Opelika’s unexpected visitor

by Jody Fuller

When I first heard there was a bear sighting in Opelika, the first thing I thought of was a 102 year old man in a houndstooth hat, but since he never wanted to come to East Alabama, I assumed it was a bear with a lower case “b.” With respect to animal activity, Opelika hadn’t experienced that much excitement since Mr. Lee Roy Moore’s bull ran wild all over downtown Opelika decades ago. On that particular day, party lines were lighting up all over town.
Since party lines are a thing of the past, it was social media that was lighting up like Willie Nelson on the roof of the White House. I was glued to Facebook for a couple of hours as I watched Elizabeth White from WTVM ride along with Assistant Chief of Police Bob Holley and Captain Shane Healey as they were in hot pursuit of the bear. Although I often wish for simpler times, technology is truly amazing.
When I first tuned in, the bear was over on Fruitland, which is not too far from Orchard. A little while later, he was over on Plum. This wasn’t your average bear, as it could obviously read and was looking for food.
It’s been a while since I was as entertained as I was during the bear fiasco, which states volumes, I suppose. But, it truly was entertaining. It had all the ingredients of great TV: heroes, an animal, and a leading lady, not to mention a great supporting cast of extras. Hearing the police tell neighborhood residents to get back in the house because there was a bear on the loose was comedy at its finest. I’ve never seen people follow a police officer’s instructions so quickly.
In real time, I, along with thousands of others, saw a man get a ticket for speeding through the bear zone. Not only was law enforcement searching for the bear, they were continuing to do their jobs in the process. As always, I have great respect for the men and women in blue.
Many wanted the authorities to simply leave the bear alone, which is simply ridiculous. It was wandering around highly populated residential neighborhoods, so to let it be was asking for bad things to happen to not only people and pets but to also the bear. Relocating the bear was the most sensible and humane course of action for all parties involved.
When all was said and done, Alabama Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement personnel, along with representatives from Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, tranquilized the bear, safely loaded it onto an OPD trailer, and transported it to a land far, far away where it was released back into the wild. I love a story with a happy ending.
The bear’s fate was much better than that of Mr. Leroy Moore’s bull, who had to be put down, oddly enough, by Assistant Chief Holley’s brother, Clarence. Word has it that it was shot once by someone else, but that only made him madder. There are very few things as terrifying as an angry bull. Clarence did the deed and made the front page of the paper in the process.
If there’s ever a sequel to this story, my only request would be to see Assistant Chief Holley wrestle that bear. My money’s on Bob.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.