Legless George and The Birthday Bear

Legless George wasn’t always legless. In fact at one time he had two perfectly good legs, one on either side of his body, and had full command of how they worked. He did not always exercise the best decision-making protocol as to when, or when not to use them as we shall see momentarily. But first let me back up a little so you can understand George or Legless, as we came to call him, a little more fully.

George Clemency Baxter was an intern here at *The Institute during what we liked to call our Yellowstone days. He was a cheerful chap full of enthusiasm and a burning desire to observe and get close to our friends the grizzly bears who resided in the park. He was always the first in line to volunteer to help position the bears into the proper poses we needed for our photographs and had developed a close relationship with several of them including Crystal Hamstringer our lovely young female subject pictured above. Normally George and Crystal had a close working relationship, some would say too close, and that perhaps there were some unspoken feelings spoken by George at the wrong time, in the wrong place and that may have led up to what occurred next.

As near as we can put together from George’s mumbling then screaming then mumbling again, it was Crystal’s birthday and he may have made some off-color reference to her age or her disposition and then the rest gets a little fuzzy. According to George who was understandably upset and was having difficulty remembering the exact sequence of events what with all the growling, screaming, chewing and swallowing noises, not to mention the rending and tearing that was going on. And due to the fact that he was having all two of his legs tore off by a petulant grizzly it was hard to hear just what exactly he had said that caused this reaction in a normally well-mannered bear like Crystal. It ‘s been said that women or we should say females in general, don’t need much of an excuse to tear a fellows legs off even when they’re not having a birthday so it could have been anything.

Of course by then the damage such as it was, was done. George was legless, Crystal was upset and the situation had deteriorated to its lowest point. We were all pretty bummed. It was then that another intern, I forget who, said “Hey! Lets call him Legless.” and the hilarity ensued. Fortunately we had some 4×4 gauze pads and ace bandages in the trunk of the Bokeh Maru our lead expedition vehicle, and we got George bandaged up enough to get him to the Ranger station even though we were laughing so hard we lost those little metal things that hold the ace bandages in place and had to tie a Bowline knot to keep them there. Their medico’s got him ready for transport to the legless ward in Boise fairly quickly.  Of course telling us that, the going to the legless ward part, got the whole legless thing going again and there were people staggering all over the place saying “Legless, legless” and snorting through their noses and just generally trying not to wet themselves and we all got tossed out of the Ranger station but it was all in good fun. Legless was off to get fixed up, see there we go again, we just can’t stop saying Legless. We went back to tell Crystal how George was doing and to recover our camera which George had left there.

It was then that we noticed how blurry the image was and how difficult it is to see George’s left leg but look close and you can see it dangling from her mouth, or it might have been the right one it’s really hard to tell which one Crystal was holding, and as Crystal was still in a snit we didn’t opt for any more shots right then. Legless was pretty P.O’d at us for not retrieving his legs as he had some misguided idea that they could be reattached but Crystal had made fairly quick work of that prospect.

We guess the moral of this story if there is one, is don’t make any but the blandest comments to a birthday bound female if you want to keep your legs. We recommend something like “Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.” or  “I’m not making any age related jokes because I generally feel bad about how old you are.” or our personal favorite ” Your birthday reminds me of the old Chinese scholar, Yung No Mo.” All of these are preferable to whatever it was that Legless George said. We think.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Headless Rabbits and Other Oddities

Recently *The Institute hosted a photo tour and workshop at one of the animal incarceration facilities near us and we came across a puzzling set of circumstances. In many, or at least in one of the holding pens, we were startled to find a headless rabbit. This was a rabbit that at one time had had a head but now did not. The space where there would have been a head was now occupied by, well, nothing.

The other animal occupying the cell was a cat-like creature called a Fossa. We don’t know much about it other than it seemed to be intimately involved with the remains. At our urging it brought the headless rabbit up to the bulletproof glass of its enclosure for our inspection. Despite our repeated questioning, this Fossa refused to provide any details of the incident that may have led up to the rabbit becoming headless. Circumstantial evidence pointed to the Fossa’s involvement but without proof all we could do was speculate and make unfounded accusations towards this possible perpetrator. It studiously ignored these and in its inscrutable way seemed to be daring us to do something about it.

