The Bear Cub

On an autumn evening in November 2005, I recalled true story “Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue“, which gives glimpse of Aroostook County hunting lifestyle. In August 2013, I greatly expanded the tale into the “The Bear Cub”, which I submitted to Amazon as consideration for a Kindle Single. Unlike my previous, and only other submission, the retailer didn’t dignify the nearly 5,000-word story with a rejection email.

Last year, I had planned to expand the vignette into a short book with other stories, and some family recipes. that reveal something about Aroostook culture then and now. That project sidelined, like several others, because of blurred vision problems that are in 2015 remedied enough to return to serious writing. I hope to finish the book, tentatively titled Growing Up Aroostook, sometime this year.

For today, I share the text as submitted to Amazon—for your reading education and entertainment. Please note: Because of its length, the Henry David Thoreau book excerpt is italicized rather than put into block quote. Enjoy! 

The Bear Cub

You have to understand something about people from Northern Maine. They aren’t typical Americans—or least they weren’t when I grew up there. The local character is pragmatic, no-nonsense, highly individualistic. People live by their own rules, or those from the church. They depend on one another, rather than look to outsiders. State southerners often refer to the northern region as the “other Maine”, and for a reason.

My uncle Glenn, who left this world in 1988, told a family story that exemplifies stout, stubborn character that persists even today. His great-grandfather accidentally chopped off a thumb while cutting wood with an axe. Gramps was angry about the accident, and he couldn’t let go that thumb. He pickled it in a jar, placed over the kitchen sink, much to my great-great grandmother’s chagrin. The man withstood 10 years of constant complaint from his wife before finally burying the thing in the backyard. My uncle and schoolmates spent a summer digging holes, looking for the trophy. They never found it.

Community is a way of life, as the local newspaper so clearly reveals, unlike anywhere else in Maine. Family is scared—protected from outside interference. For example, elsewhere in New England, and even southern Maine, if some wicked husband beats his wife, local government intervenes. Back home, a neighbor might call the wife’s brothers, particularly among those of French Canadian descent. If there’s any beating to be done, they will do it. Domestic violence ends. Or else. Northern Mainers solve their own problems. Thank you. Because they have to. Climate and terrain harden individual character but soften social relationships.

The “other Maine” is a cultural antiquity, among the rarest in the United States. Local values persist, despite outside influences, such as Facebook and cable television, that reach almost every American. My black bear story, decades old, from a seven year-old’s viewpoint, is as much about Northern Maine character today as that of yesteryear.

Beautiful River
The “Crown of Maine” is a single, isolated county, Aroostook, largely accessible by single-lane roads; those with traffic going both ways. Interstate 95 stops at county seat Houlton. From there, old US 1 is the roadway to reach the major towns and two cities—the larger of which, Presque Isle, had a population of 9,641 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. US 1 moves traffic north to the east, while state highways 161 and 11 reach central and western Aroostook.

The area’s major driving danger is the moose, the state animal. On the evening of June 7, 2013, for example, Maine State Police responded to 7 collisions between cars and the beasts, largest members of the deer family. For three-quarters of century, moose were protected in Maine. The first modern hunt, with licenses awarded by lottery, started in 1980. The animals were so tame, some locals joked hunters posed for photos with moose before shooting them.

Aroostook, or “beautiful river”, is a vast expanse of land, 6,829 square miles, and the largest county east of the Mississippi River. (St. Louis County, Minn. is slightly larger by total area, 6,860 sq. miles, but less as measured by land; nearly 10 percent is water.) “The County”, as known locally, is larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, but is less developed, being largely forest and farmland (89 percent and 10 percent, respectively).

Aroostook is set apart culturally and geographically from the rest of Maine, landlocked by New Brunswick to the northeast and Quebec to the northwest. You won’t find ocean fishermen or lobsters there, contrary to stereotypes about Mainers. Isolation and Canadian influence give locals character unique even for a state known for eccentricity. Acadian influence is pervasive; the University of Maine Fort Kent maintains a wonderful cultural archive.

Even local accent is unique to the rest of the state, inheriting pronunciation from French and English Canadians. To the south, Mainers pronounce the third largest city, Bangor, as banger, or bang`r. Up north: bangOR.

