The Summer of the Naked Bear


Longfellow, Twain, a man named Kent;
(Is it the Super man who’s meant?);
WHAT naked bear?! What’s this ABOUT!?
You’ll have to read to find that out 🙂

During the hot, worst days of a long New York summer, when my friend Karen and I had run out of every last thing there was to do:

    We’d already sat outside one entire day pulling up clover stems and knotting them together to see how long a chain we could make (it stretched across my third-acre lot).

    We’d already spent an entire morning recording ourselves saying over and over to each other “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”, and an entire afternoon listening back to this.

Karen’s dad, a teacher, tricked us into staying off each others’ nerves and out of his hair by means of paying us a penny a line to memorize poetry. (What a wise man!)

Thus, we memorized “Paul Revere’s Ride”. Then, we had gotten greedy and started on “Hiawatha”, but we never got farther than “Eewa-yea, my little Owlet!” (We kept falling apart giggling at the line “Hush! The Naked Bear will hear thee!”)

 

Naked Bear

I Don’t Think We Were Old Enough to Imagine THIS


 

But I used to memorize poems for fun anyhow. Born nerd, here.

My favorite uncle, Walter Kent, was a poet. He wrote lots and lots and lots of poems. Some of them I think are very good. Some of them not so much. A lot of Uncle Walt’s poems are corny. Some of the corny ones are still good.

If Uncle Walt had written only one poem, the one of his which is my favorite, he would be a great poet to me. He and his wife, my ever-so-nice Aunt Fern, loved each other very much. This is the short poem he wrote for Fern, the woman he would love forever:

      Blithe Spirit

      When I am gone, do you suppose
      I could piggyback upon a rose,

        Or maybe ride a sunbeam in,
        To dance about your lips and chin?
Sunlight on Woman's Face

Yes, Fern, It’s Me.

      Or when you smile into a stream
      Do you suppose that as you dream

        Of the many things we used to do,
        That I’ll be smilin’ back at you?

       
      Or when you hear the redbird sing,
      Will you see me nestled on his wing?

        Will I be in every smiling eye?
        Will I paint you sunsets in the sky?

       
      Yes, I’ll be riding every flower,
      Every bird and every hour,

        Awaiting in eternity
        For you to ride your dream to me.

Riding a Bird To You

Riding a Bird To You


 

My Poems

I liked to write poetry too. Here is the first poem I ever wrote, when I was 7. Brace yourself:

      Christmas Is a Time of Year

      Christmas is a time of year
      When people spread tidings and good cheer.

      We put up a tree in the living room,
      And Santa comes down the chimney: Boom!

       

      Santa Rappelling At Chimney Rock

      Silly Santa. Should Have Taken Up Rappelling.

      We open our presents and play with our toys,
      My, oh my! What a noise!

      We ride our sleds very fast,
      Then we go down the hill and past

      Houses and trees and other things,
      And all the church bells ring.

All the Church Bells Ring Wiith Clappers

ALL of Them? (“The Bells! The Bells!”)


 

Don’t you just love that “Boom”? And those generic “other things”?
My, oh my! That girl can write!

Now that you’ve gotten a taste, surely you want more. Here is this post’s last poem (Whew!), this one written when I was fourteen. You may notice the debt it owes to my friend Karen’s dad, and the long, hot summer of the Naked Bear.


      Song of Huckleberry

      By the shores of Mississippi,
      By the muddy river waters,
      Stood the raft of Huckleberry,
      Son of laughter, Huckleberry.

 

Huckleberrys Kon-Tiki Raft

Breathtakin’. Kain’t See Them Skeeters and Water Moccasins At All From Here


 

      Bright behind it rose the forest,
      Rose the tall and mighty oak trees,
      Rose the forts with boys upon them.

      Dark before it beat the waters,
      Beat the swirling, muddy waters,
      Rolling Mississippi waters.

 

Rolling Mississippi Waters

A Big Pat on the Back For No Anachronistic Post-Huck DooDads or JimCrackys in This Shot, By Golly!


 

      There the boy named Huckleberry,
      Nursed the crying baby bear cub,
      Rocked his small Kon-Tiki cradle, [raft]
      Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
      Safely bound with hemp-rope sinews,
      Stilled his fretful wail by saying,

      “Shush! The Mother Bear’ll hear ya!”

 

Bear Cub Fretful Wail Crying

“Huck! That Ain’t Proper English!”


 

      But the baby bear was hungry,
      And Mother Bear soon found her son;
      To summarize the gory details:
       
      Huckleberry didn’t run.