We immediately decided to tell and sent one of the interns to find an official that we could rat this Fossa out to. While waiting we quickly executed a 70″ x 140″ oil painting, which you can see above as we are wont to do at any crime scene we’re involved in to capture any clues and to document the general conditions of the situation as we found it. We then of course photographed the painting to show you, our readers, what we found and to use in case there were any legal proceedings that we might become involved with.

The intern returned breathless but out of breath to haltingly state that there were no officials anywhere to be found. No authority, no security guards, no rabbit handlers, no one but a small group of Dominican nuns that were speed walking through the area. We began to smell a conspiracy.

How did the rabbit get into the enclosure? Was it headless when it did? Or did the headlessness occur later, say around feeding time? Did the headlessness occur at another area and the body dumped in the Fossa’s enclosure to implicate it? Was the Fossa secretly a rabbit molester which might answer why it was being incarcerated in the first place? If so how did the rabbit get in there with it? Was that why there were no Fossa handlers here to answer our questions? How can Dominican nuns speedwalk so fast? Is there a cover up? Was the election rigged? Each question raised more questions in a snowballing effect that left us hungry for Mexican food.

Unable to get to the bottom of this strange situation we tied the painting to the roof of our privately owned vehicle and left the scene determined to get answers, and some burritos, but at a later date. Much later. It was already dark and kind of scary, headless rabbits will do that to you, traffic was murderous, we were hungry and it appeared that we were the only ones who cared even a little bit about this situation. So we left. I mean what would you have done?

We fully intend to follow-up this dreadful situation and a copy of this post is being sent to the warden and all other interested parties at the detention center and we will demand a full investigation into this matter. Check back as we find out more about Headless Rabbits and Other Oddities. Also if you happen to be interested in purchasing a 70″ x 140″ nicely done oil painting that now seems to be just sitting around the office in the way please drop us a line % The Director at The Institute, let us know how much we can stick you for it and we’ll ship it out to you right away. Thanks.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

 

Buffalo Jokes

Carl and Rodger, editors and chief joke selectors for Buffalo Jokes here at BigShotsNow the blog.

Today’s presentation

So Carl, didja see today’s joke?”

“Yeah”

“Whadya think?”

“Well Rodger, I think we’re going to get our butts handed to us for that one.”

“How’s that?”

“I mean come on. It’s not politically correct. It makes fun of an area we’re supposed to be very aware of and supportive of with our challenged friends, and it’s insensitive.”

“Yeah but did you laugh?”

“Yes, yes I did. Really hard. I snorted little bits of hay right out of my nose.”

“Ok, see what I mean, we’re going to get our asses handed to us for this one.”

Note: From the editorial offices of BigShotsNow the blog

Regarding Insensitive and Unfunny posts that may appear on the blog under the heading Buffalo Jokes.

*The Institute and The Director would like to make it very clear that any material including insensitive politically incorrect jokes do not represent the ideals and beliefs of the The Institute and its Director or senior editorial staff. We do not condone or support politically incorrect humor. Carl and Rodger, creators of the unsyndicated column “Buffalo Jokes”  are a loosely affiliated group of buffalo humorists that occasionally submit items through a largely automated system that due to its nature prohibits the viewing of these items prior to their submission and as such are not run through our regular editors. This unfortunately allows the infrequent publication of material we would have axed had we seen it before it was published. The senior staff including The Institute’s Director, would like to offer our sincere apologies to anyone who might have been offended by today’s post. We’d offer Carl and Rodgers apologies too, but they’re buffaloes and buffaloes don’t apologize. It’s just the way they are. We have sent them a very sternly worded letter and suggested they avail themselves of Sensitivity Training at their earliest opportunity. But we’re not holding our breath.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Sad Memories Of Better Times

It was with great sadness that we here at *The Institute received the news of the closure and disbanding of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. It brought back some fond memories of when The Institute was in its infancy and as a treat to our fledgling intern population and permanent staff, we invited the Clyde Beatty and Cole Brothers circus to perform and spend some downtime here at The Institute. This was the summer of ’67, heady times if you were alive then. The circus was still building it’s collection of world-famous animals and human attractions and at this point in its history it only had three elephants and one slightly used camel in its menagerie. Plus a clown that would spit fire at a pig dressed up like his ex-wife’s mother. What with the pig squealing and running around and him occasionally setting his nose on fire it was pretty darn funny. The crowd loved that one.

Here we see some our interns being pressed into service unloading the one camel starring in the show. It was 1967 and the hairstyles were already pretty spiffy.

