image borrowed from bing
“Whatever happens to the beast, also happens
to the man--all things are connected.”
When I was ten, I watched my grandfather
skinning out a large black bear. He had shot it
along the Carbon River, near Mt. Rainier,
in the forested foothills of the Cascades.
It was a big Brownie, probably ran 350 pounds--
it had attacked him while they were both salmon-
fishing. He killed it with five blasts of the .357 Magnum
pistol he always wore while out in the woods. He had
killed bear before, but he often feared that one day
regardless of its wounds, he would meet the bruin
that might have the spirit to keep coming,
and take his life, the pair of them
dancing with death.
“Never shoot them in the head, it won’t stop them.
If you can get them to stand up on their hind legs,
you shoot them just above the peter, & break
their pelvis, & while they are dragging around
their back legs, you can just walk right up to it,
look him in the eye, & finish the job.”
Working with the carcass in his backyard,
he had removed the head, & as it hung there
on three stout timbers, it looked like a crucified
thief, Barabbas reborn, or like Dan, our
Norwegian mailman; so human-like
it stunned me.
My Pop was a devout Evolutionist,
& he believed that Bear were a distant relative
to man; it had sweet meat, like pork,
like man himself according to cannibals--
that at some point it just branched off
from great apes, & joined the pack
of Caniforms, letting its snout elongate,
& developing sharp non-retractible claws.
“I call this big guy, Bjorn; notice his cinnamon
blond color, just like a handsome Swede. I’m
going to make a vest & some house slippers
out of his hide, and a spirit necklace out of
He talked about the Native Americans
who worshipped the Bear Totem, respecting
its free spirit, with its definite element of
unpredictability, capable of moving from
berry-eater & fish-catcher to raging warrior
at the drop of a pine cone.
“Remember, Butch, they look clumsy, but
they can run up to 30 mph, & they climb trees
a hell of a lot faster than you can.”
He told me about hunting Polar bear, Kodiaks,
& grizzlies in Alaska: “I once witnessed
a 1500 pound polar bear attacking a float plane;
tore that plane into corn flakes.”
He always amazed me with his outdoorsman
expertise: “They don’t really hibernate, you know,
they just find a cave & chill out for a couple months,
what they call their “winter sleep”--but they rouse
themselves to crap or piss, or eat some of their
stored up food. So don’t enter a bear’s den during
winter just for the thrill of it, because it will notice,
& it will fuck up your holiday plans.”
In history class I had read about how the Romans
loved to pit bear against lions, gorillas, & even
elephants; how most of the time the bear
were the victors.
“In the wild there is only one predator capable of preying
on adult bear--a tiger; but its real enemy is us, man;
cutting down their habitat, building tract houses
& ugly strip malls, reducing the proud bear clan
to garbage foragers, & pet-killers.
It’s a damn shame.”
Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics
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