To put isolation in perspective, the driving distance from Madawaska, which borders New Brunswick on Aroostook’s northeastern crown, to Portland, Maine, is longer than from the southern city to midtown Manhattan. The County’s population density is 11 people per square mile. New York City: 27,532 persons per sq. mile. According to the 2010 census, Aroostook’s population is 5.4 percent of Maine’s, but 21.6 percent of the land area. Trees and breathtaking canopy of stars dominate the topography.

Sure, cable and satellite television and the Internet bring the outside world in, and there are modern bastions to big brands—McDonalds and Walmart, among many others. But the sense of community throughout The County defies outsiders. “From away” describes people who move to central Aroostook but were raised somewhere else. They never fit in, unless let in.

Farming defines local culture, particularly among the communities connected by US 1. Aroostook is the largest potato-producing region in the United States. During my youth, school started in August, so there could be a three-week recess for the harvest in September and October. For all ages. In this century, just high schoolers pitch in and earn cash for school clothes and supplies. I remember buying my own, after the harvest—not during what most people consider the back-to-school buying season.

“Aroostook County still has a potato-based culture much as it has had for the last 150 years”, Jim Gerritsen told Slow Food conference participates in 2006.

The region is in some ways more culturally isolated today than even 20 years ago. Loring Air Force Base closed in 1994—reducing the local population by more than 10,000, eliminating valuable Federal dollars for schools and infrastructure, and taking away outside ethnic and cultural influences introduced by Air Force personnel and their families.

The Strategic Air Command’s largest installation, Loring, located in Limestone, was the closest military base to Moscow. In the event of nuclear war, Loring would be first to detect in-bound nukes and also be the first ground zero in the Continental United States. I didn’t understand this as a kid, when baffled by “duck and cover” drills at school, where we watched films about nuclear bombs and safe blast distances. By the early 1990s, military satellites high above the earth and end of the Cold War diminished Loring’s strategic value to the Air Force.

Aroostook is rugged living, even by New England standards. Average yearly snowfall at the weather station in Caribou is 111 inches, which typically places the city (pop. 8,144) in the top-five snowiest in the Continental United States. Weather patterns rapidly change. Three air masses typically converge over the area, which leads to dramatic temperature fluctuations. During February and March, for example, it’s not uncommon for the temperature to plummet 80 degrees to minus 40 (where the fahrenheit and celsius scales intersect), during an afternoon. I remember times walking to my best friend’s house in the rain and returning home,  hours later, underdressed, slipping on freshly hardened ice.

Inclement weather compels trust. It’s not uncommon to find the engines running on every car parked at local supermarkets during January and February. No one steals them, and no one really worries someone will. As I expressed earlier, Northern Mainers depend on one another.

During the 1990s, I stood behind an older woman and child about 7 years-old at the post office in Caribou. The woman leaned over and said to the girl: “Go to the car and get Nana’s purse, Honey”. Think about that. The woman left the bag on the front seat in an unlocked vehicle. That’s life in The County.

Geographically, Aroostook lies in the Atlantic Time Zone but is placed in Eastern to conform with the rest of New England. This oddity, combined with northerly latitude, 46.8606° at Caribou, makes for long summer days. On the summer Solstice 2013, sunrise in Fort Kent, Maine was 4:38 a.m. and sunset 8:34 p.m. By comparison, San Diego, Calif: 5:41 a.m. and 8 p.m., respectively. The long days are good for farming and hunting. Fishing, too.

The Maine Woods
Hunting is Aroostook lifestyle, for food and sport, even in the 21st Century. Fishing is another, but typically done in more civilized locales. My family lived both, but in the deep woods where few people go and population density might be 11 in 100 square miles—and you thought the earlier figure was few?

Maine is, or was, a hunter’s paradise. In too many of the state’s 16 counties today, tourists with rifles outnumber locals, who see danger creeping onto farms and into backyards from invaders out of place and depth of experience in the vast woods. I remember a time when men who loved the land, and lived off it, joined as comrades in arms—hands clasped together and to rifles and fishing poles. I first joined them at the mature age of seven.

The state is divided into seven wildlife management areas. Aroostook is its own, Region G. Richard Hoppe, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist, describes the main area for sportsmen as it is today:

The western two thirds of northern Maine is a large parcel of relatively undeveloped land managed for forest products. Gravel roads cross this area providing access for timber management and recreation. Hunting any of the game species within the ‘Big Woods’ the hunter can choose from numerous full service lodges and primitive campsites or stay around quaint towns east of Route 11 at rental camps or bed and breakfasts.

