Bearly Working

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Two Shitloads of Douglas Hawthorn (or Black Hawthorn) seeds

“That?s a shitload of seeds,” I had to comment when I first saw it.

I?ve finally found the meaning?and possibly true origin?of the term.

This shitload, which is technically two shitloads combined, according to Matt Ogden, contains approximately 12,000 Douglas Hawthorn?seeds.

?It?s two beautiful bear scats,? he says.

Ogden grows and sells native plants.

He spends much of his summer collecting seeds throughout western Montana, often in the Bitterroot Mountains that rise dramatically in front of the small town of Hamilton, where he lives.

He refers to the bears, who live and roam the slopes surrounding Hamilton, using terminology you?d only otherwise hear in a payroll office.

In the backyard of his Third Street home he comments that one bear, who has worked for him for two years now, is an ?equal opportunity bear.?

Early in the season he delivers Vaccinium, locally known as huckleberries, then come the currants, then service berries, then chokecherries.

Matt Ogden (650 of 1)
Matt Ogden

He rinses a load of seeds through a sieve then carefully prepares a drying tray using old newspapers and a warped cardboard tray as the sieve drains.

As he dumps the seeds into the tray he does not need to explain that as the bear?s diet changes, it delivers these different seeds — as they ripen.

Bear Scat.
Bear Scat.

?This bear has been working for me all season . . . it?s my favorite bear,? he says.

He pauses, holding the sieve in one hand as he draws a mountain?in the air with the other, describing how he spotted the black bear about a quarter mile away, just upslope, earlier in the year.

Ogden says he gives the bear his own work space.

The botanist employs black bears mostly, but has found the larger scat of grizzly as well. Ogden also works at varying elevations, collecting poop in the habitat of his plant source.

The bears work full time, 24/7 and they provide a service they might not even know they?re providing. Just as say, Western Redbud requires a burn, (or a simulation that can be achieved by say, boiling the seeds,) some plants only germinate if the seed has passed through the bowels of a mammal or bird.

No shit?

Yup, no shit, no seedling.