Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, January 18, 1999

Two bears too fun to forget


One day about 72 years ago, when I was a little girl, my friends found two baby bears in the woods. They came to tell my family about them and they showed us where they were.

It seemed that there was no mother bear around to take care of them and they were so small that they weren't able to take care of themselves. My mother decided that we should bring the baby bears home and try to feed and care for them until they were big enough to live in the woods alone.

Now, these baby bears were very, very small. They probably only weighed eight to 10 pounds each. When bears are full grown, they weigh about 300 pounds and they can be very dangerous.

If you ever see a baby bear in the woods, you must stay away from it unless an adult tells you it is okay to get closer. Sometimes the mother bear is near by, even if you can't see her, and she will try to hurt you if you come near her baby.

These two baby bears were a boy and a girl. We named the girl bear "Baby," and the boy bear we named "Friend" because our friends found them.

We fed the bears with a baby bottle filled with cow's milk mixed with water. When we called "Baby," she would come running for her bottle. My mother would hold her in her lap, all wrapped up in her apron like a blanket, and rock her while she drank the bottle.

My father would laugh at Mother and say, "When she gets to be 300 pounds, it is sure going to look funny. She will probably be holding you then, instead."

Friend wouldn't let us hold him while he drank his bottle. He would drink a little of the milk, run around the house, then come back and pick up the bottle and drink some more. He was always into everything.

As winter came and it started to get colder, we had to decide what to do with the little bears. By now, they were almost five feet tall and even our dog was a little afraid of them.

For awhile we kept them in a small shed where we stored our wood for the stove. We no longer gave them milk to drink from a bottle and they were now big enough to take care of themselves.

One day my father said it was time for them to go back to the woods. That night, he left the door to the shed open. He told us that the bears would be gone by morning and he was right. We all felt sad that they had gone away, but we knew they were getting too big to stay with us.

The next morning Mother was baking bread. All at once we heard something crying. We opened the door and there was Baby. She seemed to be hungry so Mother gave her an old loaf of bread to eat.

Baby took the bread into the woodshed and ate it. Then she fell asleep. After awhile she went back out into the woods.

Sometimes, when Father went into the woodshed at night to get wood for the fire, he would find Friend or Baby sleeping there. We wondered if some other bears might come with them and sleep in the shed sometimes, too. We decided we had better get all the wood we needed during the day and pile it on the porch so we wouldn't have to go into the shed at night and take a chance on waking up a frightened bear. Finally, we just decided to lock up the woodshed to keep all bears out.

But Baby would still come and beg for a loaf of bread from time to time, until about January when she stopped coming. We didn't see her again until late summer when she returned with two baby bears of her own. We knew it was her because Mother laid a loaf of bread down for her and she came right over to it and picked it up.

Father laughed and said, "Are you going to have to start baking bread for the bear family, too?"

I will never forget those bears and how much fun we had with them.

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