This is what an unpacked camel looks like before donning all of it circus finery. At this point it is irritated and preparing to spit. It has been cooped up in that trailer since leaving Liberal, Kansas yesterday and is looking for someone to vent its displeasure at, or on, as the case may be. One always wanted a long leash to remain out of the camels field of projection. The man in the hat is not and will be regretful of this error momentarily. We just noticed Orfie, the elephant in the background, had one of the interns head in his mouth. We don’t know what that was about.

Here is a picture of the three elephants that were an integral part of the show. Their responsibilities ranged from helping set up the tents to carrying remarkably pneumatic women around on their heads. The elephants heads not the pneumatic women’s heads. Unfortunately there was an extreme shortage of pneumatic women at the time so they used these plaster mannequins acquired from the Mission down in town instead. We don’t why the mission had them but they came in handy. They didn’t work that well and were kind of lame actually, but one had to make do. You can get a sense of the strength of these animals by looking at the collars they wore. Big, heavy collars with log chains attached. They are made of the same stuff that coated the first space shuttle and it is like really strong. If ever one of these animals had to undergo reentry they would be totally safe wearing one of these collars. Plus you could make them pull a fully loaded beer truck out of the mud and they wouldn’t even break.

Unfortunately there were the beginnings of dissent amongst some of the animals even back then. If you look closely at Cleo’s collar you with see the words “Help Me” written with a non-permanent marker which quickly wore off as the elephant sweated through its long job of work. As she was a kidder anyway no one took this message too seriously though, until she used that intern to pound in three or four of those tent stakes. That got some attention. She was given a day off and some old Turkey which she liked and was fine the next day.

An unusual circumstance took place towards the end of their stay here at The Institute. With the circus management unable to pay the rather exorbitant fees that were charged for their use of our facilities here at The Institute, and the more than daunting task of having to clean up behind three well-fed elephants and not to mention being faced with either payment or incarceration they took off in the middle of the night leaving Cleo, Edmund and Orfie the elephants behind, as well as Mr. Expectorum the camel, tied to the back of our Chef’s 1967 Ford Ranchero.

We tried to make the best of these circumstances by renting out the elephants to various ranchers occasionally for ranch chores, but as they couldn’t be separated without them having some kind of elephant breakdown where they would run amok and tear down silos and such. We had to rent them as a trio which was overkill for the average rancher. We had little call for a spitting camel, and had to simply write off its expenses and call that one a loss. We were able to use it for clearing the road after a snowstorm as its big flat feet were great for tamping down the snow, so that was a small plus. We kept the elephants in a one car garage for the winter out near the edge of the compound as that garage got a little ripe what with three grown elephants in it, and Mr. Expectorum slept in the back of an old Ryder truck we used to store non-camel related stuff in, but it wasn’t the best of accommodations for a delicate camel, and we caught a lot of phlegm over that deal.

Sadly one day we lost the elephants. We came out one morning to find the garage door all busted up with big fat feet prints all over it that led down to the meadow, then out into the trackless wastes that border The Institute. We sent out some of our trackers but they lost the trail up in the cliffs of the high country. Every so often we get word of some big grey things silently moving through the forest up in the Never Summer mountains but so far no confirmed sightings. After finally having enough of Mr. Expectorum and his nasty habits we sold him to some folks for breeding purposes at their Alpaca ranch up near Red Feather and that completed the saga of how the circus came and went from The Institute. Big memories, although kind of fuzzy ones from that year, in fact from almost all of the 60’s come to think of it. But we know we had a incredible time.

Apparently everything has to come to an end, even the Big Top of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. We for one will miss it.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Storm of The Full Moon

Many of you long-term readers of the blog know that *The Institute has its own private highway, known as Hwy 287, here in Northern Colorado that connects us with the small hamlets in the area that support The Institute. By support we mean supplying us with foodstuffs, some services that we cannot or do not provide for ourselves such as nuclear power plant maintenance, a supply of interns drop-outs from the college located there, some medical services that our in-house clinic doesn’t provide, or for when we are over booked with those that we do. Just last month we had to send three intracranial reductions to the little medical facility in the largest hamlet in the area. Fortunately our helipad was not in use so we were able to get our patients out without having to ask the medevac helicopter to circle while we off-loaded some of our favorite guests.

