Old Grizzly Bear

“An empty cab pulled up in front of Congress this morning, and Mike Michaud got out.” Only ever voted the party line. Man’s an empty suit; trained monkeys could have performed better, and I’m glad he got sent back home to Maine.

“Trained monkeys” might be a bit harsh, come to think of it, but as I recall, there was once a grizzly bear that did perform better as a Congressman…

See, how it happened was, old Davy Crockett had a powerful grin on him. These days that don’t sound like much, but way back when, life was rough and you needed every edge you could get, and Davy, knowing how useful a smile could be, well, he practiced his grin. You know how a good smile will smooth most things over and make almost any situation better; well, Davy made his grin work harder than any man ever born.

Got pretty good at it too, so good in fact that he could go into the woods hunting, go up to a treed raccoon, and all he’d have to do ‘d be to grin up at him. That ol’ coon would see that grin and he’d know the jig was up, and he’d climb on down and say, “You got me, Davy.” Turned out to be a great savings on time, and ammunition too.

Trouble with Davy Crockett was, he never could see when enough was plenty, but he’d just have to keep trying for more. Well, one day he got the notion that his grin would serve for bigger game, and rather than trying it on some poor defenseless deer, he went in after a grizzly bear armed with nothing but a great big smile.

Now, Davy Crockett was more of a man than most, it’s true, but a bear’s more than a raccoon, and the thing is, he knows it. Even so, the grin mighta worked on an old honey bear, but Davy being Davy, he went right up to a mean old grizzly bear, and when he grinned, darned if that ol’ bear didn’t grin right back.

Now Davy had enough self-confidence for any ten ordinary men, and he had plenty of ornery and a fair bit of gumption thrown in. But an old grizzle bear has more ornery than any creature in God’s creation, and this one had about two feet on Davy. It was quite a grinning match, and it went on all day and all night and into the next day, and I dare say they’d both be there still, just a-grinning at each other, if Mother Nature hadn’t stepped in with a powerful blast of lightning and a roaring downpour out of a clear blue sky. That rain was so thick you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face, and so the grinning contest was over at a draw.

Well, nobody that knew Davy Crockett could say of him he didn’t have sense enough to get in outta the rain, and in two shakes he was tucked up in under the boughs of a huge pine tree, maybe not dry but sure drier than it was outside. And lo and behold, right next to him, come in from the other side, was that old bear.

Davy was a game one, it’s true, and he fair to started in grinning the bear down again, but what with the rain and the sleepless night his heart wasn’t in it, and the bear was plumb tuckered too. Well, time went on and it wasn’t getting any warmer or drier, and with nothing else to do they huddled up together in the shelter of the tree and the both of ’em fell asleep.

By the time they woke up the next morning, they’d kinda got used to each other, and from then on, where Davy went, that bear would go too. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you whether that bear adopted Davy or Davy the bear, but from then on you couldn’t pull ’em apart. And, seeing how ornery a grizzly bear can be when he’s crossed, you wouldn’t want to try anyhow.

Well, about that time, Crockett’s neighbors in Tennessee needed to send someone up to represent them in Congress, and Davy being not just the best grinner but also the best talker in the territory, they figured him for a natural. Davy Crockett was no man’s fool, and he knew what being in Congress could do to a man, so he declined the honor. But, he said for a laugh, “Maybe my bear would do for the job.”

He meant it for a joke, but the idea caught like wildfire, as some ideas do, and before anyone knew what was happening, that bear had the biggest campaign they ever had in those parts, and he was so ornery nobody wanted to run against him. Well, of course he got elected and sent to Washington, and Davy had to go right alongside of the bear — as his interpreter, don’t you know.

And so it was, when it came time to vote on the Indian Relocation Act, there was Davy speechifying about how it wasn’t right, how it was an awful thing to force people out of their homes and make them walk west. “At least, that’s how it looks to this old grizzly bear,” he said.

Now it didn’t go too well, all things being equal, but that’s another story for another day. At least, that’s how it looks to this old grizzly bear.

(Reference credit to the “QPB Treasury of North American Folktales”, starting around page 94.  Parts of this story came from the old folk tales about Davy Crockett, and I got one piece from Fess Parker on the Disney show that I later had to look up and confirm.  If you’ve read “The Grinning Man”, by Orson Scott Card, this story will be familiar to you, but me, I like Davy more than Card did, and this telling of it suits him better.  I do owe the closing line to Card, though.)

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