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                                                                                    “THE BOY WHO BECAME A BEAR “ 

  Young 12-year old Billy Stanton was an adventurous boy. He was always looking for excitement, and eager to try new things on his own. Young Billy always tried to impress his friends from the town of Matumka, Washington. It was a small town of just 1,800, nestled away in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Once, his classmates dared him to climb a 500-foot rock face straight up with no ropes or climbing gear. Billy never liked to be told he couldn't do something. It only made him want to do it more. So up he went.

  Another time, in the spring of 1992, while playing with his friend Cody, a Native American boy from school, they came upon three Grizzly bears by a river, not far out of town. They had gathered there to catch salmon; having their fill after a long winter hibernating. While they watched from a high rock outcrop; Cody related an old story his grandfather passed down, about a Medicine bear with great powers. It was then that Billy decided to hunt and kill a Grizzly bear all by himself. And as they headed back to town, Billy was already forming a plan.

  Despite his father’s warning, Billy set out the next morning with dad’s old 30/40 Craig rifle, heading up the river to the high country. It was around 9:00 AM when he spotted the huge bear; 1300 pounds of the meanest Grizzly that you ever could imagine. As the behemoth gorged himself on salmon, Billy plotted to shoot him after he finished and returned toward the forest.

  Billy’s first shot was dead aim into the heart, and second shot into the head of the huge creature. However, the bear ran off into the wood margin. He kept firing; then jumped down from his perch in the pine tree to follow. After two hours of tracking the blood trail deep into the woods, he came upon the bear sitting on the ground as if waiting for Billy. Surprised to find him still alive, Billy drew aim once more and fired two more rounds directly into the bear’s large chest. As he reloaded and approached, the bear stood up and yawned. Billy emptied the gun; every shot hitting its mark. When the smoke cleared from the barrel, the bear just sat there smiling at Billy.

  “You can’t kill me!” the bear laughed. “I’m a Medicine bear. The one your grandfather told you about.”

  Billy froze in place, heart pounding like a tom-tom, as the bear approached him and sat down again directly in front of Billy.

  “That is just a story. It can’t be true!” Billy trembled. “I shot you at least eight times and I see all the blood." The bear reached down, grabbed a paw full of dirt, threw it over his head and, when the dust cleared, the blood was gone.

  “See! I told you so.”

  “Yes, but, you, you’re…” Billy fumbled for words.

  “Do bears talk, boy?” he laughed.

  “How did you? Why?” Billy asked.

  “Look boy, I'm a magical bear.”

  Billy, now fearful, looked around to find a direction to run! Still he was lost and very hungry.

  “You're hungry! Here, take these.”

  The bear rubbed his paws on his stomach, then handed Billy a fresh salmon. He rubbed again, and then gave him wild strawberries and acorns. Billy took them and ate while they talked.  By now nightfall had arrived and Billy was lost. So the bear took him to his cave not far away and sat the rest of the night, telling stories of old Indian legends and myths.

  By morning, Billy wanted to go home again, but the bear said, “I must tell you one more story. It is important, so pay close attention! By now your father will start to look for you and he will come here with others and find you here with me. They will shoot me and take my skin off and take you back home. Before you leave, you must cover my blood with pine needles and leaves and dirt out of respect. Look back as you walk away and you will see my powerful medicine. However, be sure no one sees you doing it! After you are home you must stay in the house for seven days, until all smell of mine, on you, is gone. Then you will be a boy again. If not, you will become a bear!”  Billy, in disbelief, sat and listened carefully. Days went by as he waited to be found, eating with the Medicine bear and enjoying all the adventures the bear had seen over the hundreds of years he lived.

  On the seventh day, Billy awoke and heard voices in the forest calling his name. The bear rose up and reminded Billy of what he was told to do later. Then let out a loud growl to signal the men in his direction. The Medicine bear knew their thoughts and that they had imagined a bear had killed Billy. Billy recognized one of the voices and called out in a loud raspy voice, almost sounding like a bear growling!

  “I’m up here!” Billy cried. “Quick, run away” he told the old bear as Medicine bear looked back at Billy.

  “Don’t forget what I told you! And go back in the cave before they shoot you too! Too,” demanded Medicine Bear.

  Billy backed into the cave as the old bear walked to a clearing in the woods, stood up to let out another loud growl to signal the men. Shots rang out from every direction, until finally; Billy watched the great bear slump down and fall over dead. Billy’s dad and several other men from town came up and shot some more before calling Billy's name again.

  “I’m up here!” Billy rose and ran down to where the bear lay dead feeling sorrow at the loss of his new friend. His father rejoiced and the men yelled in joy as they began to skin the bear just as Medicine Bear spoke of.