All amenities including gas, food, and water, should be purchased prior to entering the ‘Big Woods’, where a nominal fee is charged to those that enter, but once in, the sports person has over 3.5 million acres of non-posted land to use with minimal regulations.

Much of the area, particularly the region nearer the Canadian border, remains largely unchanged over a half-century. Along the paved roads connecting small towns and villages, grocery stores—outposts for beer, bait, ammo, and gas—share space with camps for tourists demanding amenities, like running water and electricity. Even today, only the hardiest of sportsmen venture into the woods across the rivers from Quebec, where we camped.

Like other years, my father and uncle organized a group of hunters for three-week excursion into an area that is northeast of the famous Allagash Wilderness Waterway.

Writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau popularized the Allagash, which is Penobscot for hemlock bark or bark stream, in posthumously-published tome The Maine Woods (1864). He writes about the early part of the excursion:

“While Uncle George steered for a small island near the head of the lake, now just visible, like a speck on the water, we rowed by turns swiftly over its surface, singing such boat songs as we could remember. The shores seemed at an indefinite distance in the moonlight. Occasionally we paused in our singing and rested on our oars, while we listened to hear if the wolves howled, for this is a common serenade, and my companions affirmed that it was the most dismal and unearthly of sounds; but we heard none this time.

“If we did not hear, however, we did listen, not without a reasonable expectation; that at least I have to tell, only some utterly uncivilized, big-throated owl hooted loud and dismally in the drear and boughy wilderness, plainly not nervous about his solitary life, nor afraid to hear the echoes of his voice there. We remembered also that 42 possibly moose were silently watching us from the distant coves, or some surly bear or timid caribou had been startled by our singing. It was with new emphasis that we sang there the Canadian boat song,

‘Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near and the daylight’s past!’

“Which describes precisely our own adventure, and was inspired by the experience of a similar kind of life—for the rapids were ever near, and the daylight long past; the woods on shore looked dim, and many an Utawas’ tide here emptied into the lake.

‘Why should we yet our sail unfurl?
There is not a breath the blue wave to curl!’
‘But, when the wind blows off the shore,
Oh, sweetly we’ll rest our weary oar.
‘Utawas’ tide! this trembling moon
Shall see us float o’er thy surges soon’.

“At last we glided past the ‘green isle’, which had been our landmark, all joining in the chorus; as if by the watery links of rivers and of lakes we were about to float over unmeasured zones of earth, bound on unimaginable adventures,

‘Saint of this green isle! hear our prayers,
Oh, grant us cool heavens and favoring airs!”

Caribou are gone from Aroostook. Only my hometown’s name remains as homage to them. But bear, coyote, deer, moose, and turkey fill the woodlands. The wolf’s numbers are more limited.

Thoreau evokes a sense of rugged wilderness that captures my feeling first going to camp, the same year Maine made the 92-mile river corridor from Chamberlain Lake to Allagash Village a state park.

Somewhere Between Dickey and Rivière-Bleue
Already, by 1966, the Allagash wilderness was too overrun with people for the hunting party my father and uncle organized—that year 18 men (and two youngsters, my older cousin Dan being the other).

The crew entered the deep woods farther north, somewhere between Allagash, St. Francis and Dickey, Maine, moving into an area of Aroostook County known as the St. John Valley. Exactly where the caravan drove into the area remains a guarded secret, even today, kept for the hunters’ sons and grandsons.

Nevertheless, a few tour guides lead visitors through the area, by land or water. There were few to none, during the 1960s and 1970s. Strangely, the area’s major change is one of access, which was limited to what the hunting party made way back when. Lumberjacks cut and cleared dirt roads years before but abandoned them. The hunters assumed the role of maintenance men.

Travel that year, as it would be others, was arduous. Spring rains washed out huge portions of road, over which the brothers and their fellow hunters built makeshift bridges. The men piled out to lighten loads for lightning drives over mud-washed road. But deep spring sludge captured and held onto some vehicles. Muscle and hand-wrench worked them free.

Dirt, mud, and sweat clung to every visible surface of the hunters’ bodies. Their hunking hulks wrenched, groaned, and pushed against the suction of the mud. Testosterone poured from every orifice on every adult, intoxicating my cousin and I.

