The Dump at Raquette Lake. A Friday Night Hot Spot!
It’s a Friday night at Raquette Lake Village, nestled in the Adirondack Park of upstate New York. This is the deep north woods! So, what is there to do? You might get one station on the television if the weather was just right. There is no movie theater, and this was way before video games were invented.
Well, one of our family Friday night favorites was to go to the dump! Yep! You heard me right. 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 dense north woods wilderness. On this particular Friday evening, my brother and I were headed to the dump with our grandparents. They had an AMC Hornet, and we both sat in the back. It was a short drive from Burke Town, where they had their camp, to Raquette Lake Village, just a few miles away. And in no time, we turned down the old dirt road that led to the dump. As we approached, 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 something to eat.
My Grandfather pulled up pretty close to the garbage heap because he had a bag to throw away. He told us all to stay in the car. He would get out, throw the garbage on the heap, and then we would back up a bit to sit and watch the bears. Grandpa got out and retrieved the bag of garbage from the trunk and started toward the large pile made up of many 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. Curious, the bear made his way toward Grandpa. Now, our Grandfather was not a pushover. He was a big man, strong and stubborn. He decided that the bear was not getting the garbage until he 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. Finally realizing that the bear was not intimidated in the least, Grandpa 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 patent-leather boots she wore when they first met. However, my brother and I called her, Nanny.
“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 me who were 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 car, Grandpa hurled the bag of garbage as hard as he could toward the trash heap about thirty yards away. The bear took off after the bag of garbage. Nanny then reached over and unlocked the driver-side door. Grandpa, jerking the door open, slid into the seat and slammed the door closed. By this time, the bear was now sniffing speculatively at its newly acquired bag of treats.
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 an unusually quiet ride back to their camp at Burke Town.
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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.