Category Archives: Short Stories

Adirondack Bear Tale #11: Sophie and the Three Bears

A nice day for a walk

sophie

It was such a beautiful day. Therefore, I decided to take Sophie for a good long walk. We walked down the path from the camp and turned left on the dirt road called Burketown Road.  Our camp was near the end of this road which circled around to the right, connecting the three parallel roads that ran from Burke’s Marina and Raquette Lake into the area where all the privately-owned camps were built. As you approached the last of these three roads, an old logging road turned off to the left, making its way deep into the dark woods of the Adirondack Park.

I have walked up this road many times while growing up. Sometimes with parents, sometimes with grandparents, and sometimes with cousins. I am sure my brother, Dan, and I walked up it many times as well. As kids, we would not walk to far into those woods. They were very wild and rugged, and really  kind of scary. We did not want to get lost. There was an old camper abandoned back in a good way. That was usually as far as we would go.

The abandoned ski slope

I do remember once, when I was very young, walking back on that road to an old abandoned ski slope. I believe my grandfather and grandmother, my mother, and Dan were on that particular hike. If I remember correctly, Fred Burke or maybe his father, had started a ski slope back in there before the Adirondack Park was officially formed and it had to be abandoned. I have dim memories of the old slope, the remains of a tow rope and its equipment, and an old building that had served as a ski lodge. The roof had already fallen in on the building. But, it has been a long time and memories may have dimmed.

I thought Sophie and I could walk back and see what remained of that old ski slope. I assumed there would not be much. The north woods have a way of slowly reclaiming anything that is not constantly kept up and maintained. As a result, I figured the signs of the old ski slope might be about gone by now.

Taking a break at the old camper

Sophie and I started up the road into the woods. It is damp in the Adirondacks and the old logging road alternated between shady, muddy patches and grassy stretches. Often, both sides of the old road were lined with raspberry bushes. Many smaller trees were growing in the old road bed. Sophie was having a ball, her nose was constantly working, checking out all the new and exciting smells. We reached the old abandoned camper and stopped for a short rest. It was then that I noticed Sophie was acting a little strange. She definitely did not like something.

“Sophie, what’s the matter? Comehere girl,” I called.

Sophie came right up to me. I had taken her leash off once we were in the woods. I am not sure why, but at that moment I put the leash back on her. This was probably a good thing. When I looked up the road in the direction that led to the old ski slope, I saw a black bear step out onto the road. It stood there, quietly looking at us.

Sophie meets the bears

sophie

Suddenly there was another movement just off the road to the bears right. A small black bear head poked up out of some raspberry bushes. Then, there was a second bear head. Two bear cubs were peering curiously out at Sophie and me from within the raspberry bushes. The mother bear, however, was watching Sophie and me very intently. This was not good. The mother bear “woofed” and began stomping the ground with her front paws. This was even worse. This is a warning sign from the bear! Leave or else!

Sophie was standing stock still, staring fixedly at the mother bear in the road. I was willing her not to bark. I knew her instinct would be to protect me. However, in this case, that might not be so good. I did not not want her to provoke the mother bear into charging

“Sophie, easy!” I whispered. “Sophie, come!  Come!”  I began to back up slowly, pulling Sophie with me. She backed up with me. However, she would not take her eyes off the mother bear. Sophie’s ears were at full attention and every muscle in her body was quivering.

We backed slowly down the road in the direction from which we had just come, both of us keeping a very watchful eye on the mother bear. Fortunately, the mother bear just stood there, but still watching us closely. She did not charge. We were leaving.

Once we got around the first bend in the road, I turned and led Sophie out of there at a quick pace. Both of our heartbeats slowly returned to a normal rate and I figured this was enough excitement for one walk. In addition, I also decided the old ski slope would have to get along without another visit from me!

Adirondack Bear Tales Collection

I have been busy compiling my Adirondack Bear Tales into a book format which will soon be out in eBook and paperback format.  If you enjoyed this story, you might want to check out the collection.  In the meantime, you can also check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot. If you like military action thrillers, it will be right down your alley!