  Billy tried to tell his father what had really happened, but between the joy and excitement of finding him alive and then the anger from his father from worry, Billy couldn't really say much. After an hour of skinning the bear and dividing the meat they rested a bit. Billy kicked dirt, leaves and pine needles over the bear's shed blood, as they all headed back down the mountain toward home. They kept saying, “Boy, you stink! You smell like this big old bear” as they toted the trophy home.

  Billy, remembering what the bear said, looked back and there, where he covered the blood with dirt, leaves and pine needles; the bear rose up, shook off the leaves; then walked back toward his cave. Billy laughed as his father grabbed his arm and yanked him down the hill in anger.

  When they arrived back in town, everyone came out of their homes.  News traveled fast and soon Billy’s father and the others were heroes as they told of killing the ferocious beast that surely would have eaten Billy, had the not arrived there in time. While they paraded the bear skin up and down Main Street, Billy was taken home, given a bath to rid him of the awful smell, and then informed that he could not leave the house for a week. Besides now he was sick from eating the raw salmon, acorns and wild strawberries anyway, and was grounded as a punishment.

  Days went by as Billy sat in his room, looking out at the mountains, remembering the tales the bear told and wishing he could go outside to play and tell his friends what had happened, especially Cody. He had come to the door a few days in a row, but was turned away by Billy's mom and told that Billy could not come out for a week. After all, Billy was adventurous, and stubborn, too. So, by day six, Billy was not only feeling better, but ready to be back with his friends. He thought he smelled fine when he caught sight of Cody coming toward his house. He raised the window and called out for him. “Come here!” he waved with a loud whisper. Cody ran to the window and Billy began to tell his tale about the Medicine bear.
  “It’s just a story!” Cody said in disbelief. “No, it’s true! Look, meet me at the rock that overlooks the river and I’ll tell you the whole story!”

  Cody ran off while Billy waited a bit to make sure his mom couldn't hear him. He then climbed out the window and slipped into the woods in back of his house. He ran faster and faster, toward the river where Cody waited. But something was wrong, really wrong. He began to feel sick and the more he ran the sicker Billy got. Suddenly, he was beginning to grow fur all over his body. He stopped to look at himself then remembered what the Medicine bear had said. He was turning into a bear. So he ran as fast as he could now to tell Cody before he completely changed.

  He saw Cody waiting at the rock overlooking the river and tried to cry out to him. But it was too late and all he could do was growl. Cody, seeing a bear coming for him, picked up rocks and yelled as he threw them at Billy. However, Billy kept coming in desperation until Cody ran out of sight.

  Billy sat on the rock crying, knowing what he had done wrong. He looked down at the river and the bears below catching salmon. Just then, farther upstream, he saw the great big cinnamon bear, Medicine Bear, and he called out to him in a loud growl. Medicine Bear stood up and motioned with his paw, and Billy wandered down the hill toward him.

  The town looked for Billy for weeks, but never found him again. Every spring the bears returned from the woods to feast on salmon after a long winter’s sleep. Every once in a while some of the town’s people would spot a great big cinnamon bear standing by the river, waiting for the salmon. A smaller bear would always be standing right by his side.     

                    THE END

Author's note:  This story was written in July of 2008 for a Short Shots Contest here on WDC. The prompt was a picture of a young bear standing beside a full grown Grizzly by a stream. I was inspired by a Cherokee story called "The Man Bear"; which is from the book "Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee", written by James Mooney, who worked for the Smithsonian Museum and lived with the Cherokee in North Carolina. From about 1887 - 1890, Mooney recorded much valuable information about the Cherokee, their history, culture, beliefs, myths, sacred ceremonies, and much more. In his book you will find the story,"The Man Bear."

  Below is another story by the same name which I have read today and moved me to add to this note. It comes from an Iroquois story. (see link below)


While some may suggest this is plagiarism, my story differs in many ways. And being part Native American, I am citing these other references so that you as a reader may find a wealth of stories from our ancestors. Many of the stories first told by the Cherokee where later brought to us as Uncle Remus tales. Joel Chandler Harris who wrote the "Uncle Remus" stories; collected them while a writer for an Atlanta newspaper; and used them as a means to oppose racism.


  There is another story by the Blackfoot named " The Bear Woman"

And still another story entitled "The Boy Who Became a Bear" from a woman I believe from England, which at this time, whose name escapes me. None of these other references had anything to do with my creation of this story entitled " The Boy Who Became a Bear ", by S A Gibbins 2008

I am proud to be part Native American and to both be inspired to write and express the stories which our people told many years ago.

© Copyright 2008 BEAR (grzzbrdover at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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