The Dump at Raquette Lake. A Friday Night Hot Spot!
It’s Friday evening in the Adirondacks. So, what do you do? What kind of entertainment venues were available to vacationers in the north woods? One of our family favorites was to go to the dump! Yep! I am serious. We would go to the dump to watch the bears. It was quite popular among those in the know. The bears would come out in the early evenings to feed on all the delightful morsels we humans would throw away.
The Raquette Lake Dump was located a mile or so down an old dirt road that headed out of Raquette Lake Village and into the north woods wilderness. This road was initially an old rail bed for the private railroad line owned by the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilts built an Adirondack great camp, Camp Sagamore, near Raquette Lake. They and their guests would take a private train from Utica, New York up to Raquette Lake. There they would board a boat and steam across South Bay to head up the South Inlet. A mile or so up South Inlet, at the falls, where it became impassable, they would board a stagecoach and travel along a road that ran past the Vanderbilt’s power-house and a small dam, to the smaller private lake South Inlet flowed from. This was their destination. They would begin to enjoy their stay at Camp Sagamore.
But, I digress. This is supposed to be a bear tale.
This particular Friday evening my brother and I were headed to the dump with our grandparents. They had an AMC Hornet, and we sat in the back. We turned down the old dirt road that lead to the dump. Being an old railway bed, it was a pretty straight shot. As we approached the dump, my brother and I were excited to see that there were already several black bears, an assortment of ages and sizes, out prowling around among the garbage bags looking for tasty tidbits.
My Grandfather pulled up pretty close because he had a bag of trash to add to the pile. Grandpa told us all to stay in the car. He would throw the garbage out and then we would back up a bit to sit and watch the bears. Grandpa got out and retrieved the bag from the trunk and started toward the piled bags of garbage. He wanted to get close enough to throw the bag onto the pile.
One mid-sized bear spotted Grandpa making his way toward the trash heap and saw that he was carrying a new bag of possible snacks. Naturally, the bear made his way toward Grandpa. Now, our Grandfather was not a pushover. He was a big man, strong and stubborn. That bear was not getting the garbage until Grandpa threw it on the pile. The bear, however, had other ideas, and that garbage bag quickly became a major source of contention.
Grandpa saw the bear coming, so he yelled at it in an attempt to “bluff” the bear into backing off. However, the bear was just as stubborn as Grandpa, so just he kept coming. Soon the bear was between our Grandfather and the trash heap. Grandpa took another step toward the bear and clutching the garbage bag tightly, yelled again. The bear, unimpressed, took a step toward our Grandfather. Then the bear took yet another step. Our grandfather, realizing that the bear was not intimidated in the least, began backing up toward the car. The bear followed. This scared our Grandmother who reached up and locked both car doors.
Grandpa backed up all the way to the car with the bear following him every step of the way. Keeping his eyes on the bear, he made his way to the driver-side door and reached down to open it. It was locked!
“Boots, unlock the door,” he yelled. He called her “Boots” because of the fancy boots she was wearing when they first met. We called her, Nanny, of course.
“Erwin, Get rid of the garbage. Let the bear have it,” Nanny yelled back. Grandpa was now circling the car with the bear following him. It was very exciting for my brother and I sitting in the back seat.
“Boots, unlock the door!” he yelled again.
“Get rid of the garbage, Erwin” Nanny yelled back. Grandpa had, by now, circled the car several times with the bear in dogged pursuit. Finally realizing that something had to give, as he came around again to the front of the Hornet, Grandpa hurled the bag of garbage as hard as he could toward the heap of garbage bags about thirty yards away. Nanny reached over and unlocked the driver-side door and Grandpa, jerking the door open, slid into the seat and slammed the door closed. The bear, however, had already headed off in the direction Grandpa had hurled the bag and was now sniffing speculatively at it.
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence in the car. Finally, Grandpa spoke.
“For the love of Pete, Boots, why wouldn’t you unlock the door.
“Erwin, I was not letting you in here with the garbage. What if the bear tried to get in here too!”
“Oh, for heaven sakes!” Grandpa retorted. Needless to say, the bear watching was cut short, and it was a hushed ride back to their camp at Burke Town.
Check out my other Bear Tales!
In addition, if you like these Adirondack Bear Tale short stories, check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot! Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million.