Re: Black Bear
I think opening paragraphs are very telling, I think in this instance it reads as confused and lacking in focus.
For example, what is the focus of the first paragraph? Dramatic intent? Black Bear? The birthday?
What sticks out most is the phrase "sometime on the morrow I'll turn 75 years old" - sometime on the morrow?? Most people count their birthday's from the technical start of the day, not some vague "sometime". That to me douses your attempt at dramatic effect.
The result is that your opening paragraph - which could be really strong - I think reads as weak but with a lot of potential for tightening.
Tomorrow I'll turn seventy-five. I'm pretty sure it'll be my last birthday. And although it's fifty years since I last saw Black Bear, I've never slept well since because of that night.
It's still not great - there's a discontinuity between the topic of "birthday" and "black bear" but I'd personally suggest it reads sharper.
Am afraid I didn't read through the rest because to me the first para has to set a strong impression - a single focus to push onto the next paragraph - I think you still need to address that. I did skip read some of it and found no real single thread that was pushing the sstory forward - sorry.
However, simply my personal opinion and feedback for you to consider.