HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROTHER by the Hollies

That 1960s Hollies hit gets plenty of play in Pattaya, only bargirls have changed to words to suit their need for subterfuge.

“He not boyfriend. He my brother.”

The tenacles of an extended Thai family are more tangled than a cluster of fornicating rattlesnakes. The second cousin of a third aunt from your sister’s second marriage is family as is almost anyone from your village. Farangs have a hard time getting their head around this galaxy of uncles, aunts, sisters, and cousins, even when the ‘cousin’ or brother’ seems awfully tight with their wife.

“He not boyfriend. He my brother.”

And not wanting to call your wife a liar cause many farangs to turn a blind eye to the obvious.

“He ain’t her brother, he’s her boyfriend.”

The words fit the tune this way too.

100%.

In 1983 I was living with Brigitte Yorke in Paris. She had a husband in the South of France. Her explanation of our living situation was that I was gay. Guy accepted my pederastism, because I would show up with a gay friend whenever he came to town plus Brigittie was using me as a beard for her many affairs.

I’m not gay.

Really, so when my mia noi explain that her ‘cousin’ was gay, I rewrote the words to the Hollies’ hit.

“He ain’t gay, he’s your boyfriend.”

Did I end it with her?

What for?

Her cousin was good fun.

After all we are both gay.

To hear the Hollies hit, please go to this URL

THE BIGGEST BEAR by Lynd Ward

THE BIGGEST BEAR was published in 1952. The illustrated children’s book lovingly described the story of a young boy befriending an orphan bear in the Maine woods. Johnny Orchard’s bear grew to an epic size and ate everything in sight. Faced with the choice of killing his friend Johnny Orchard’s bear is saved by a miracle.

To see a video reading of THE BIGGEST BEAR, please go to the following URL

BEAR SEASON by Peter Nolan Smith

Hunting season along the Hudson River opens in mid-October. Bow and arrows only. Guns are allowed in November, so I feel relatively safe walking in the woods, especially wearing a neon-orange hooded sweatshirt. No animal in that color existed north or south of Troy, New York and during the shooting season non-hunters drape their bodies in orange to prevent any hunter from mis

Hunting season along the Hudson River opened in mid-October.

Bow and arrows only.

Guns weren’t allowed until November, so I felt relatively safe walking in the woods wearing a neon-orange hooded sweatshirt. No animal in that color existed north or south of Troy, New York and during the shooting season non-hunters drape their bodies in brilliant orange to prevent any hunter from mistaking them for a deer.

d

“No one has ever been refused a hunting license because they’re color blind,” Floyd told me at the Green Acres Tavern. The drinking establishment on Rte. 29 was brightly lit at all hours of the day, since the owner thought people looked more honest under 100-watt light.

“So someone might shoot me even if I’m wearing this.” The orange was hurtful to the eye.

“If drink was involved, everyone is fair game.” Belvin shrugged his shoulders.

The fifty-six year-old farmer was a crack marksman. The previous weekend he had scored 99 out of 100 with a bolt-action .308 Winchester. “People shoot at whatever they see come hunting season. One time I’m sitting here and this down-stater enters the tavern, telling everyone about the spike-horn deer he killed. None of us had ever heard about this species of deer and asked to see his kill. It was a billy goat.”

“That’s nothing. Them folks will shoot anything that moves.” A scrawny UPS driver diverted his attention from the NFL replays. People up here like talking about hunting season. “My uncle’s game warden down in Duchess County. One time he stops a truck on Route 44 and asks the driver what he has on the roof. The driver tells him a spotted deer. It was a St. Bernhard.”

“I lost a cow to a hunter three years ago.” A lady mournfully remembered with a Bud in her hand. “She was a good milker.”

“I’ve never hunted in my life.” My father was vehemently anti-gun, so the majority of my experience with weapons came from shooting with my Dutch uncle Howie Hermann at the 20th Street Shooting Range in Manhattan. Every Monday night we would meet at the 2nd Avenue Deli and then drive over to shoot pistols; Lugers, Colts, S&W ad infinitum. Howie was real gun-nut.

