In last week’s column, I reported on an Internet story about a prodigious man-eating grizzly that surely must have been the biggest bear ever to roam the wilds of Alaska. It was killed by a deer hunter who shot it numerous times with a high-powered rifle as it charged him.
I questioned the believability of the story, or at least the report on its size. It was said to weigh 1,600 pounds and, standing on its hind legs, measured 12 and one-half feet at the shoulders, 14 feet if measured to the top of its head.
My kitchen ceiling, as best I could measure (I used a step stool to place the end of the tape at the ceiling and got Bonnie to stretch it down to the floor. She was very unhappy because she had to interrupt what she was doing. She was at the stove stirring the breakfast gravy) is eight feet from the floor.
Imagine that, now, a bear 14 feet tall trying to stand up in my kitchen with the eight-foot-high ceiling.
The Alaska Fish and Wildlife Commission did not let the forestry worker who killed it keep it as a trophy. The bear was to be stuffed and mounted and placed on display at the Anchorage airport.
If I could see that, I wrote, I could believe the story.
AND THERE IT WAS
The very next day my friend, Tommy Clay, emailed me a photo he took of his wife, Robin, standing in front of the bear, which was mounted and standing on its hind legs.
Well, it was a big creature, but not as big as its reported size.
A polar bear, the biggest and meanest of the bear family, standing at the grizzly’s side was even taller than it.
The bears are on display at the Anchorage Hotel, near the airport. They’re meant to warn tourists of the dangers of venturing into Alaska’s wild lands.
Tom, while doing a show on the outdoors for WSAZ TV some time back, led a group on a visit into Alaska.
I never asked him if he and Robin and members of the group went hiking into the outback.
Last week’s column prompted a letter from Gary Walker of Ashland. He said the numerous times the bear had to be shot reminded him of a story told by a friend in West Virginia, where Walker owns a hunting/fishing cabin.
He went by the name of Jughead and he was quite a storyteller. He lived alone in a camp in Webster County.
“Jughead said he had to live on what he could catch or shoot,” Walker said. “One day a black bear wandered by his camp. He grabbed his .22 rifle and started shooting.”
He emptied the rifle into the bear, reloaded and shot some more. The bear was down but was not dead. He reloaded and pulled the trigger again and again until the bear finally expired.
“Jug said he looked the bear over and looked at all the .22 shell casings.
“Then he said he didn’t know whether to clean it to eat or sell it for scrap.”
Walker said Jug also told him he had found out you could can any kind of meat except possum.
He said, “Possums will grin and bust the jugs.”
Reach G. Sam Piatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.