These were men, and they made us feel tougher, too. But they also were just boys, unleashing exuberant energy. Eighteen years separate my father and I. He was just 25 that trip. Boundless. Reckless. Undefeatable. Young. As were most in the hunting party.

Often, the feeling that I was growing up with my parents overwhelmed me. They eloped to New Brunswick and married at 16, a secret kept for six weeks. My mother gave birth to me three days before her eighteenth birthday, about 18 months later. Mom and dad always seemed so youthful, such that their presence embarrassed me before friends. My father never looked or acted younger, more virile or exuberant, than on that hunting trip. He wanted to impress his son.

My paternal grandmother regarded my father as being immature, and her verbal assaults cut deep. As an adult looking back, I see something different. Dad was care-free, non-conformist, strong-willed, and wild, like an untamed stallion. My identity says much about his spirit and passion; we share the same name, but I am not named for him.

During mom’s pregnancy, dad idolized the main character of television western Yancy Derringer, which aired for a single season, 1958-59, on CBS. My name was supposed to be Yancy Joseph Wilcox. But my mother intervened, concerned that growing up I would be constantly teased as “Nancy”. She drew up the birth certificate as Joseph Yancy Wilcox, a seemingly sensible act that unexpectedly divided the families. Paternal relatives call me “Joe” and the fraternal ones “Yancy”, to this day. I have two first names, in all practicality, which is another commentary on stubborn Aroostook character.

But I digress.

In later years, the hunters traveled for as long as eight to 10 hours the first trip of the season, a mere 12 miles to an old lumberjack camp my uncle rented from Seven Islands Land Company on behalf of the Pingree Family, which own more than 830,000 acres, mostly Maine timberland.

While timbering continues, in this century much has changed for the Pingree Forest, which represents the largest conservation easement in the United States. In 2001, the family granted New England Forestry Foundation easement rights on 762,192 acres.

Land Trust Alliance defines conservation easement as “a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs”.

NEFF paid more than $28 million, or about $37 per acre, for easement rights. The easement is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

According to a 2001 Yale University report, among the areas included:

The conservation easement protects four of the state’s most important watersheds: 111,000 acres in the Rangely Lakes region; 220,000 acres in the Upper St. John watershed; 190,000 acres in the Upper Allagash watershed; 225,000 acres in the Upper Machias region, and almost all of the land in the headwaters of the Allagash River Waterway.

The property my uncle rented for $100 a year is located in what are now protected watersheds. The men wisely chose their hunting and fishing grounds. They trapped, too.

The logging camp, appropriately called “Dodge City” by my uncle and father, would have made a good movie set for an old Western, given how the cabins were arranged along the dirt road down the centerway, where I imagined cowboys meeting at Noon for a gunfight.

There’s a real sense of isolation being someplace like Dodge City. The Maine woods strip away all modern sounds—no hum of electricity, roar of cars, constant clang of metal against metal, or cacophony of voices. The forest is so still, except for the occasional bird call or buzz of mosquito, newcomers often feel uneasy, and awe, as I did so long ago. You never forget that moment and sense of traveling to a bygone time.

That year, the men traveled about twice as far, for the last days of the trip, to a civilized camp owned by friend Robert “Buzz” Barry along with another sportsmen, Keith Lambert, who took full ownership after Buzz retired. I remember him as being almost Middle Eastern in appearance—quite dark by Maine standards—with black, grey-speckled beard. In reality, he was Polish descent and tan from being outdoors.

Buzz was a jovial man, with big smile, hearty laugh, and strong, friendly handshake. I liked Buzz. Everyone did. He worked for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service in Fort Kent and later Toronto International Airport.

I call Buzz’s camp civilized because it had a sink with running water and sat adjacent to Beau Lake, which separates Maine and Quebec. Bathing meant skinny dipping. Nor was there a toilette, but an outhouse—and heck of a lot less stinky than the one back at Dodge City.

My cousin convinced me there was a plug in Beau Lake, close enough to shore our fishing hooks could catch. Canadians drained the water every five years, to clean out debris, he asserted. I believed him. Dan found me to be too gullible a tease to resist. He lied, of course, and not for the first time.