Sweet as pie, but he liked his guns.

“Nothing wrong with not hunting,” another drinker commented from the end of the bar. His voice betrayed his real feeling on the subject. Guns were sacred this far north of New York City.

“I know that.” My youth had been spent in Maine. Deer and bear had been strapped to cars during hunting season. Their blood dripping over the windows was a badge of manhood in the North. “I never really wanted to kill anything, but I’m not saying it’s not a good thing as long as it’s for eating.”

“Deer meat’s good.” Belvin had a side of deer in his freezer. “Bear not so good.”

“If you get them in the fall, you can grill them up as steaks.” A bearded beer-drinker added from his stool. Everyone here knew everyone. “But they cook up dry real quick.”

“But if you undercook it, you get trichinellosis.” I was the outsider, but was familiar with this problem thanks to reading about the disastrous Franklin polar expedition. The crew ate bear and died of trichinellosis.

“That’s deadly, ain’t it?” The beer-drinker was scratching his head, as if his fingers might jog lose the brain cells holding that information.

“Same as if you ate uncooked pig.” Belvin was a subsistence farmer. He could eat everything on his land, excepting the tree bark and his wife knew how to make teas from them. “You get nausea, heartburn, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. That’s why the Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork.”

“I’m not so sure that’s the reason. I have a lot of Jewish friends who are bacon Jews. They love pork. I think the real reason that their religions prohibit pork is that it tastes so good.” At least to my palate. “I was in Sumatra once. A big island in Indonesia. Full of Muslims. Anyway I go up to the highlands and the people are Christians. Everyone of them. They even sing Christian prayer songs like BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. We were out in the forests and I asked them as we were cooking wild pig, why they didn’t become Muslims like everyone else. The elder explained that they loved the taste of pork too much to give it up for any god.”

“Not much tastes better than bacon.” The UPS driver smacked his lips.

“What about apple pie?” The woman eyed the dessert tray by the kitchen window. The food at the tavern was home-made.

“Apple pie is pretty damn good, but it ain’t meat.” The bearded farmer’s statement granted him a bar of nodding heads.

“The pig that night on Sumatra was good. The hill people ate everything, but the oink. Afterwards the headman asked, “You know why we like pig so much?” I shook my head and he answered by saying, “Because it tastes like man.”

“Cannibals.” Belvin’s hand reached for a gun at his waist. The .357 was in the truck.

“Supposedly not anymore, but I didn’t like the way they were looking at me. Sort of like a fat person after eating a salad.”

“What you do?” The UPS driver was on the edge of his seat.

“I thanked them for the dinner and headed home. I thought they were going to bushwhack me on the trail. I locked the door of the hotel and left the next day. Believe I was happy to be back with the Muslims, although they were a little grim about my beer-drinking, but I’ve never heard of any Muslim cannibals.”

“Me neither.” The bartender put a shot of whiskey in front of me.

“What’s that for?”

“You won the biggest bullshit story of the night award.” Belvin scanned the rest of the clientele. They were locals. “No one here can come up with better.”

“But it wasn’t bullshit.” My bone marrow trembled with the remembrance of the ex-cannibals’ faces.

“You should make it a double.” The UPS driver had returned his gaze to the Jets’ highlights. “He even believes his own bullshit.”

“Here’s to bullshit.” I drained the shot and ordered a round for the bar. It wasn’t painful. Buds in the Green Acres are only $2.50 and that’s everyone’s favorite beer. Mine was Labatt’s Blue. It cost $3. Belvin drove me home before midnight. We had long tomorrows ahead of us. He left me off at the end of my friend’s drive.

“That was sure some good story.” Belvin was smiling with the belief that I was the best bullshitter he had heard in some time.

“Thanks.” Sometimes it’s best not to disappoint the masses. I waved goodnight and Belvin disappeared over the crest of the hill. In the light of the moon my sweatshirt glowed orange. I made it home without a single shot coming in my direction.

Next month would be another story.

taking them for a deer.

“No one has ever been refused a hunting license because they’re color blind,” Floyd told me at the Green Acres Tavern. The drinking establishment on Rte. 29 is brightly lit all hours of the day, since the owner thinks people look more honest under 100-watt light.