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Adirondack Bear Tale #10: The Bear Trap

Family Traditions

Family reunions and joint camping trips to Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake were a big tradition for our entire family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins getting together in adjoining campsites for a week or  two. These are some of my fondest memories growing up. One such particular camping trip also involved a couple of guys from New York City, and setting a trap for a mischievous black bear.

My grandfather, Irwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner Klippel, had two campsites that were not quite adjoining. A couple of younger men from New York City occupied the spot separating their two camps sites. The two men had driven up to spend a week in the Adirondack Park. Being very friendly, and since they were camping between two contingents of our family, they just naturally kind of joined in. They’d brought all the best camping equipment money could buy, as well as a great selection of food including steaks, hot dogs, ground beef and bacon. They were set for the week. It was late in the day, so we all sat around a campfire and visited a bit. When the fired died out, everyone headed off to get some sleep.

The mischievous bear …

trap

That next morning the two city men arose to discover that during the night, a bear had raided their cooler. They stored the cooler under one end of the park-provided picnic table. The cooler’s mangled cover was now laying a few feet from the cooler, which was quite empty. The bear ate everything. Everything, that is, except the hot dogs, which now lay discarded near the cooler’s cover. It must have been a very hungry (and stealthy) bear. Amazingly, nobody had heard a sound! We had a lot of fun joking about the fact that the bear would not eat the hot dogs.

After the initial excitement wore off, the two young men took off Indian Lake to restock their supplies at the Grand Union. They also decided that it would be better to put their new cooler in the trunk of their car when they went to bed at night.  While the two men were off getting groceries, we sat around talking about the bear. The focus of the discussion was what could be done to discourage this bear from conducting future raids on our campsites. By the time the men were back from the Grand Union, we had devised a plan. The two city guys thought our scheme was a pretty slick idea as well.

The spaghetti trap!

That night after supper, we gathered up all the dirty pots and pans from cooking the various family supper meals. We then stacked them up, one on top of the other, on the picnic table in the two younger men’s campsite. With several large family units, the supply of dirty cooking pots more than adequate and they made a quite an impressive, however slightly unstable, tower. My grandmother (we called her Nanny) had made spaghetti in a big metal pot (much like the turkey fryer pots of today). That big pot, with the left over spaghetti and grease from cooking the ground beef (used to make the spaghetti) went on the very top.

Then, my Uncle Wagner tied a length of twine to the handle on the bottom pot and strung the cord all the way over to his car, where he planned to sit and wait. His idea was to turn on the car’s headlights after pulling the string at the opportune moment. All the kids gathered up flashlights and climbed into cars. We all planned to stay awake and see what happened when the bear came!

The trap is sprung …

All of a sudden, we heard a loud crashing, bashing sound. We had all fallen asleep, but the horrible noise woke us up quickly. Several flash lights snapped on and pointed toward the picnic table. Uncle Wagner flipped the headlights on in his car. There, right in the beam of the headlights, sat a big black bear with a very befuddled look on his face. There were pots and pans scattered all around him. Greasy left-over spaghetti covered his head and hung from his ears. The bear let out a bawling kind of  grunt and took off running into the trees. Our bear trap had worked!

My grandfather later told me that he had talked to a park ranger at the campground sometime after that, who had told him that they did not see that particular bear in the campground for at least six months after we sprang our trap.

If you liked this Bear Tale, check out this story, and check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot on Amazon.com.

Adirondack Bear Tale #9: A Trip to the Laundromat!

