Ihave walked a bear down the streets of Atlanta. I stood by and watched a live bear tackle a Clemson Tiger mascot, laying him out flat on his back and then crawling on top of him. I watched a bear dragging a mini trampoline run onto the football field at West Point while a play was occurring on the field.
There is a “mixer” game I have played many times that involves each person writing down two truths and a lie about unique things that have occurred in their life . The rest of the group in the room then tries to guess which of the three statements is a lie. So which of the three statements do you believe is a lie?
The first statement is true, as I walked with a bear in the Peach Bowl Parade in 1979. The second statement is true, as at the Peach Bowl game I allowed my bear to tackle the man in the Clemson Tiger mascot outfit. The third statement is true. This occurred when we took the bear mascots to West Point when Baylor played at Army. So I guess I didn’t play this game well by sharing three truths.
At age 17, I hopped into my brother’s pickup truck in South Pasadena where I had attended junior high and high school and together he and I drove to a state I had never been to before: the Lone Star State of Texas. It was 1976 and I was to spend the next six years of my life in Waco learning to cheer for the green and gold Baylor Bears and getting my law degree.
As a sophomore I pledged a men’s service fraternity that was responsible for caring for the live bear mascots. My junior and senior year I worked with the bears. We took the bears to countless events, including virtually every one of the football games. There was an article in the South Pasadena Review back in 1980 about my life with the bears.
The bears were North American Black bears. They had been captured by authorities at the Mexico border when a veterinarian tried to smuggle them into the United States after their mother had been killed by locals in Mexico. The two bear litter had a male and a female. We named them “Abner” and “Daisy Mae.”
They were so small that you could easily hold each cub in your hand (or as some photos attest, one in each hand). When we retired them after two years, Abner was around 350 pounds and Daisy Mae about 275 pounds. In between we had many adventures.
Both bears were declawed, but they still had sharp, pointed teeth.
The bears were trained in Palm Desert, California by a Disney animal trainer to do tricks. Their repertoire included sitting down and drinking a bottle of Dr. Pepper (this drink originated in Waco), standing and walking on two legs, clapping when our team scored, rolling onto their backs with their legs in the air when the other team scored, raising their right paw in the air to do a Baylor “Sic ‘em,” and so on.
We walked them in many parades and they visited stadiums from Texas Stadium to the Astrodome to West Point Military Academy to the Peach Bowl.
Bears are not the smartest animals and they have very thick skulls, but they love sweet things, It is amazing what you can get them to do for a simple sweet treat. Their keenest sense is their smell, which explains why you’d better secure your food when you go camping.
We pulled the bears around in a custom painted horse trailer and we let them run loose in Little League baseball fields as we did in Bayonne, New Jersey (which brought out every neighborhood boy and girl). I actually wore a bear claw from Daisy Mae around my neck during my late college years.
My challenge to you today is to not have a close encounter of the bear kind in your journey of life. May you never come face to face with one, unless of course it is a declawed mascot that can clap, hold its own drink, tackle a tiger, and doesn’t mind being walked around on a leash!
And, just in case you meet a special bear that can do these things, just grin and bear it!
Just a thought…
Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, a motivational speaker, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to email@example.com.