“So someone might shoot me even if I’m wearing this.” The orange was hurtful to the eye.

“If drink was involved.” Belvin shrugged his shoulders. The 56 year-old farmer is a crack marksman. The previous weekend he scored 99 out of 100 with a bolt-action .308 Winchester. “People shoot at whatever they see come hunting season. One time I’m sitting here and this down-stater enters the tavern, telling everyone about the spike-horn deer he killed. None of us had ever heard about this species of deer and asked to see his kill. It was a billy goat.”

“That’s nothing. Them folks will shoot anything that moves.” A scrawny UPS driver diverted his attention from the NFL replays. People up here like talking about hunting season. “My uncle’s game warden down in Duchess County. One time he stops a truck on Route 44 and asks the driver what he has on the roof. The driver tells him a spotted deer. It was a St. Bernhard.”

“I lost a cow to a hunter three years ago.” A lady mournfully remembered with a Bud in her hand. “She was a good milker.”

“I’ve never hunted in my life.” My father was vehemently anti-gun, so the majority of my experience with weapons comes from shooting with my Dutch uncle Howie Hermann at the 20th Street Shooting Range in Manhattan. Every Monday night we would meet at the 2nd Avenue Deli and then drive over to shoot pistols; Lugers, Colts, S&W ad infinitum. Howie was real gun-nut. Sweet as pie, but liked his guns.

“Nothing wrong with not hunting.” Another drinker commented from the end of the bar. His voice betrayed his real feeling on the subject. Guns were sacred this far north of New York.

“I know that.” My youth had been spent in Maine. Deer and bear are strapped to cars during hunting season. Their blood dripping over the windows is a badge of manhood in the North. “Never really wanted to kill anything, but I’m not saying it’s not a good thing as long as it’s for eating.”

“Deer meat’s good.” Belvin had a side of deer in his freezer. “Bear not so good.”

“If you get them in the fall, you can grill them up as steaks.” A bearded beer-drinker added from his stool. Everyone here knew everyone. “But they cook up dry real quick.”

“But if you undercook it, you get trichinellosis.” I was the outsider, but was familiar with this problem thanks to reading about the disastrous polar expedition of the Franklin. The crew ate bear and died of trichinellosis.

“That’s deadly, ain’t it?” The beer-drinker was scratching his head, as if his fingers might jog lose the brain cells holding that information.

“Same as if you ate uncooked pig.” Belvin was a subsistence farmer. He could eat everything on his land, excepting the tree bark and his wife knew how to make teas from them. “You get nausea, heartburn, dyspepsia, and diarrhea. That’s why the Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork.”

“I’m not so sure that’s the reason. I have a lot of Jewish friends who are bacon Jews. They love pork. I think the real reason their religion prohibits pork is that it tastes so good.” At least to my palate. “I was in Sumatra once. A big island in Indonesia. Full of Muslims. Anyway I go up to the highlands and the people are Christians. Everyone of them. They even sing Christian prayer songs like BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. We were out in the forests and I asked them as we were cooking wild pig, why they didn’t become Muslims like everyone else. The elder explained that they loved the taste of pork too much to give it up for any god.”

“Not much tastes better than bacon.” The UPS driver smacks his lips.

“What about apple pie?” The woman eyed the dessert tray by the kitchen window. The food at the tavern was home-made.

“Apple pie pretty damn good, but it ain’t meat.” The bearded farmer’s statement granted him a bar of nodding heads.

“The pig that night on Sumatra was good. The hill people ate everything but the oink. Afterwards the headman asked, “You know why we like pig so much?” I shook my head and he answered by saying, “Because it tastes like man.”

“Cannibals.” Belvin’s hand reached for a gun at his waist. The .357 was in the truck.

“Supposedly not anymore, but I didn’t like the way they were looking at me. Sort of like a fat person after eating a salad.”

“What you do?” The UPS driver was on the edge of his seat.