Actually we need to clarify “owning” our private highway. It is a week to week lease arrangement with The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) which is a division of the United States Department of Transportation. They pay us a fee of several dollars a year to watch and “keep an eye out” for funny business on the stretch of highway that comes closest to The Institute’s holdings. That means watching for those using the highway and ascertain whether their use constitutes anything “funny”. The definition of “funny” is left up to our discretion. All we can say at this point is there has been a whole bunch of “funny” behavior that we have had to report. We have two full-time staff members on this program and they have their hands full, we can tell you. But we’re not here to talk about “funny business”. No we’re here to talk about the storm of the full moon.

Last night as we’re were returning to The Institute after having dinner with some of the visiting dignitaries in the area at a pizza joint nearby, not a chain, a local place, you wouldn’t know it, sorry we can’t divulge our friends names at this time but let it suffice to say that they are leaving office soon and leave it at that, they deserve their privacy just like you and we do. As we left they headed south, and we headed north up our highway when we were besieged by a fast-moving snow storm that came out of nowhere. This was a ground blizzard, a nasty little bugger, with high winds blowing horizontal snow across our highway causing extreme low visibility and ice on the road. Fortunately we were in one of The Institutes expedition vehicles that we use for our far northern explorations, so we were reasonably safe. However we were perplexed.

We had no storms scheduled in our weather modification department’s storm list. Again for those long-term readers of the blog you know about our huge weather modification program that has been in effect for some time here at The Institute. If you’re new to the blog simply type weather modification into the search box and you’ll have access to just about everything we’ve done, except for the secret stuff of course. The only people that can access that information is a legally sitting president that is not like totally nuts.

We hurried ahead slowly, reaching The main Institute grounds well after dark having had to crawl up the mountainside in double-low granny gear and headed up to the ready room in the weather department to find out what was happening. Sending our weather techs up to the observation deck way up on the third tower of the science wing they snapped the image above with our new weather intensive, highly functional digital DSL camera set at Holy Moley, which gave us some clues as to the make up of the storm.

Firstly, we didn’t do it. That alarmed us because it gave credence to what every one is calling that Global Warming. Global warming is apparently a phenomenon that is taking place where the weather goes all over wonky of a sudden on its own with no rhyme or reason. (Note to self: Get those weather guys on this global warming thing. We can’t be behind on this stuff. We’ll look like idiots.) Having had near total control over our local weather in the past this was a shock to us.

What we found was somewhat unusual in its own right and unbelievable on the surface when looked at with any common sense at all. It seems that some goofball Greek history students from the local college were sitting around in a micro brewery down on the flatlands, showing off, making extremely rude comments in Latin and stuff, about an obscure Greek goddess named Chione, whom I’m sure you all remember is the goddess/personification of snow and winter. As we understand it she is normally in pretty good spirits, kind of  a fun-loving chick as it were, but these asshats must have caught her at a bad time because she suddenly became all about burying their dumb asses in as much snow as she could muster.

To top it off her powers become multiplied when there is a full moon, and yes there was a full moon last night. So she let loose with a little Saskatchewan Screamer tailor-made just for this area. Those smart guys showing off are in so much trouble, I mean trouble, as their stupid clowning around caused our friends private jet to be grounded at DIA, and the only room they could get was at a Budget Inn over in Commerce City and to say they were really cheesed off is really an understatement. There was talk of re-instituting the draft just long enough to send these bozo’s to a forward observation site in Afghanistan. Plus they were permanently 86’d from the brewery. We wouldn’t want to be those guys.

As we crawled up out the clouds on The Institutes long entrance way we could clearly see the extent of the storm and how cleverly it was put together. The Institute is located at an altitude of approximately 6400′ and you can see quite clearly the top of the storm down in the valley below, which is approximately 5000′ in altitude, as it moved through our section of hwy 287, which is located at the bottom of that storm cloud. Having satisfied her desire to wreak havoc rather quickly Chione went back to whatever pursuits goddesses have and with lack of attention the storm gently dissipated and broke up leaving a small amount of windblown snowdrifts and a lingering cold.

