Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Father, His Pet Bear, and His Fishing Posse

My father is the guy in the center, with the baseball hat.
I think this was around 1963.
My dad would be considered pretty intense these days, the way he spent his life hunting, fishing, working and laughing harder than anybody around him.
He could yell, argue and give dirty looks pretty well too.
He and his pals would go up into Canada, up to Lake Nippigon with some pals every year to haul home big loads of fish.
One day he and his buddy caught a bear, out there fishing for pike or whatever else would bite. They saw this little bear swimming around in the middle of now where alone, and decided to rescue it.
That's the story they told us, anyway. They smuggled it back across the border, sound asleep in a gunny sack behind the driver's seat of the family Station Wagon, and my dad kept it as a pet in a spare room we had in the basement for about six months.
It made us popular in school that year, We'd say to our schoolmates, Hey, wanna come see our pet bear?
My dad would take it out on walks in the yard on a chain, let it climb around on the scrub trees in our yard, feed it bakery and donuts leftover from the big commercial bakery up in Appleton.
I remember that bear biting at the chain, trying to bite my dad through thick gloves, and I don't doubt he did bite my old man, who would have just shrugged it off with a grin and a band aid.
Eventually my mom decided the bear should go or she would, since it was getting pretty big and was between her and the washing machine, and they gave it to a game farm in Northern Wisconsin.
All that bear did for the rest of it's life is screw other bears, eat candy and live a life of captive leisure. It got huge, fat and older than dirt as far as bears go, and sure seemed content.
I know a lot of guys that would love to just eat, screw and lay around all day, and I think they wouldn't mind the cage either if it had cable and a wide screen TV.

Sometimes people don't believe us when we tell them about the bear in the basement. This photo is from my dad's photo album, a crumbling book filled with only photos of his hunting and fishing exploits. He loved his family, but the only thing that he ever seemed to take photos of was things he killed.

I feel like I grew up in a John Irving novel when I think about how strange my home life was. That's a good thing.

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"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Ralph Waldo Emerson