“I thanked them for the dinner and headed home. Thought they were going to bushwhack me on the trail. I locked the door of the hotel and left the next day. Believe I was happy to be back with the Muslims.” They were a little grim about my beer-drinking. “I’ve never heard of any Muslim cannibals.”

“Me neither.” The bartender put a shot of whiskey in front of me.

“What’s that for?”

“You won the biggest bullshit story of the night award.” Belvin scanned the rest of the clientele. They were locals. “No one here can come up with better.”

“But it wasn’t bullshit.” My bone marrow trembled with the remembrance of the ex-cannibals’ faces.

“You should make it a double.” The UPS driver had returned his gaze to the Jets’ highlights. “He even believes his own bullshit.”

“Here’s to bullshit.” I drained the shot and ordered a round for the bar. It wasn’t painful. Buds in the Green Acres are only $2.50 and that’s everyone’s favorite beer. Mine was Labatt’s Blue. It was $3. Belvin drove me home before midnight. We both had long tomorrows ahead of us. He left me off at the end of my friend’s drive.

“That was sure some good story.” Belvin was smiling with the belief that I was the best bullshitter he had heard in some time.

“Thanks.” Sometimes it’s best not to disappoint the masses. I waved goodnight and Belvin disappeared over the crest of the hill. In the light of the moon my sweatshirt glowed orange. I made it home without a single shot coming in my direction. Next month would be another story.

DONT FEED THE BEARS by Peter Nolan Smith

My second youngest sister has frequently called me a liar.

In some ways Pam hasn’t been not wrong, for my remembrance of the past differs from the collective memories of family and friends.

Several years ago I headed up to Maine for my younger sister’s birthday. Watchic Pond was a short distance outside of Portland. Not much had changed along Route 25 and even less at the lake, except the pine trees were taller and we were a little older.

After a long day lazing around the camp on Watchic Pond we sat outside on a long wooden table for a lobster dinner. One-and-quarters were cheap that season and my brother-in-law boiled a two dozen in a huge pot. My father, aunt and uncle, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews consumed big bottles of white wine, as the sky darkened to a cobalt blue and lake lapped at the shore speaking a wind-driven language.

In the evening we ate lobster at the family camp at Watchic Pond. The night sky darkened to a cobalt blue and the lake lapped at the shore speaking a wind-driven language. All my family was in attendance and we broke the shells to get at the succulent white meat. The empty claws, tails, and legs, and knuckles grew into a substantial pile.

“That’s going to make some bears happy.”

“What do you mean?” my uncle asked from the other end of the table.

“Don’t you remember the bears eating garbage at the Standish dump?”

“I never saw that.” My 85 year-old father drew a blank.

“I remember seeing them sitting on their haunches, eating food from people’s trash.”

There had been no plastic bags in the 50s.

“Are you making this up?” my aunt and uncle asked in unison.

“It wasn’t a dream. I was standing on the bluff looking at the bears. They ate with good manners too.”

My older sister and brothers rolled their eyes and Pam demanded, “Were you on LSD?”

My younger sister was a trial lawyer and I was thrust onto the stand for interrogation.

“No, I was only five.” I was almost sure of my answer, then again no one had proven that the CIA hadn’t experimented on children in the 1950s.

“Maybe it was a flashback.” My brother-in-law laughed at his joke.

Everyone from our generation joined him.

I was the family’s one hippie.

“What’s so funny,” my father grumbled from his seat.

“The bears at the dump.”

“Never happened.” My father returned to his post-dinner stupor.

“No, I swear I saw them.”

“Well, there are bears in these woods.” My uncle Russ looked over his shoulder. He was also partial to a good story.

“Not these woods.” Pam had heard too many lies from her clients. None of them ever told the truth and nothing but the truth.

“Maybe not this time of year, but I had a cousin up in Naples.” My uncle was a Maine native. “This bear kept on eating his garbage. My uncle locked the lids and build a shed. The bear found a way in. He finally stored the trash in his house,”

“Did that solve the problem?” My brother-in-law was good around the house.

“No, the bear crashed through a kitchen wall.”

“What your cousin do then?” my older sister was scared of any animal bigger than a cat, although her twenty-pound Shadow was no kitty.