 

Mother Bear and Cub Son

“What’s For Dessert?”


 

While it’s no “Blithe Spirit”, I thought it was pretty cute. My friend Vicky’s parents thought it was terrific, and put it up on the bulletin board in their kitchen. That made me feel really good. Then, one of their guests spotted it and said to them “You must be proud, to have such a genius in the family.” Vicky’s folks made the mistake of sharing this with me.

My, oh my, indeed! With supreme confidence, therefore, I made my first literary submission, humbly choosing The Saturday Review. Now defunct, its writing was on a par with that of The New Yorker.

Why start small? After all, it was a work of genius.

Alas, my brilliant poem was, apparently, too lofty for even the high brows at the Review. I believe that’s exactly what they said on their rejection slip.

 

Snoopy Rejection

I’m With Snoopy


 

(Ssssssss…
That’s the sound of my head returning to normal size.)

 

Beetlejuice Shrunken Head Guy

Did I Overdo It? Does Anyone Here Have a Mirror?


 



ADDENDUM

Bear Vs. Human (Babies)–Who Would Win?

An interesting and ultimately scary fact: Human and bear babies can sound identical, which has led to some…mixups.

If you’re into pure cuteness, start about 3 minutes in on this Den Cam video to see intimate bonding between mom and cub.

What the Heck is a ‘Bullrush’ Anyhow?

Is it a cousin to a bum steer, like when Moses pulls the wool over Pharoah’s beautifully-kohled eyes? Is it something annual and testicularly-driven at Pamplona? Do YOU know the difference between a grass, a rush, and a reed? Well wonder no more!



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15 Comments

  1. Lovely to see your childhood poems and your uncle’s. You describe your summer holiday beautifully!

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    • Thank you, Barbara! I have a tiny book I wrote about my youngest years which a friend of mine keeps next to her bed and reads occasionally before sleep. (Hmm: Don’t know that I should feel complimented there…but she claims that she finds the book lovely.) I lifted the first couple of paragraphs from that, and may post more from that booklet in future.

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  2. Yemie

     /  2014/08/11

    Oh Em Gee! This is ‘crazy funny’, O.B! You got me reeling with hysterics that my folks be like ‘Is she alright though’?! That Christmas poem’s GENIUS! You were quite the precocious one I see! Way to go gurl, you’re a win! That illustration and its attendant caption that’s gotten to do with the ‘deflation’ of your ‘bloated’ ego’s EPIC! And yes, you did over-do it indeed, By Golly! LOOL

    You really are an absolute delight through and through! I enjoyed reading this piece, thanks sooo much!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Hi, Yemie!

      Thank you very much 🙂 You make ME laugh with your generous compliments 🙂 Uh-oh! I think I feel those hats getting tight again…

      You and others, like Iris (of Wandering Iris) who enjoy my writing enough to go through older posts to read them–well, that is so flattering, you have no idea. Thank you so very much, Yemie.

      I wish I could find my original handwritten copy of that Christmas poem. It’s the only childhood piece of my writing my mom saved, and the drawings are a total crack-up. If it ever turns up again, I’ll post one.

      BTW, yesterday I started research on that tattling piece–I haven’t forgotten.

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      • Yemie

         /  2014/08/11

        Don’t you DARE mention O.B, its just what it is! You’re beyond coolness! laughing. Will be on the look out for the piece on tattling! Take your pretty ‘lil time, no pressures! Thanks again! LOL

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  3. This was a fun read.

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    • Thank you so much! But…now you’ve Followed me! On the strength of THIS post? The pressure… What if my next post is a fart joke? (I’ve definitely gone downhill since age 14.)

      😉 Thank you for the Follow!

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    • Shoot. Missed another pun opportunity: pressure… gas… But perhaps best I hadn’t gone there, after all.

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    • Hi again, Pam.

      Busy since we spoke: 1) post-Mom’s death fallout: Good sister Meg meltdown sparked by evil sister Macy Girl and Satan-Spawn male parent’s phone calls 2) my procrastination from following up on your kindness sparked by long-established shoot-self-in-foot syndrome; e.g. “What pieces? This will be the only book EVER! What if she doesn’t like me?” Blahdedy-blah, blah, blah. (3) My insecurity about tweeting. (Dork, me.)

      Then, this morning, I couldn’t find the Almost Iowa post we were on! But at least I found another really good one 🙂 . (The hysterical one about the <a href="http://almostiowa.com/2014/03/03/please-read-this-manual-carefully/"the chainsaw–hahaha!!!)

