his tail as the branch dipped crazily and gave a loud crack… the squirrel and I both screamed as he leapt straight up in the air and landed on my head, snapping my body weight forward… then the squirrel bounded to safety on another branch above… and the end of the branch I was now clutching onto for dear life fell with me twirling head over heals into the churning stream below. "Kur-splat!"

I probably would have been a whole lot better off if I hadn't panicked, but I'm ashamed to say that I opened my mouth in shock when I plunged under the water and felt its icy coldness blast into my ears and up my nose. I started choking as I tried to suck in air because I'd actually pulled in more water than air as the raging current tossed me end-over-end and pulled me over and around rocks and debris hurtling downstream on the ride of my life.

I think my death grip on the broken tree branch probably helped to save my life that day.After tumbling and bouncing down stream for at least a mile, I hardly knew which direction was up. Luckily the branch I was holding on to got caught between two rocks and I was finally able to keep my head above water long enough to gulp in some air. But this break was only temporary at best, and I quickly realized that I was not going to be strong enough to hold that position for very long with the current pushing me from behind and weight of my heavy fur dragging me down. I was bruised and battered from my hurly-burly ride downstream, and I was growing weaker by the minute. "Oh Lord, please help me," I prayed.

Then, as if from nowhere, I saw a big hand reach out and grab one end of my branch and felt another strong hand reach around my back, under my arm, and across my chest to lift me out of the frigid water. I had such a fearful paralyzing grip on that branch that I almost couldn't let go of it now that safety was in sight… and I hurt all over. "Oooh" I moaned, and then promptly passed out as I unconsciously released the branch and was gently laid onto a cushy sleeping bag and wrapped up.

When I finally came to awhile later, I heard the murmur of low people voices surrounding me saying: "Oh, the poor little fella, he's in shock, but I think he will soon be right as rain if we can warm him up by the fire." "Let me see, Mom… can I touch him?" "Be gentle boys" "Oooh, isn't he cute… can we keep him, Dad, can we please?" "Can we adopt him into our fambly?"

(I later learned a "fambly" is much more special than just an ordinary family. The mispronunciation of the word 'family' is only made on purpose by the Clouses' to identify an extra-special bond they have with each other… and it is all the sweeter when used by them because it was created by their young boys when they were first learning to talk.)

Well, the next thing I knew I was looking up into four sets of sparkling but tender "blue eyes" and into four smiling faces of the "fambly" I had spied-on earlier that morning cooking breakfast. I knew in an instant that we were destined to find one another that day and become "the bestest" of friends. And I felt my heart skip a beat because I knew for certain that my life was about to change most miraculously… I could sense that this blue-eyed people family quite simply had not only plenty of love for one another, but more than enough extra love to share with a little blue-eyed brown bear like me. What an answer to my "help me" prayer! More than I had even asked for or imagined…

So that, in a nutshell, is how I was rescued in the Rocky Mountains by Webmaster Dave Clouse. Over the next week I was tenderly nursed back to health by his wife Lynn, and I quickly became a special "bud" to their two boys, M&M. I guess you could say they adopted me into their "fambly" and I adopted them too. Quite simply: we chose each other that beautiful day in the Rocky Mountains. What a great blessing this has all been in my life!

Webmaster Dave and his wife Lynn advertise vacation rental properties all over the world on their website "Vacation Rentals by Owner" at VRBO.com. Their website was first started way back in 1995. As I recall, not long after they took me to their home in Aurora , Colorado , to live with them, I was invited to meet their VRBO® Staff, and soon became a special part of their VRBO.com family as well.And the best part of all, they asked me if I would like to be the official Travel Mascot for VRBO.com! Now tell me, how could a little bear say "no" to such a splendid offer?!?

So today, I get to continue my bear adventures by traveling all over the world with the Clouses or their VRBO® staff members… and I get to meet lots of VRBO.com members as I enjoy a staying in their lovely vacation rental properties.And the Clouses make sure I get some camping and backpacking time in every year too, and I've even been able to go home-home and visit my folks whenever I want… what a wonderful life!

By the way, I'm actually becoming a wee bit famous too… hopefully I won't let my head get too big over that though. (My Ma would sure be straightening me out quick if she thought I was getting too big for my bear skin… "Handsome is as handsome does," she'd say.)Well, if you'd like, you can read all about my latest vacation adventures by going to my travel page.

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again: "I REALLY DO LOVE TO TRAVEL!" And VRBO.com has sooo many-many wonderful vacation rental properties to choose from… this little Rocky Mountain bear is sure having the time of his life. In fact, I highly recommend you try visiting some VRBO.com properties real soon too… they're simply the best!!!

Signed, The VRBO Bear

Carpe Vacationum "Seize the Vacation"