“He shot the bear in the ass with buckshot and the bear ran away. Never to be seen again.”

“Like the bears at the dump.” Pam wasn’t letting it go.

“I saw what I saw.”

My older brother had been there then and I looked to him.

He shrugged to indicate I was on my own.

“I believe you, but everyone else thinks you’re lying,” my sister joked to the laughter of our gathered family.

“Here’s to your 38th Birthday.” I raised my glass.

“You never mention a woman’s age,” my aunt admonished me.

“I can live with 38.” Pam was on the other side of 40.

“So some lies are good.”

“36 would have been better and bears at best left in the woods.”

After dessert I helped bring in the plates.

“What about the lobster shells?”

“Leave them outside. We don’t want them to stink up the house.” My brother-in-law loved his camp.

We washed the dishes, while my family disappeared into the bedrooms. My brother-in-law and I had a vodka for a nightcap and he said,”I love that story about the bears at the dump.”

“It really did happen.”

“All stories are true, if interesting.”

It was an old family adage.

I bid him good night and went to my room.

Lying on the bed I thought about bears.

We had a long history and I went to bed remembering my teddy bear. His name was Billy. I have no idea where he went astray. Maybe it was during our move from Maine to Boston in 1960, but I wished he came out of the trees tonight and rolled over to shut my eyes.

My next connection to bears came from the book GOLDILOCKS. My dearly departed mother read it to my older brother and me before switching to Lynd Ward’s THE BIGGEST BEAR as a bedtime tale. The plot followed a nicer version of THE YEARLING, in which a boy adopted a bear cub in a Maine farming community until the bear grew too big to be with humans. The happy ending was the capture of the bear by hunters from a city zoo, although the bears at Franklin Zoo in Boston did not seem to happy with their lot in life.

Once we moved from Maine to the South shore, bears figured less and less in our lives, but they popped up as Yogi and Boo-boo on TV and I read THE BIGGEST BEAR at least three times a year. I begged my father to take us to Franklin Zoo in Boston and he relented one week. The lions and tigers slept on dusty soil and I said in front of the bear den, “These bears don’t look very happy.”

“Bears are bears. They’re only happy when they’re eating,” explained my father, but I never asked to visit the zoo again.

THE BIGGEST BEAR was retired to my top bookshelf in my teenage years to be replaced by my adoration of the Boston Bruins. They won a Stanley Cups in 1972 and I drank beer toasting THE BIGGEST BEAR and the Big Bad Bruins.

That summer I hiked into the White Mountains and camped without a permit. I trekked from the Swift River to Sawyer Pond. I carried no tent, only a drop cloth and a sleeping bag. A little before sunset I set up camp in the shelter of a glacier rock.I ate cold beans for dinner rather than risk the rangers spotting a fire. The Red Sox game on radio guided me to sleep under a starry sky.

A snort disturbed my sleep. Something big was lumbering through the underbrush. My hand grabbed a flashlight, but hesitated turning it on in case the prowler was a ranger. The noise went away and I spend the rest of the night watching the darkness for the fangs of a black bear.

In the morning I found bear tracks twenty feet from my shelter and hurried back to the road.

Bears were best left in the wilderness or hockey rink.

The folk singer Dave Van Ronk performed frequently in Harvard Square and sang a wicked version of THE TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC with his coarse voice lending the children’s song an unintended menace. One time I brought him THE BIGGEST BEAR to autographed and the bearded singer laughed, saying, “I’ve been asked to sign a lot of things, but never a kid’s book.”

“Glad to have given you a first time.”

I loved Dave Van Ronk, the Pope of Greenwich Village.

In 1974 I worked at a restaurant on Cape Ann. The entire staff was gay. We smoked pot after work at a friend’s house on Bear’s Neck in Rockport. Gay men mauled me worse than any bear, but I escaped with my masculinity intact as my universe of bears jumbled with images of them eating garbage at dumps, cartoons, movies, and story books along with hairy gay men.

When I moved to New York to be a famous writer, I visited the Central Park Zoo.

