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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXII, No. 3, September 1966

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Vol. XXII, No. 3, September 1966

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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