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Maude Hughen & The Brown Bear

This is a true story as told to me by my Grandma Maude, AKA Big Mama, many years ago The event took place in Louisiana near forests and swamps. Grandma Maude told it like this:

"When I was a young girl, we lived close to the forest. Our house was high on a hill and had a fence around it. We had about five houses all set next to each other that my relatives lived in. My cousins and I shared the chores of tending the chickens and other animals. We had a bell attached to the 6 foot fence in case any bears decided to try and get the chickens. There were a lot of brown bears in the woods back then.

"One day my Mother told me and my cousins to go pick persimmons near the forest but not to go into the forest. We set off with our pails to pick persimmons. There was a big creek between our houses on the hill and the forest, so big you could not jump across and had to walk across the bridge. Sometimes the water rushed by so quickly, you could easily get carried down stream if you fell in.

"It was a beautiful warm day, perfect for a walk We walked down the hill, across the bridge and looked for blackberries as we neared the forest. We ate all the blackberries we found since we did not have to bring them back. As we neared the forest, we began to look for persimmons. Sometimes there would be piles of them on the ground. This time there were none and we had to continue searching. We could find none near the forest and decided to go into the forest just a little nearer the persimmon trees. Once we were in the forest we found the most beautiful glade, wild flowers everywhere and persimmons on the ground. We all separated so we could each pick a group of persimmons and not be in the other’s way.

"While we were picking, we soon noticed that the forest had gone quiet, there were no birds singing, no butterfly flicking around. The hair on my head and arms began to stand up straight. I started to shiver but could not figure out why. Then my nieces both hollered, dropped their pails and begin running. I felt the shivers worse and turned with dread to look behind me. There in the glade was a huge brown bear just waking and sitting up from sleeping in the glade and eating honey. He saw me and begin to stand up. He looked as big as a tall tree to me as he grumbled and towered up there! I finally got my senses back and began to run! He started running too…after me!

"I felt like my feet were made of mush as I dashed for home. When I saw the bridge in sight, I thought I would easily make it, then glancing back I could see the bear was heading to the bridge to cut me off!, I don’t remember what happened after that but I next found myself running up the hill as I heard the bell ringing, my cousins alerting my uncles to get the gun! I don’t know how but I jumped over the 6 foot fence and by then the bear had given up on me and headed back to the forest.

"I looked down at my clothes and nothing was wet although I am sure I had to have run across the creek because the bear had cut me off from the bridge. I was surprised I had held onto my pail and it was still full of persimmons. I can only guess I had an iron clad grasp because one of my favorite aunts, a basketmaker, had made this one of what she called "bog wood" and said it was very special so it was very dear to me.

"When I went inside and stopped shaking, my cousins stared at me kind of odd like. They told me to look in the mirror. When I did, I could not believe what I saw, there was a great big white lock of hair right in the middle of my forehead that used to be dark. The brown bear had scared my hair white! It never grew dark there again. And that’s the story about the brown bear."

---A Grandma Hughen story.

My Grandmother has been gone for many years now and since then I have talked to several people who used to live in Louisiana. They told me they had bears try and eat their livestock and were afraid for their children. One told me she had a collection of bear claws from the bears that got too close. I have no doubt this is a true story and I for one had the hair on my arms stand up every time she told me the story I wish I had seen what that bog pail looked like, it was long gone by the time I was told the story.

The Beadwrangler
Tampa, November, 2000


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