The elephant was chained in a smelly barn and the gorilla dodged trash thrown by school children, but the polar bears seemed content as the bears at the dump with a swimming pool, free food, and a mate. I imagined THE BIGGEST BEAR to have shared their fate.

In 1982 I left New York for Paris, where a German friend had decorated his 16th arrondisement house with bear furniture. Jurgen thought I was the next Henry Miller. I wanted to be John Steinbeck. My spelling was atrocious enough to be Hemingway.

Jurgen hired me to work at a nightclub in Hamburg. The mysterious German’s Reeperbahn apartment was packed with bear figurines of all sizes. One night we were drinking there.

When I asked about his collection, Jurgen said, “This? This is not a collection. These are my friends. I am a bastard. My father never came back from Russia. As a child I had no one to protect me. Believe me Hamburg is tough. I created an imaginary bear and he was inside me to get me out of any trouble. After I started making money, I bought these. They protect me now. You want another beer?”

Beers tasted better than bear or so I have heard.

Jurgen died in 1985 under mysterious circumstances in Paris.

I wasn’t even sure that he was dead, until seeing him in the morgue. I wanted to make sure that his death was natural and broke into his apartment on Montmartre. There was no blood on the floor, but I wiped the surfaces for my fingerprints and stole a small bear as a keepsake. His step-brother put the rest up for auction. I still have mine somewhere, although I misplaced my edition of THE LITTLEST BEAR in New York and the Bruins avoided the Stanley Cup with frustrating regularity.

Despite their lack of success I continued to wear their shirt with the old logo.

In the 80s bears became beasts from Wall Street. Brokers hung in the East Village. They spoke about ‘bulls’ as their friend. Bears were their enemy.

During my journeys throughout Asia in the 90s, I ran into trained bears in India. These creatures were gaunt shadows of the grizzly bear of legend, a golden beast towering over man.

I was seeing Mrs. Carolina at this time. The married blonde waited for me and I came back from my trips to her.

My father asked about our relationship.

Since she was married, I answered, “We are traveling companions.”

“So that’s what they call it now.”

Ms. Carolina originally hailed from the Adirondacks and on a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains I told her the story about the bears eating garbage at the dump.

“We had bears too.” The police decided the proximity of bears to humans was a danger better not tested and used firecrackers to scare them away.”

“And did they?”

“I guess so.”

“You know how to escape a bear?” asked Ms. Carolina.

“Run faster than the people with you.”

“No.” She considered that ungallant. “If you’re being chased by a bear, throw your jacket at them.”

“You mean like giving a mugger your wallet.”

“No, a bear can run 30 mph. The jacket will make him curious. At that point you’re supposed to get a tree between the bear and you. Maybe you’ll be lucky.”

I was a big believer in luck.

On a trip to Montana and Wyoming May 1994 we stayed at the Chico Springs Hotel. I hiked into the mountains. After an hour I reached a sign stated, “Anyone proceeding after this point without a guide will be prosecuted if not eaten.”

It didn’t make any sense.

Eaten?

By what?

I gazed around the slopes.

The bears in the Rockies didn’t eat garbage.

They ate everything.

Across the river the wind swayed over a pasture. Bears could be in the high grasses waiting for me to get closer. I picked up a rock and threw it hard. The invisible bears didn’t break from cover and I hiked back to the lodge very fast.

I found Mrs. Carolina soaking in the springs and joined her.

“How was your walk?”

“Fine.” She didn’t need to know that I had been scared.

The next day we stopped in Yellowstone National Park. A huge fire in 1988 had devastated its forests and huge swathes of the volcanic plateau were charred from horizon to horizon. Ashes clogged the streams and burnt bones laid as humps along the river banks. The fire had been a disaster, but the torched trees allowed motorists unrestricted vistas. Bison cruised the road and elk grazed the meadows, plus some sections of the park were untouched by flames and hiked along a river.

Bear tracks led away from the stream and Mrs. Carolina asked, “What are you doing?”

“Following these tracks.”

“And why do you want to meet a bear? Maybe a grizzly bear?”

“No reason.”

“It’s spring. Bears are hungry. How fast can you run?”

