Where’s the bear? Rock Hill neighbors on alert
By Andrew Dys
The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald
Wednesday, Jun. 08, 2011
ROCK HILL A bear running through his backyard causes no fear for Jay Jay Wommer on Rock
Hill’s Sullivan Street.
It didn’t hurt that Jay Jay was standing in his backyard holding a 12-gauge shotgun the size
of a bazooka.
“I’m ready,” said Jay Jay Tuesday, before he left for his job around the corner as the
second-shift fry cook at the legendary Red’s Grill. “The cops said the bear ran
right through my yard and onto the railroad tracks and out.
“I’ve been looking out here since Sunday when a guy from down the street ran by me with a
pistol in his hand. ‘Dude!’ I yelled out. ‘You get robbed?’ He said no, it was
a bear. Him and his kids saw the bear and he was chasing it.
“It went right over the railroad tracks, and I said, ‘Dude, I’m on it with you.’ I ran inside
and got my gun and I went after him, but we couldn’t catch that bear.”
A black bear, size unknown, intentions unknown, has been seen several times in eastern Rock Hill
in Wommer’s neighborhood, near Belleview Elementary School.
A phalanx of law enforcement agents armed with floodlights scoured the area early Monday but
came away with nothing. A trap set in the neighborhood by game wardens, using
stinky fish and pastries, has yet to catch any bears.
But the bear is the talk of the neighborhood for anybody who saw the newspaper Tuesday morning
with a big bear trap on the front page. Those who hadn’t, well, it was a shock.
Dez Ervin had stepped outside the liquor store he runs for a quick cigarette.
“Bear? Bear!” said Dez Ervin. “A city bear?”
Ervin hustled inside, where there is Wild Turkey, but no bears.
Outside a pizza joint, a guy said he was going in to order a large with anchovies. He was told
a bear trap, not 200 yards from where he stood, was using sardines as bait
because bears apparently like small fish.
“Hold the anchovies,” the guy said. “Make it pepperoni.”
An emu was caught a year ago just a block south of Red’s, always the center of action for
this neighborhood. Red’s is also the place where Wommer’s wife, Melissa, a
crackerjack waitress, told everybody in the restaurant Tuesday about the cops
going door to door on her street and telling people to look out for bears and
keep pets inside.
“We had kittens in the back, six of ‘em,” Melissa Wommer said. “I hope bears can’t smell
Like all true Rock Hillians, the Wommers, told to stay alert for bears and use caution,
immediately dashed outside and tried to find the bear.
“I didn’t see any signs of a bear but I looked for a bear,” said Melissa Wommer.
“That means you heard there was a bear in your yard and you went out looking for it?” asked an
Then all the customers at Red’s wanted to know more about the bear and one guy admitted he saw a bear in Chester County last year.
“I got something for that bear if I see him, and it ain’t honey,” said the guy.
The guy looked like he could kill a bear with his bare hands.
Another guy, Ralph Ramsey from Ocala, Fla., up for a visit to his hometown of York, said he
was chased by a black bear last year while hunting.
“Big one, too, ’bout 300, maybe 400 pounds; he trotted at us,” Ramsey said. “He looked, well,
But Ralph Ramsey, Vietnam veteran, were you not scared of a bear?
Ramsey, a hunter, smiled and said, “I believe in protectin’ myself.”
Then Ramsey’s wife, Dee, brought up how for decades west of Clover along S.C. 161, toward the
N.C. line, a man with a general store kept a caged black bear who drank
Coca-Colas from the little glass bottles of that era.
“Our own kids bought that bear Co-colas and he drank them,” said Dee Ramsey. “People used to
take pictures of the bear drinking that Coke.”
The Clover bear, named Joe, was eventually sold in 1971 after complaints from
goody-goodies who apparently were worried about bear diabetes. The building
survives and is called, to this day, The Bear’s Den.
There were no bears at that bar Tuesday.
“We got beers, not bears,” was how one laughing woman put it.
No bears were spotted in Rock Hill at the businesses or houses near where the bear had been
seen Sunday and Monday, either. Not because people weren’t looking, though.
The guys at an auto parts place said the bear surely is just hungry and not bothering anybody.
Guys outside a collision shop looked for bears, the dishwashers hustling to the
dumpster at Red’s sure looked, and workers at the shopping center sneaking a cigarette
break sure looked.
A city worker checking water meters crossed through Jay Jay Wommer’s yard and Wommer said,
big and loud, “The bear was right there where you are walking!”
The city worker walked a bit faster. Word of bears where you are walking armed with nothing but
a reflective vest will do that.
Yet Jay Jay Wommer in his backyard remained ready for any bear.
“The cops told us if we see it, and we feel threatened, not to take any chances and take it
down,” Jay Jay Wommer said as he held up his shotgun. “I never saw a bear up
close and I don’t want to. But if I do I will be ready. If I see that bear, I
consider that a threat.
“I sure ain’t gonna wait to chat with him.”