No electric power lines reached the wilderness camp, although across the lake in Quebec, lights from homes twinkled like stars upon the water. Coleman lanterns dimly lit evenings on the Maine side, where the Milky Way arched overhead.

Comradery was thicker than the mosquitoes among the men, as they sat around the campfire, guzzling beer. Years later, my uncle made up insignia patches the hunters sewed to their jackets: “Falls Brook Rangers, Yankeetuladi, Maine”. The men fished Falls Brook, while Yankeetuladi was the creek close to our camp (not Buzz’s). According to legend, the name derives from French Canadians crossing the Yankee border to fish the stream for trout. “Touladi”, or “tuladi”, which some linguists say is Algonquin origin, is Canadian French for species of lake trout.

The hunting crew returned the favor, driving vehicles across the St. Francis River, which feeds Beau (“beautiful” to the English) Lake, and into village Rivière-Bleue (population 1,500). Americans of Scottish descent settled the community in the 1860s, but later were overrun by French Catholics from New Brunswick. The municipality’s name derives from the Catholic mission established in 1874.

I can only imagine Buzz Barry, a customs officer, taking a “see no evil, hear no evil” stance to the illegal incursions into Canada. Among one another, the men called the French the “frogs”, a term then used among the British and reflecting in Maine some of the enmity passed down during English and French colonialism. I cringed whenever the men used the word.

My Nasty Little Friend
Second day at Buzz’s camp, my father and I unexpectedly came upon a running black bear as we drove along a grassy path through the woods. He no longer hunts with a rifle, long ago trading the weapon for a camera. But back in the day, dad could shoot just about anything. He practiced on crows, refining talents set to bear, deer, duck, partridge, pheasant, and just about anything else legal to kill. He proved his skill as a marksman that day.

One hand on the wheel, he pulled out a rifle with the other and shot the beast while the car rolled on the grass. Buzz describes dad as “one hell of a hunter”, which he demonstrated by the tricky shot, using a .243 caliber rifle, Remington model 600.

Pride filled my father’s face and joy moved his limbs. Like a marionette, he was! Dad made an amazing kill, with his son as witness. What a day! But my reaction, really lack of any, sapped his enthusiasm as fast as the bullet drained life from the bear. I expressed no real excitement in his trophy. I was seven! A little duffer with little comprehension about bears, rifles, and killing. My reaction disappointed dad. But this was my first experience having a gun fired from a moving car. Today, little tykes shoot virtual guns in video games. Nothing prepared me.

Dad’s disappointment disappeared upon reaching the bear, which lay curled up like a sleeping cat. The tongue hanging loose from the mouth revealed an animal gone from this world—and taken too soon from it. My father shot a nursing sow, a mother bear!

The American Black Bear is the most common of the species found in North America but isn’t a real relative to the more-aggressive Grizzlies or Polar bears. The population in Maine was 25,000 in 2011, up from an estimated 5,000 when dad shot the sow in 1966. Five states have more—200,000 in Alaska.

Black Bears are voracious omnivores, in Maine feeding mostly on berries, vegetation, and animal matter (typically, but not always, decaying). They are the garbage trucks of the forest, foraging food for hibernation, when they don’t eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. In Aroostook, where winter lasts as long as 7 months, the typical black bear sustains long periods on summer sojourns.

The males weigh from 250 to 600 pounds and measure 5 to 6 feet tall from tip of nose to tail. Five years after killing the sow, nearby Buzz’s camp, dad shot one of the largest black bears on record, measuring more than 7 feet from the nose. The animal was enormous. Black bears can live as long as 30 years in the wild, and I often wondered if a proud, mature beast survived for decades in the woods only to be disgraced by a single shot.

Unlike Grizzlies or Polar Bears, which will attack and kill humans, Blackies will run away. The exception is a sow with cubs. She will protect her offspring to the death. The mammals are excellent tree climbers and can sprint up to 35 miles an hour. Meaning: There is little way to escape an attacking mother black bear.

My uncle did just that. On a separate, solo hunting trip, he saw three bear running together and shot the largest of them. Typically, females birth two cubs, but this one had three. A rustle of bush warned him to turn before the sow charged from the trees and knocked him down in a sideswipe blow. Like dad, my uncle used a .243 caliber rifle, but the Winchester model 88, which jammed.

