NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXII, No. 3, September 1966
BEARS AND BARDS: AN ADIRONDACK REVERIE
Matthew Conlin, O.F.M.
SINCE bears are an accepted recreational hazard at many of
our Adirondack campsites, practically all of us campers approach
those State Parks with certain fixed attitudes toward
bears. These range all the way from fear to fascination, and most campers, I presume, have at least hazy theories as to what they will
do if suddenly there is a bear on the campsite. But the actual
strategy varies. I have seen young boys chase away a hefty bear with sticks; I have heard of grown men cowering in a station
wagon praying not to be devoured; and I know of a woman who
slapped a meddling bruin on the snout with her frying pan to let
him know that the bacon was for her husband and not for him.
For years, I, too, was armed with assorted plans for coping with
the emergency. They varied from foolhardy frontal attack to a
more sensible fast retreat. But on a frosty midnight last May,
when, for the first time I discovered a bear on my campsite, I abandoned all plans and did — nothing. I merely squeezed what
comfort I could from the forest ranger’s usual guarantee that an
Adirondack bear is a “gentleman” who will never attack unless “molested while at lunch.” Well, this bear rummaged through my
gear, had his lunch undisturbed and then shuffled off quietly and
innocently into the dark on his tireless search for food chests. To
return to sleep was impossible so, wide awake and a bit shaken, I
sat by the campfire for the remainder of the night beaming my
flashlight continuously on the sumounding bushes and trees. Since
I am a professor of Shakespeare, 1 decided to spend the hours
until dawn trying to assemble from memory references to bears from the plays of Shakespeare and other Elizabethans....
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