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This Week's Scuttlebutt

Bears, Lovable and Not

There are seven species of bear in the world: big brown bears, American black bears, Asiatic black bears, polar bears, sun bears, sloth bears, and spectacled bears. Except for the spectacled bear, which lives in South America, bears are found only north of the equator. There are no wild bears in Africa, Australia, or Antarctica.

Teddy Bears

--Dedicated to my friend, Gary Playzk, who happily dances with bears

Teddy Bears, in every size, shape, and color, have comforted kids and adults since the early 1900s. But where did the Teddy Bear come from?

The first teddy bear was created in honor of Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States.

Teddy Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman and hunter but he also loved and respected animals. In November 1902, President Roosevelt traveled to Mississippi to settle a boundary dispute. Bear hunts were popular in that part of the country and Roosevelt hoped to take part in a hunt while he was there.

Just like they do today, photographers and reporters wired daily dispatches back to their newspapers, detailing progress of the boundary dispute and the bear hunt. Roosevelt successfully settled the boundary dispute, but the bears remained elusive. It looked like he would return home without a trophy.

According to the reports, on the last day, Roosevelt rode his horse into a clearing where he saw a bear cub tied to a tree. Aides urged Roosevelt to shoot the cub. But the president holstered his gun and ordered the cub untied. He then galloped back to camp.

When asked why he didn't shoot the bear, the disgusted President said, "I draw the line. If I had shot that little fellow, I couldn't look my own sons in the face again."

Shortly afterwards, a political cartoonist sketched the scene and titled the drawing "Drawing the Line." In the cartoon, a swashbuckling Teddy Roosevelt, dressed in hunting gear, was sparing the life of the bear cub. When the cartoon appeared in The Washington Post, readers laughed about the bear that got away.

A Russian immigrant, Morris Michtom, owner of a Brooklyn candy store, saw the cartoon and suggested to his wife, Rose, that they make a toy bear.

Rose cut a piece of brown mohair into a bear shape and stuffed it. This was the first teddy bear. It had a triangular head and shoe button eyes, and a long muzzle and mouth sewn with embroidery floss. Rose attached arms and legs onto the body. She sewed five floss claws on the paws.

After Rose finished making the bear, Morris poured a heap of wrapped candies into his store window, then plunked the bear on top of the chocolate mountain. He printed a small card that said "Teddy's Bear" and propped the card near the mountain.

Passers-by loved the display! But Morris worried that the President would think the display was disrespectful. According to the legend, Morris took the bear from his store window, packed it in an old candy box, and mailed the bear to the White House. In his letter, he wrote, "Dear Mr. President, I do not wish to seem disrespectful, but I would like to call my toy 'Teddy's Bear.'"

Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed the present and sent a reply back to Morris saying that Morris was welcome to use his name for the bear.

Morris and Rose began producing "Teddy's Bear." When the toy became popular, the shopkeeper stopped selling candy and renamed the store 'Ideal Toy Company.'1

1 Based on an article written by Juddi Morris, published in Catholic Forester, November/December 1999, Volume 105, Number 6.

Anne and Teddy, December, 1949.

polar bear
Bear Traits

...Because of their long, thick fur, loose skin, and huge hairy heads, even small bears look big. But some bears, like the polar bear, really are big. A polar bear can grow to 8 feet tall!
...Bears have poor vision, and mediocre hearing, but they have an excellent sense of smell.
...Bears also have short, strong legs and large feet. (The hind feet of some bears can be 12 to 16 inches long.) A bear's foot has five toes that end in long, heavy claws. Unlike cats, bears cannot retract their claws.
...A bear walks differently than most other animals. Instead of putting its weight on its toes, with each step a bear puts its whole foot flat on the ground.

Grizzly Bear
—By Mary Austin

If you ever, ever, ever meet a grizzly bear,
You must never, never, never ask him where
He is going,
Or what he is doing;
For if you ever, ever dare
To stop a grizzly bear,
You will never meet another grizzly bear.

The Life of a Bear

...Bears are basically carnivores (meat-eaters) but they will also eat acorns, berries, fruits, nuts, and the leaves and roots of plants. Ants, grubs, and birds' eggs are a favorite food for many bears. Of course, Winnie-the-Pooh loves honey!
...Bears prepare for winter by eating so much food that they get very fat. But unlike true hibernators such as ground squirrels and woodchucks, bears often wake up and walk around on mild winter days. In fact, most male polar bears do not sleep through the winter months.
...One to four cubs are born during the female bear's winter sleep. Newborn bears, weighing from 1/2 to 1 pound, have no fur; their eyes open about one month after birth.
...Bear cubs grow rapidly and gain about 40 pounds during their first six months. The cubs stay with their mother for one to two years.
...Adult bears have few enemies except for humans and other bears. However, bears are short-tempered and will attack anything that appears to be a threat. Female bears are especially protective of their cubs. An angry bear can move very quickly, despite its size, and one blow from its massive paws can kill even large animals like cattle and deer.
...Wild bears live 15 to 30 years.

How the Bear Lost His Tail

Snow was lying heavy on the ground and the lakes were frozen over. A Fox slunk over the snow, his feathery tail drooping forlornly behind him. He was very hungry for he had not eaten for several days.

As he hid in the bushes, Fox watched a lone traveler moving along a trail, pulling a sled-load of fish behind him. Oh how delicious the air smelled to the hungry fox! His stomach pinched with longing.

Silently as a shadow, the Fox followed the sled. Breaking into a swift trot, the Fox took a shortcut through he woods and reached the trail about a quarter mile ahead of the traveler. Flinging himself limply onto the ground, the Fox lay there, his tongue lolling out, his eyes half-closed and glazed. The traveler spotted the Fox lying in the snow, seemingly dead.

