Predatory Rites: Finding One's Place in the Food Chain

First off let me apologize for giving you a link to someone else’s website. I know that for some that is frowned upon and for others is a non-starter. I understand but I promise that if you follow the link you will enjoy the diversion. It will lead you to an account of a Polar Bear attack that my Canadian friend, Philip Torrens, survived while on a paddling trip down the Mackenzie River to the Beaufort Sea in 1993.

Philip is a skilled writer and has a wicked sense of humor. Take a peek:

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Enjoyed the humor he added to a perilous attack. It gives real meaning to the buddy system being a very good thing.

Back around 1980 Ed Weissman an archery guide was attacked by a Grizzly in the SE Colorado Rocky’s. He managed to stab it in the throat with and arrow . The bear was on top of him and he picked up an arrow off the ground. The Client was the son of a doctor and built a fire wrapped Ed up in both coats and rode to camp for help. The bear was a female that had cubs in the past. Last confirmed wild grizzly in CO. He was under investigation while recovering in the hospital. Tragic all the way around. Phillip and his buddy avoided a lot when they didn’t have to kill it.

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Patrick McManus wrote outdoor stories with similar humor. I was reading one in bed and laughed so hard I choked.
Thanks for posting it.


Did you follow that link at the bottom of his article to his next post?

I did since you told us. The poem left tears running down my face.
My mother had a book of Robert Service’s poems. I was well acquainted with Sam McGee and other poems. As I recall there was one titled Cocaine. I was surprised it was around centuries ago.

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Philips website has some jewels. His trip reports sprinkle in funny vignettes that will crack you up.

Outstanding and a delightful way (for me) to end the day.

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Amazing story and nicely written! Thanks for posting it.

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The cocaine alkaloid was first isolated in a lab in 1855 but the extracts had been used by South American aboriginal peoples for thousands of years and the Spanish had almost immediately begun growing, marketing and taxing the stimulant as soon as they got their hooks in the New World in the 16th century.

Cocaine was one of the “tonic” ingredients in Coca Cola when it was first marketed in 1885 by a former Confederate officer and druggist who concocted a beverage with coca leaf extract and kola nuts (a high-caffeine stimulant) to treat his own morphine addiction (a common problem for Civil War veterans who became hooked on the stuff after suffering battle injuries.)

Coca was a common ingredient in beverages (including wines) and “patent medicines” (often sold door to door) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as was laudanum, a tincture of opium that contained codeine and morphine. It’s estimated that a higher percentage of the US population had opiate and cocaine habits (from unregulated over the counter products) in the early 20th century than we have today from prescription opiates. Morphine was even in “medicines” and “tonics” for infants.

(yeah, trivia dump – recollections from a research paper I wrote in college.)


So nice to start the day with a good story and laughter. Thanks!

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Good writing. thanks.
Stories like this are like oil and water, humor and polar bears do not mix. Glad they survived.

On a trip to Peru and Bolivia I started each morning with coca tea, coca matte. In a hotel, little tea bags, in the outback some leaves in hot water. I would chew the leaves after breakfast. Much superior to coffee, an appetite suppressant, no jitters. I would drink it every day if it was legal. We had our time with the little white powders back in the 1980s.

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Thank you 3meterswell for the link. A delightfully rendered account of a harrowing experience.

Bear encounter stories, humorously rendered, are the essence of fine campfire stories. Almost a genre of their own. WildernessWebb had many such bear encounter stories, but without the actuality of attack. (BTW, Jedi, the artist formerly known as TheBob, recently sent me a copy of a book Called The Twenty-nineth Day about a bear attack. Decent read, but less humorous.)

Anyhow, it put me in mind of a story from Grey Owl’s book “Tales of an Empty Cabin” ( from 1936), a book I suspect most of us would enjoy. If you haven’t already read it, I’d recommend it. He has a chapter in there about a person he knew who was noted for his campfire story telling ability, Red Lauderville.

I’m a poor typist and need the practice, so I’ll excerpt a bit of that book, since it seems to be entertaining and in the vein of the story in the link. Laughter is good during social isolation, right?

For a long time Red Lauderville had been going to tell us a ghost story about a hen. He never actually did, and I am inclined to suspect that there was no such story; ghosts and hens don’t seem to belong in the same catagory, somehow. But he did tell us a story about a bear.

As I recall it, he was walking along beside a stream when he met a bear. It was a big bear. The bear was running, so to be sociable he ran too, in the same direction, of course, a little ahead of the bear. The bear, for some reason, had its mouth open; it had nearly fifty teeth in each jaw, with holes punched in its gums for more, and was making loud uncouth noises. (Red Made the noises.) Soon he came to a tree; the creek was on one side of him and the bear was on the other, so, not wishing to be in the way at all, Red climbed the tree. (He made hurried climbing motions, looking down over his back; we had all the action and the sound effects.) Lauderville stayed up the tree, and the bear, having thought of something, remained at the foot of it. Presently the bear went away, and Red commenced to climb down, when the animal returned, bringing with him a larger, and probably more experienced bear. They sat at the foot of the tree, looked up at him, and then commenced to mutter and mumble together, evidently talking the thing over. Red now made a noise like two bears would make if they made that kind of noise. He looked at me and asked if the noise had been correctly rendered; with a slight shudder I said it had. He had developed a practice of referring to me for support in any small point of natural history that came up in his stories, and I had been involved in several rather difficult situations. Well, after a lengthy conference the more talented bear went away, returning shortly with a beaver; (at this point I think that many of those present began not to believe the story). He set the beaver at the foot of the tree, but the beaver was not willing and the bears had to cuff him a couple of times before he would start to work; the bears were a lot bigger than he was, and there wasn’t much he could do about it. So the beaver commenced to cut, on the side furthest from the creek, under the supervision of the bears. It was a very big tree; by the time the beaver had got to the center of it nothing but the tip of his tail was visible. He came out of there, and prompted by his captors went to the other side, nearest the creek. There was no room for the bears between the stream, so the beaver had it to himself, Red noticed. Out of sight, he looked up at Red. The beaver winked at him. “So I knew it was going to be OK”, said Red, “beavers are no fools. So the beaver cut away at the tree, and pretty soon all I could see was the tip of his tail again, and knowed something was going to happen. The tree started to go; there was nowhere to go but off, if you get what I mean, so I stayed with the tree. And then I saw why the beaver had winked. The tree fell square across the creek and I landed on the other bank. The beaver jumped in the creek, and the two bears were left there looking foolish as a bag of cats.”



An outstanding story

From a distance bears can be funny. Once you crawl around in the alders with some coastal brown bears at 30 yards, the fun goes out of it. Once you can smell them and hear them growl and grunt it is not funny at all.

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I think he had a book called, “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?”

And many more.

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My neighbor was out riding in the desert behind the house yesterday where I go walking several days a week. Plain as day, in the sand, bear tracks. The fires and drought have pushed them out of the mountains. Today I will be looking around more than usual.

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