“A little fast.” My best time at the 440 had been 55 seconds. A little better than 15 MPH. “Maybe we should go back to the car.”

“It’s probably a good idea.” Ms. Carolina didn’t fool with big animals, only me.

Later that week nearing Glacier Park we spotted a grizzly loping across the road at a good clip.

“He must be in a hurry.” Ms. Carolina was driving and sped up the car. She didn’t believe in rubber-necking with her life on the line.

“He’s probably going to the town dump.”

“I don’t think so.” Ms. Carolina stepped on the gas. She had a heavy foot at the best of times.

At the park entrance I told the young ranger about the grizzly.

“It looked like a big dog.”

“Just be glad you didn’t pet it. They can be mean this time of year.” A young ranger told us, as he made change. “They like to stay away from people, but the brown bears are very friendly, unless you get between them and they’re cubs or food.” His associate was a man of regulations. “We don’t condone feeding them. Only make them dangerous. We had two fatal attacks in the last ten years.”

The young ranger handed Ms. Carolina the ticket.

“You be safe.”

As we drove away, Ms. Carolina asked, “Why didn’t you tell them about your dump story?”

“Because those bears aren’t these bears.” Mine wore a smile and had good manners.

For the rest of the trip we didn’t get out of the car, except at the scenic stops on the pass.

We were playing it safe, because in the wilderness we were the garbage dump for the bears.

Recently I watched a movie GRIZZLY MAN, in which this incredibly naive amateur naturalist traveled north every year to live with the bears. Without them Timothy Treadwell had no life and Werner Herzog assembled Treadwell’s video recordings into a documentary.

The pay-off was a bear mauling ‘grizzly man’ and his girlfriend.

Neither survived the attack.

I felt sorry for the girl. The guy had put her in a bad spot. The bear was just being a bear and the next morning after the lobster dinner on Watchic Pond I woke early for a swim. Everyone else was asleep, except for my father, who was doing a crossword puzzle in the kitchen.

“How’d you sleep?”

“I dreamed a lot about bears.”

“I haven’t seen a bear in years.” He still lived on the South Shore. Bears were extinct south of the Neponset River. “But they’re out there.”

“Not as much as mosquitoes.” The Maine woods were famous for the swarming insects.

“They shouldn’t be that bad this time of the morning. Enjoy your swim.”

“I exited from the cabin. A thin mist hovered over the lake. Two loons cried out in the mist. I passed the long table and looked down on the ground. The lobster shells were gone. I searched the dirt for tracks. The paw prints were unmistakably those of a bear. My head snapped to the right and left. The bear was nowhere in sight, but they are very clever for such a large creature. I almost went back inside to tell my father about the bear, but if they didn’t believe me about the bears in the dump, then there wasn’t a chance they would believe me about the night intruder. I went to the end of the dock and jumped in the water. It was cold and upon breaking the surface for air I laughed about my discovery.

Over the years I have told the story about bears eating garbage all over the world. Some people believed me. Some thought it’s a good story. Others feel I’m lying, but those bears were there in the Standish dump. Maybe they weren’t smiling, which I will not admit to my sister.

After all we sometimes need to believe in something that isn’t the truth, especially if it’s interesting.

TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC Dave Van Ronk


Dave Van Ronk was a growling folk singer, who benignly dominated Greenwich Village in the 60s. He mostly played the East Coast due to his refusal to fly. His mode of travel was buses, trains, or a car driven by a young girlfriend. His bearish body hid a gentle heart, which he revealed any time he performed the classic TEDDY BEARS’ PICNIC.

I couldn’t find any version of this song on Youtubes, but the Mayor of Greenwich Village certainly would have enjoyed the audience in the above photo.

TEDDY BEARS PICNIC

If you go down in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go down in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise

For ev’ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.y

Ev’ry teddy bear who’s been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
That’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares
And see them picnic on their holiday.

See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout;
They never have any cares;

At six o’clock their mummies and daddies,
Will take them home to bed,
Because they’re tired little teddy bears.

If you go down in the woods today
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.

For ev’ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

To hear Dave Van Ronk’s version of this song, please go to this URL

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w9hPpxuhZ8