"What a fine skin this will make," thought the traveler, as he picked up the fox by the tail and tossed the limp body on top of the fish.

The fox did not move until he felt the sled slipping along smoothly underneath him. Then slowly, the fox pushed himself over to the edge of the load and caught three of the largest fish in his mouth. Swiftly, the fox rolled off the sled and ran into the woods with his booty.

As Fox ran through the woods, he met the Wolf, prowling along. The Wolf looked very lean and savage. His eyes brightened at the sight of the fish in the Fox's mouth. "Where did you get that fish, Brother Fox?" the Wolf asked as he flattened his belly against the snow and crept closer.

Now, the Fox did not trust the Wolf. As Fox told how he had tricked the traveler, he kept backing away from the Wolf. "Why don't you go and do the same thing," he finished hastily, and before the Wolf knew it, the Fox was gone. The Wolf closed his jaws with a snap as he realized he had been tricked.

But the Wolf was starving, so he decided to try the fox's plan. When the Wolf spotted the traveler coming through the woods, he threw himself on the ground just as the fox had done. But the traveler was not to be tricked a second time! As soon as the traveler spotted the Wolf, he let out a loud whoop, seized his heavy club, and started pounding on the animal's sides. The Wolf leapt up, howling, and fled into the woods.

Murder was in the wolf's heart. He searched everywhere for the Fox but could not find him. Finally, the Wolf gave up.

Meanwhile, the Fox was contentedly munching his fish under the shadow of a big rock. But as the last delicious morsel slipped down his throat, and Fox sat there licking his whiskers and looking very happy, Bear came lumbering along. "How silly that creature looks, with his big paws and that long, bushy tail," thought Fox. "What fun it would be to play a trick upon this stupid old bear."

Bear sniffed the air hungrily, and his round eyes wistfully inspected the fox. "Fish!" Bear mumbled, his mouth beginning to water. "Fish! Where did you get fish, Brother Fox?"

Fox replied, "I got them out of the lake. If you go down there and dip your tail in the water, like I did, the fish will bite. Then you can whisk them out upon the ground—all you want!"

"What a wonderful plan," said the Bear, and off he set to the lake. Sitting down on the bank, Bear dipped his tail into the water and waited. He waited and waited, but no fish seemed to bite. Bear stretched his head around once or twice to see how his tail was getting on, but his neck was so short and fat he couldn't get a glimpse of his tail.

Eventually, Bear began to get tired and his paws grew numb from the cold. "I will take a little walk and warm myself up," Bear muttered. As he tried to stand, Bear found he could not move. The ice had frozen in around his tail! Bear became very frightened. "What shall I do: What shall I do?" he moaned to himself, fairly sobbing with terror. He pulled and pulled. Suddenly, with a snap, he was free. But his long tail had cracked off behind him.

The poor bear cast one despairing look at his beautiful, bushy tail sticking in the ice, then he raced off into the woods, looking for Fox. He hunted everywhere, getting angrier and angrier every minute. When he found the fox, Bear was growling with indignation. "Come and fight me," he snarled furiously. "You little liar, come and fight me!"

"What for?" asked the Fox, innocently. "I have done nothing." Then Fox almost laughed when he looked at Bear, with his big paws and his little stump of tail flapping indignantly in the air. "Oh, if that's what you mean," said Fox, eyeing the remnant of Bear's tail, "that's all your own fault, you know. You lost your tail because you were so slow."

Waving his own feathery plume underneath the nose of the exasperated bear, Fox disappeared from sight. And this is how it came about that the bear has a little stump of a tail instead of a long, beautiful one like the fox.

Getting ready to waltz with the bears
(Aunt Anne, 1951)

Waltzing with Bears1

My Walter goes waltzing with bears
It's an unbearable state of affairs
Every Saturday night he creeps down the back stairs
Sneaks out of the house and goes waltzing with bears.

He goes wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-waltzing with bears
Raggy bears, shaggy bear, baggy bears too,
There's nothing on earth Uncle Walter won't do
So he can go waltzing, wa-wa-wa-waltzing
So he can go waltzing, waltzing with bears.


I went to his room in the middle of the night
We crept to his side and we turned on the light
But to my surprise he was no where in sight
'Cause my Uncle Walter goes waltzing at night.


We bought Uncle Walter a new coat to wear
But when he came home it was covered with hair
And lately I've noticed several new tears
I'm sure Uncle Walter's been waltzing with bears.


We told Uncle Walter that he should be good
And do all the things that we said that he should
But I know that he'd rather be out in the woods
I'm afraid that we'll lose Uncle Walter for good.


We begged and we pleaded oh please won't you stay
And managed to keep him at home for a day
But the bears all barged in and they took him away
Now he's dancing with pandas
And he don't understand us
And the bears all demand at least one dance a day.

He goes wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-waltzing with bears
Raggy bears, shaggy bear, baggy bears too
There's nothing on earth Uncle Walter won't do
So he can go waltzing, wa-wa-wa-waltzing
So he can go waltzing, waltzing with bears.

1Notes from Rise Up Singing--
The original version of this song appeared in The Cat in the Hat Songbook @1967
Dr. Seuss & Eugene Poddany. The author of the above adaptation, Dale Marxen, claims it is an original composition, @1986.

Rise Up Singing credits it thusly:
Orig. concept & chorus words, Dr. Seuss; Music, Eugene Poddany
Adaptation of chorus and new verses, Dale Marxen

Welcome to Bearburg!

Bear in Tree

And then there are the bears that climb the tree in your front yard... wonder if this black bear is casing the house for a midnight raid!

This bear, toward the lower left in the photo above the roof, spent the day in this tree in the front yard of a home within the city limits of a small town in NW Pennsylvania.

To send a private message to Anne Wallingford… Click HERE

041903 Monday, July 09, 2012