Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ursus Horribilis Vicarious

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When you think about it, those of us who fish do most of our fishing vicariously. When we can't be on the water ourselves, we watch, or read about, or listen to stories about other people fishing.

Or other creatures, perhaps. I have an old book, published in 1915, about a giant grizzly living in the Babine and Skeena country of British Columbia. He's Thor, "The Grizzly King." 

I'm reading it to my boys again (this will make the third time in the past few years) and I found a passage tonight in which Thor, and a black bear cub named Muskwa, do a little fishing.

 Here, for your vicarious pleasure, is that passage.

(Thor is feeling the mating urge, and is seeking his mate from the western ranges. Muskwa, an orphaned black bear cub who has insinuated himself into Thor's good graces, tags along.)

"Thor began to follow the creek again. Along this stream there were low flats and many small bayous where grew luxuriantly the tender grass and roots, and especially the long-stemmed lilies on which Thor was fond of feeding. But for a thousand-pound grizzly to fill up on such vegetarian dainties as these consumed many hours, if not one's whole time, and Thor considered that he had no time to lose. Thor was a most ardent lover when he loved at all, which was only a few days out of the year; and during these days he twisted his mode of living around so that while the spirit possessed him he no longer existed for the sole purpose of eating and growing fat. For a short time he put aside his habit of living to eat, and ate to live; and poor Muskwa was almost famished before another dinner was forthcoming.

But at last, early in the afternoon, Thor came to a pool which he could not pass. It was not a dozen feet in width, and it was alive with trout. The fish had not been able to reach the lake above, and they had waited too long after the flood-season to descend into the deeper waters of the Babine and the Skeena. They had taken refuge in this pool, which was now about to become a death-trap.

At one end the water was two feet deep; at the other end only a few inches. After pondering over this fact for a few moments, the grizzly waded openly into the deepest part, and from the bank above Muskwa saw the shimmering trout darting into the shallower water. Thor advanced slowly, and now, when he stood in less than eight inches of water, the panic-stricken fish one after another tried to escape back into the deeper part of the pool.

Again and again Thor's big right paw swept up great showers of water. The first inundation knocked Muskwa off his feet. But with it came a two-pound trout which the cub quickly dragged out of range and began eating. So agitated became the pool because of the mighty strokes of Thor's paw that the trout completely lost their heads, and no sooner did they reach one end than they turned about and darted for the other. They kept this up until Thor had thrown fully a dozen of their number ashore."

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