Luckily, a pond was in sprinting distance, and the sow stopped briefly beside her fallen cub. He waded deep into the water, rifle useless, wondering whether she would come for him. Black bears are excellent swimmers. But she stayed on the shore, howling, circling her baby. Hours passed, as my uncle shivered from the water’s chill and adrenaline surge, before mama led her two remaining cubs into the woods.

The sow my dad shot had two cubs, both suddenly orphans.

Even hunters feel compassion. They’re not all beasts killing beasts. The crew headed out into the woods looking for the forlorn cubs. They hadn’t strayed far from where their mother died. The men chased around one cub, which moved with surprising speed and fear! In later years I associated the scene with men foolishly chasing chickens around a barnyard. The cub escaped up a tall cedar tree, clinging sideways like a Koala, and howled for its mother. (Eleven years later, watching Star Wars, Chewbacca’s cry reminded me of that little bear.)

Not long later, my uncle pulled out a rifle and started shooting at the treed cub.

Glenwood Alan Wilcox was born in January 1932 and died in June 1988. He was just 34 years old during my first hunting trip. The Korean War veteran was a Maine school teacher and principal, who long lived in Fort Kent. I remember him for being clever, educated, and highly pragmatic, even as judged by a second-grader. I stood to the right just behind him, as the rifle lifted and pointed at the cedar tree.

More frightening than the bear—and its size, about three-feet tall, compared to a seven year-old—was the bang of the rifle and realization my uncle aimed to kill the animal. But he kept missing. One, two, three, four shots he fired, never once hitting the cub. I stood silent, shellshocked, hoping he would again miss. He did. Three more times.

Following the seventh shot, there was a tremendous crack and howl of fear, the pitch changing the way a train sounds to passengers in a car. My uncle had shot off the tree top! He hadn’t aimed to kill, but to get the bear on the ground. The men chased the fallen cub, which scurried up a much smaller tree; I don’t recall the kind. But I do remember the men drawing pine needles to see who among them would go up and throw down the bear. Dad drew the short needle.

Funny, I don’t recall being scared as he pulled himself up the branches behind the bear and struggled to chuck it down. Eventually, after some deep claw wounds to his forearms, dad detached the cub from the branch. For the second time, in just minutes, the furball fell from a tree. But this time into a tight circle of big hunters.

Buzz Barry remembers something I don’t: “When your father climbed up the tree…the cub pooped all over him due to the excitement”. What? Having a tree top shot out from beneath him wasn’t excitement enough to lose it?

The next sequence is fuzzy. Events I remember well, but not timing. A seven year-old’s sense of time isn’t the most reliable. Also, I wasn’t tall enough to see inside the circle of hunters. Somehow the men caught the cub and stuffed it—howling, howling, howling—into a potato sack. I kid you not! Dad confirms my recollection.

The hunters simply didn’t have the equipment to humanely capture a cub, nor would they have been kind anyway. These were hunters, after all. The men drove the animal back to Buzz’s camp, where some of them built a wooden cage. Next day, the crew returned looking for the other cub. It was gone.

I felt sad for the one that got away. A little tyke myself, I easily related to the fear of losing my mother. The world is over. You cry. Afraid. Alone. Cold. Perhaps another wild animal killed the little bear, I thought. We would never know.

Oddly, I couldn’t feel as sorry for the captured cub. That bear had the nastiest disposition imaginable. After all, his mother died, hunters chased him, a tree fell beneath him, and mean men stuffed him into a potato sack. Not at all a good day. The animal swiped, claws extended, at anyone approaching the cage. He howled day and night, struggling to squeeze through the wooden prison.

All the while, the men kept the remains of the sow in a nearby spring, which even during the hot summer stayed a cool 34 degrees fahrenheit. Black bears have an amazing sense of smell, as any hunter knows. Did the little bear know his mother’s remains lay so close?

The men feasted on her, regardless. I don’t recall whether or not I ate bear that trip, but for sure on others. The meat tastes gamey to me, not really desirable although plenty enough palpable.

The camping trip lasted another three days, with the hunters loathing the sound of that bear every minute. The men quickly regretted the humanity of returning for the creature. I half expected someone to take a knife or gun to the cub some night while the other men slept. Instead, all equally endured the tortuous howls.

Later I learned that my uncle and dad took the little bear to an animal farm in Houlton, Maine. The curator promised $150 for the beast.

They never received it.

Photo Credit: Jason Mrachina