The Farm Chronicles: Do Not Feed The Bears

There were plenty of signs in Yellowstone National Park about feeding the bears. They all had a common theme—don’t do it. So what do tourists do? They feed the bears. And once it starts, they all catch on pretty fast. The bears are smart too, just like the Yogi Bear cartoon says of Yogi, “Smarter than the average bear.” Such it was on our Great Western Tour of 1963. We and our travel partners, the McCarthy’s, entered Glacier Park on July 1st. Bill McCarthy and I had a shirtless snowball fight and wrote our names in the snow at a rest stop. Being from Ohio, we were amazed that that there was snow in July and that we could actually have a warm weather snowball fight. Next stop Yellowstone National Park.

Entering the park, there is a huge sign: “Park Regulations Prohibit Feeding or Molesting of Animals. Warning, bears and other large animals are dangerous. For your personal safety, Do not approach or feed wildlife. View from a safe distance.” Everywhere you looked, there were “Do Not Feed the Bears” signs. We really didn’t think much of it. Yellowstone was a natural wonderland. Besides the sulfur smell of the various mud pots and fumaroles, it was an amazing and beautiful area. Challenging, too. To see much of the sights, one had to walk on 2X10s through the boiling soil and dare not lose your balance lest you would fall in and who knew what would happen to you. There were no handrails in ’63.

Warren McCarthy, a decorated war hero as part of the Normandy landing, was a tall, long-legged man. He was very particular about everything. He was an expert woodworker. He was a true conservationist, hunter and photographer. Yellowstone was like heaven to Warren. He had the best camera and was always taking pictures on our trip. He shot Old Faithful at the perfect moment. He worked just the right angles and lighting to photograph the majestic forests, buffalo, Mt. Rushmore, you name it. At Yellowstone, Warren was going through film as if there was no tomorrow. We stopped for lunch. The idea was that we would grab a sandwich in our respective campers and meet at the picnic table by the back of the McCarthy’s camper. The McCarthy’s all went in their camper to fix some food. Warren had to load film into his camera.

That’s when this big old bear planted himself on the picnic table, blocking anyone from coming out of the back of the McCarthy’s camper. Seemed like this bear knew what he was doing. Warren couldn’t even get into the cab of his truck to drive away. They first tried to shew the bear away. Open the camper door, yell a bit, wave arms. The bear was unmoved. Then they tried throwing food. The bear would go grab the food and hurry back to picnic table. This went on for over an hour. Finally, the bear must have had his fill and he lumbered away into the forest. Proverbs 17:12 says, “Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.” It doesn’t say anything about a bear doing the robbing if you’re foolish enough to get trapped in your camper. We all had a good laugh over the bear’s ransom and the park’s rules.

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Bill Wilson