The moral of this story if there is one, is, “Don’t be sitting around getting hammered making fun of people you don’t know anything about. It can come back and freeze your keister off. Big time. Or get you sent to Afghanistan. Or both.” So be nice.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Waitin’ On The Mail

Waitin’ on the mail was always an anxious time in 1967. That hamburger grinder that was Viet Nam was chewin’ em up pretty fast and was hungry for more. It wasn’t too bad if you was in school and hadn’t flunked much, you went to the bottom of the list. They din’t call you. You got a “get out of war free card” as long as you made grades. If you weren’t in school it was a different picture. Your number floated right up there on top and it was pretty certain you was gonna get grabbed.

If you was like some of those boys you could scoot on up to Canada and sit it out. But momma didn’t raise no boys like that. You was raised to do what was right even if it weren’t sure that it was right. If the men who ran the government said it was right then if you was called you went.  And you did your part.

Vince and Tommy was twins. They weren’t the kind that wore the same clothes and cut their hair alike. They didn’t try to look different but they were their own men and went about their lives the way each one wanted, not worryin’ about who thought what. They was close though, don’t never try and get between them. They was men, cause you were a man at 15, 16, 17 sometimes younger if you could drive a tractor hayin’, bring in stock in the middle of a cold snap so the new calves didn’t freeze, or rode fence all day in August when it was so hot your horse left a sweat trail just walkin’ slow. You were a man cause there was work to do and you were supposed to pull your own weight. And you did.

Cale Linters got called up this week and was shippin’ out to boot this Friday. He didn’t want to go and his ma called her congressman to see if she could get him off the list as he was needed on the ranch what with his dad Daryl down with a busted hip, but it didn’t do no good. He went. Vince and Tommy told his ma they’d help with the hayin’ and stuff when it was time. If they was there anyway.

It was one of the few times in their lives that the twins envied anybody. They envied those boys who had enough money to go to college. Ranchin’ hadn’t been that profitable the last few years and besides who’d do the work if they was off somewhere, ma? They  couldn’t afford to go and there weren’t that many scholarships available for B students. No they had to stick it out and just trust that they wouldn’t get called. Supposedly there was some rule or something that they couldn’t call up more that one man from a family and the boys would argue endlessly about how it should be me and not him cause I would be a better fighter, and you did better runnin’ the ranch and so on.

The agony of waitin’ came to an end when Jeezy the postman left some letters in the mailbox. The boys rode on up in the rain to pick up the mail and there they were. Those official looking letters from the government. One for each of them. Tommy opened his first right there in the rain.  Selective Service System, it read, Order to Report For Induction, The President of the United States, to Tommy Calpers, Box 8, Logan, New Mexico, You are hereby ordered to report for Induction into the Armed Forces of the United States, and to report at …..  Vince did the same rippin’ his open too and his read just like his brothers’. They rode back home slow, dreadin’ havin’ to tell ma the news.

Ma looked at the letters real slow like, checking one against the other, tryin’ to make sense of the words. “God damn them to hell, God damn the rotten sons of bitches” she said real low and tried not to cry. It was the first time in their lives the boys had ever heard her swear and it scared them more than the letter. She hadn’t swore even when Dancer that miserable stud kicked their dad and they missed that big bank payment cause dad couldn’t work. “I’ll fix this” she said “they won’t get you both.” But they did. Rules don’t always mean a lot when there’s a war on. The boys went.

If you were alive then you know how this went. We had a long mean war, bad things happened and sorrow was always near. You can visit the boys anytime. Both their names are on the wall there in DC. Ma and Pa went once. It was terrible. Pa won’t never speak of it to this day. Ma keeps the letters in a box by the bed where she touches it every night before goin’ to sleep. Waitin’ for the mail ain’t important anymore. There’s just a few bills and the Ace Hardware flyer. It builds up to the point where sometimes Jeezy will collect it out of the box and drive down to the house and give it to Ma. “Nothin’ important today, Ms Calpers, just the usual.” “I got all the important mail I’ll ever want” she tells him. It’s what they say to each other every time.

The Potlatch

While visiting Vancouver Island I wanted to find a place where I could photograph the wildlife that inhabits this very special island. I talked to other photographers, some of the local people, asked any law enforcement folks I happened across where the best place to see wildlife was. Most of them directed me towards the upper end of the island where they said people did not usually go.

“Why not ?” I asked.

“It’s hard to get to. You have to walk a long way through the woods and the path isn’t always marked. And sometimes strange things happen there.” said the last person I talked to. I asked several more questions but got no further information. I felt that it must be an interesting place if it had a reputation for strangeness and would probably be interesting on that note alone. My curiosity piqued I decided to head up there to look around.