      My good friend Joey helped in the supportive, shore-up-the-ego-of-the-fragile-child-and-spousal-abuse-survivor way that only HE can. His last text to me on the subject reads:

      “Let me know when you’ve [contacted Pam] and turned back into the person I like.”

      Twerp.

      Here’s my email. The way I see it, anyone else who read THIS far, I wouldn’t mind hearing from also!

      bell.curve.outlier@gmail.com

      Thank you in advance for… 🙂 🙂

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  4. Paul

     /  2014/08/28

    Cool mix of years OB. Loved the poems and the end of Huck. When I was trucking I had my girl friend with me one day (she was a city girl-you”ll see) when we came across a little bear about the size of the cub in the video. He was sitting in the middle of a seldom used rural road in a park. Sitting in that patented baby bear way with his front legs straight down in front and the backlegs splayed on either side. He was on the center line when I stopped about 35 feet from him and shut off the truck. You never make any threatening noises around a cub. His tongue was hanging out as he regarded us. I told my girl friend to roll up her window and lock her door. She looked at me like I was crazy: “That little bear couldn’t hurt anyone.” I replied “True story, but where ever there is a cub. Momma’s not far behind. If she sees any threat to her baby she’ll attack.” Not believing me she responded: “Can I get out and pat him?” Me: “Absolutely not – DO NOT get out of the truck.” She pouted for a minute while the little bear watched. Suddenly there was a huge roar from the trees beside the road close to the truck and the branches shook. My girlfriend jumped. The little bear looked over calmly as if to say “What do you want now?” The roar repeated and the cub slowly stood up, stretched, and ambled towards the noise as if to say “Whatever.” My girl friend watched as the bear walked into the woods just off our front bumper.

    It’s hard to keep those city girls safe when you take them out of their environment. Ha!

    Great post OB. I had a “rush” of learning there about “grass” roots biology. Thanks to Paris Hilton who ocassionally uses the bushes to hid in after a particularly odious faux pas. Ha!

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    • Whoops–forgot to say “Thank you” for the “loved the poems”: THANK you!! I loved the “loved” 🙂 🙂

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  5. What a terrific bear story! And a great memory for you. I’m a little envious, TBH.

    Yeah, we city-types sure are dumb. There’s a picture of me at Yosemite walking and starting to crouch down closer to a coyote thinking “I’ll just get a close-up shot”, while my then newlywed husband is shouting “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING?!”

    Shoot, he had a big ole’ grin on him. He looked friendly to me.

    Enjoyed your comment comedy wrapup with the strawng propunderance of hayseed humor 🙂

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    Reply
    • Paul

       /  2014/08/29

      Bwahaha! Hayseed humor – I’m chuffed. Not to worry, your story with the coyote rang a bell. I was trucking between St. John New Brunswick and the Maine border early one morning when I came across a car parked with the door open on the left shoulder. Up on the bank, there was a large male moose with antlers lying in the grass with his legs folded under him where he had obviously laid down, not fallen. He was nervously watching as a woman from the car was slowly approaching with one gloved hand outstretched as if saying “Here moosie, moosie.” Yikes!

      I was going too fast to stop on the blind corner, so I just said a quick prayer and kept going. There would only be one reason why a moose would lay beside the road like that, and that is if it had been hurt too much to run. And any hurt animal will get very aggressive when approached. As much as moose normally will run from people, when cornered and hurt they have wicked teeth and those antlers can gore a person to death. This litle 120 pond lady was punching way above her weight class with an armed 1,500 pound moose. City girls, what can do you about them?

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      • All those stories you have, Paul…when is that book coming?

        It’s not just city girls, BTW. When my boys were toddlers, we were spending the morning at Santa Monica beach the same day a behemoth of a male sea lion was as well. He had come up just at the surf line, a bit west of the pier, and was humped over angrily, glowering toward the land and we bathers. Every so often, he’d shout out an angry bark at us to emphasize this.

        He, like your moose, was likely hurt, but certainly wanted no human help. But to some, apparently these sounds translated as:

        “Come cuddle me, and I will heal.”

        Dozens of crystal-worshipping mostly-vegan leather-ok-but-not-fur P.E.T.A.-supporters–your typical Santa Monica morning beach crowd–began to approach and encircle the beast with their loving arms (channeling the Goddess and Her love, of course).

        Until a lifeguard yelled to them through his bullhorn:

        “Move away from the sea lion! Male sea lions can be dangerous animals. He’s on the beach because he’s sick or injured. You don’t want to be anywhere near an 800-pound injured sea lion.”

        Sounded like good advice to me. I’ll stick to 40-pound animals that hunt in packs.

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