HOW MAX RANSOM LEARNED THIS TRAIT OF THE BLACK BEAR.
The Bear Stripped Him and Put on the Clothes — His Friends Seem to Doubt the Story, but as Evidence of Good Faith He Doesn't Shoot Black Bears Now.
"I don't care what anybody says or thinks," said Max Ransom of this city, an observant sportsman and one who thinks twice before he shoots, "but I am convinced that the predominating trait in the character of the great American bear is a longing for fun. I mean the black bear. The grizzly bear and all his near relatives, or, as some say, his descendants, such as the silver tip and the cinnamon bear, have no sense of humor in them.
"But the black bear, judging, as I do, from a personal experience, is simply looking for something to have fun with when he goes out. I had killed quite a number of bears before I had this little experience, hut I have never killed one since or attempted to kill one. I wouldn't have the blood of a bear on my hands for anything. Seems to me I'd feel as if I were a murderer. I mean a black bear, of course.
"The way I happened to change my mind about black bears and their disposition was this: Two or three of us were up in Pennsylvania one fall deer hunting. One day, after standing on a runway for two or three hours, and judging that the dogs had taken the deer in another direction, I put my gun down and walked away a short distance to a barberry bush to pick some of the tart berries. A frost had knocked the berries all off the bush, and they lay thick on the ground beneath it. I stooped down and was enjoying the refreshing mountain fruit when I felt something tap me on the shoulder. I looked up, and there, towering above me and with a grin on its face as near as a grin could possibly be on a face not human, stood a bear at least five foot tall, being on his hind feet, looking down at me, his fore paws hanging limp against his chest. It was the bear, of course, that had tapped me on the shoulder.
"Now, here was a situation. I couldn't get at my gun. I had a knife in my pocket, but with that universal belief I had always had that the bear is a fierce, ugly and pugnacious beast that wanders about with his eye constantly skinned for some one that he can pitch into and scatter about and chew up I didn't think it would be wise for me to rise from the base of that towering bear, right into his clutch, you might say, and defy him with a knife. The bear seemed to be waiting for me to do something. I was in squatting posture and really couldn't make up my mind what to do. So I remained just as I was, trying to think what ought to be done under the circumstances. I guess the bear must have got impatient, for he reached down and tapped me on the shoulder again. It was just a gentle tap, as if he were simply calling my attention to something or other. Then I made up my mind. I thought I might throw myself quickly forward, get to my feet, out and run and make a circuit among the trees, supposing all the time that the bear would be chasing me until I could got back to where my gun was. Once there, I would have no further apprehension as to the result.
"So I made a surge forward, but before my head had scarcely changed its position the bear's paw closed on my shoulder. In an instant he jerked me to my feet, turned me square around and there I stood, face to face with him, he with a paw on each of my shoulders. I thought my only chance now was to get my knife in action before the bear finished me, and I carefully slipped my hand in my pocket and got the knife. I was stealthily passing my other hand over to open the knife when the bear calmly reached down with one paw, snatched it out of my hand and threw it away. From the position the bear was in I might have given him a tremendous kick in the stomach and doubled him up so I could have got to my gun before he got over the effects of the kick, but I didn't think of it, and I'm glad now that I didn't. I wouldn't have known then what there really is in bears and would have gone on killing them in cold blood.
"After the bear threw my knife away he took off my hat, looked it over and then put it on his own head in a rakish way. He was more than grinning now — he was actually laughing, and his eyes twinkled mischievously. The next move he made was to unbutton my hunting coat and take it off of me as slick as could be. This he threw off to one side and then took off my vest. He laid the vest on the coat.
" 'Heavens!' I said to myself. 'This bear is going to strip me so he can chew me up better.'
"After taking off my vest the bear pushed me down on the two garments and deliberately and expertly drew off my boots! Then he sat down opposite me and drew the boots on his own foot. After he had done that he yanked me off the coat and vest and tried to put the vest on himself. It was too small, but he got the coat on all right, and then he was a sight that made me tumble right down there and howl. It was the funniest thing I ever saw. My mirth seemed to please the bear, and he danced around like a tipsy raftsman, cutting all sorts of fandangoes and pigeon wings. I guess this lasted ten minutes, and I was sore all through from laughing, when suddenly the bear stopped, cocked his head on one side and listened a moment. Then he stripped my coat off and tossed it to me, and sitting down pulled off the boots and gave them back. To take off the hat and hand it over was only the work of a second, and then the bear hurried away into the brush and disappeared. He had hardly got away before along came my companions with their guns. The bear had heard them, and he knew what would happen to him from men with guns, and so he got away as quickly as he could.
"Of course my friends were surprised to see me sitting there half stripped; and when I told them what had occurred they acted as if they didn't believe me, and they've acted that way ever since." — New York Sun.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008