After much driving and searching for areas that might be promising I stumbled across a battered sign half hidden in the tall grass that said Tsitika Mountain Ecological Reserve that pointed up a two-track road. The center of the road was filled with small bushes, tall grass and the occasional small pine tree struggling to get a foot hold. It was apparent that this was not a regularly traveled road. Soon it became impassable and I parked and continued on foot. The trees grew taller, the light level dropped dramatically and I suddenly realized that I hadn’t heard a bird sing or any other noise since leaving my vehicle. It was deathly silent. Not even a hint of breeze to stir the foliage. My walking sounded thunderous to my ears even though I was trying to be as quiet as I could. I was looking for any sign of wildlife and finding none.

I traveled further into the grove of giant red cedar trees. It seemed to get even quieter if that was possible. The moss hanging down from the branches created a feeling of gloom and not a little despair. I was about to give up and head back when I noticed a hint of sunlight shining on a reddish-brown feature off the trail. I couldn’t make out what it was as it seemed to be covered in a dead moss that disguised its true form.

I approached it and saw that it seemed to be a bear, a giant bear close to eleven feet tall, standing on its hind legs and peering off into the distance. Alongside it was a cub nosing at the ground. The eeriness of this frozen tableau made my pulse pound so loudly I couldn’t have heard a sound if any had been made. I circled around the two, reluctant to go any closer, to see if there was any clue as to what happened here. There was no indication why this happened or when it might have happened but it felt old, very old. There seemed to be  an unspoken prohibition towards touching them or disturbing them in any way. In fact it was so strong that the idea of leaving immediately came into my mind like a lightning strike. I hastily took a few pictures then left. Heading back to my car I couldn’t help but look back constantly as it felt like I was being followed.

As I returned to the main road I saw and old man standing by the roadside. Eager to tell someone about what I had just seen I stopped and spoke to him. It turned out he was a Kwakwaka’wakw or Kwakiutl elder and had lived here all of his life. When I told him about what I had just witnessed he made a sign in the air between us and said that I should never go back there again. His people avoided that area as it was watched over  by the spirits of those who had come before and wasn’t safe to be there.

I asked him what might have happen to those animals. His reply was a lengthy story about the customs and history of his people and those ancient times. Back in those distant times there was a custom among the people and the animals to hold a get together called a Potlatch. This was an event where all the people and the animals would gather and feast and exchange gifts. A Potlach was held at every major event in the people’s lives. Births, deaths, adoptions, weddings, and any other memorable occasion that occurred. Everyone wanted to be able to receive the gifts that were freely given and to be able to give gifts even more so.

It turned out that on one Potlatch a huge mother bear and her cub attended. She wanted to receive gifts of food as her hunting had not been fruitful and she begged and demanded many gifts. When the gifts she was given were not sufficient in her opinion she began taking the other people’s gifts and eating them. Even after she had eaten her fill and her cub had eaten his fill she demanded more gifts and used her great strength to force the others to give up their gifts. This upset the other people and produced great anger and sadness that someone would treat the Potlatch spirit like this. The offended leaders gathered together and put a curse on her and anyone else who would not enter into the spirit of giving and receiving of the Potlatch.

Soon after the curse making  was over the bear stood on her hind feet and became still. And her cub became still also. The people formed a circle around her and sang songs for her asking the spirits to forgive her, but the offense was too great in the eyes of the spirits and they would not relent. She and her cub were left to give warning and remind the people and all other animals the meaning of the Potlatch and how it should always be observed and honored. As time went on she and her cub began to be covered in moss which has preserved them until this day.

At the end of the story my new acquaintance asked if I had touched them or entered the area where they stood. I answered that I hadn’t but I had walked around them to see what had happened. “That is good.” he said “For if you had touched them or violated their resting space, you too, would become still and the moss would visit you also.” I nearly passed out on the spot realizing how close I had come to doing just that, but the feeling of dread was so great at the site that it kept me from doing so. It must have been the spirits warning me. From time to time though I feel a tickling or itchiness on the back of my hand. I always look, worried that sometime I might see moss, so far its been ok.

Note: The image above is from the Japanese Gardens at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. They are one of many animals there covered with moss. The adventure and myth might have happened too if you believe in magic, enchanted forests, and age-old stories handed down from time immemorial. I do.