Laundry time is always such a thrill in the Adirondacks. For us, it meant a trip to Raquette Lake Village and the laundromat at the Raquette Lake General Store. As kids we would hang out in the store or on the village dock, or play in the old ice storage sheds (the sheds are long gone now) until Mom and Dad were finished with the laundry. It was always an adventure. There are more “modern” laundromats in Old Forge or Eagle Bay, but there was just something nostalgic about the old Raquette Lake Laundromat. We had been using it for generations. In fact, we had been using it before it had moved to its current location at the General Store. I remember it being located for years over near the now since long gone ice storage sheds.
laundromat
This particular laundry adventure involved my sister-in-law, Brenda, who gone in to the village to do the weeks laundry. Brenda had finished loading the clothes, detergent, and the required number of quarters into the washing machines, and the machine started doing their thing. She decided she’d kill some time looking around in the store for a bit. There were always interesting things to look at. And, the store has a real-honest-to-goodness butcher providing fantastic cuts of meat, home-made sausages, etc. The store also carried the best baked good in the region, delivered fresh daily from Mary’s Bakery in Inlet, about ten minutes away. In the laundromat there was one doorway that led directly into the general store as well as the exterior door that led out to the sandy parking lot.  Brenda was just about to head into the general store, when she heard an awful banging sound coming from outside the laundromat. She went to the exterior door to investigate.
laundromat
It did not take long to determine what was causing the banging noises. Near the laundromat sat the store’s dumpster, and standing on top of the dumpster was a medium-sized black bear. The bear had a hold of the dumpster lid on which he was standing, and was rearing back, trying to open the lid. Of course, since he was also standing on the lid, it would only lift so far before his weight slammed it back down with a loud bang! Brenda quickly went into the general store and over to the counter. “There’s a bear out there on your dumpster, trying to get it open,” Brenda exclaimed. “Oh, that’s just Charlie! He won’t hurt anything. Charlie makes regular appearances to our dumpster. We just wait until he’s done before we put try to put anything in it.” Brenda considered this new information carefully for a bit before cautiously returning to check on the laundry. Charlie was still poking around the dumpster but seemed to have little interest in the goings-on in the laundromat. Brenda quickly transferred the clean clothes from the washing machines to some dryers, and went back into the store area. When she later returned some time later to check on the dry clothes, Charlie had apparently moved along. That is what I always loved about Raquette Lake! Even the weekly trip to the laundromat can turn into an interesting adventure. Check out Serpents Underfoot at Amazon.com or here!

Adirondack Bear Tale #8: Campfire BBQ Chicken

Grandma Gilbert’s Campfire BBQ Chicken

Campfire BBQ ChickenIt was a nice cool Adirondack evening.  Therefore, Grandma Gilbert decided to make campfire BBQ chicken using the outside fireplace behind the camp. This way they could be outside to enjoy the cool evening air. There would also be less mess to clean up in the kitchen after dinner.

Grandpa started a wood fire in the cinder block fireplace and kept feeding it seasoned beech wood. Soon, there was a nice bed of red-hot coals. Grandma set the old cast iron skillet containing a little oil, some seasonings, and the chicken down on the steel grate Grandpa had set across the cinder blocks of the fireplace. In just a few minutes, the chicken was sizzling merrily away. It soon began to smell really good. While Grandma watched the chicken, Grandpa went into the camp to prepare the rest of dinner.

In the woods behind the camp,  a passing black bear lifted his nose into the air. His keen sense of smell had discovered the tantalizing aroma of cooking chicken, BBQ sauce, and wood smoke. As a result of his discovery, the bear changed his direction of travel, and started to follow the wonderful smell that drifted along on the evening breeze. Consequently, he soon found himself coming out of the woods … right behind Grandma Gilbert, who was busily tending to the chicken.

Grandpa Gilbert stepped out of the camp to check on how Grandma was doing with the chicken. He had been in the kitchen preparing corn-on-the-cob and a tossed salad to compliment the BBQ chicken.

“How’s the chicken coming, Marjorie?” he asked.

“Just fine Henry,” Grandma answered.

As Grandpa turned to go back into the camp, he noticed a movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning to see what it was, he saw the bear coming out of the woods and making its way toward the fireplace and Grandma.

“Marjorie!” he called. “There is a black bear coming up behind you, Come in the camp. Hurry!”

Grandma turned and saw the bear, and quickly made her way toward the porch. Then she stopped, and looked back.

“Come on, Marjorie. What are you doing?” Grandpa called. Grandma was headed back toward the fireplace and the chicken. “Never mind the chicken. Get in the camp!”

“Not without my chicken,” she replied. Still wearing the oven mitt on her hand, she ran back to the fireplace, arriving just seconds before the bear. Grabbing the skillet by the handle, she let out a with a loud, “Shoo!”  Then turning quickly, Grandma made a bee-line for the porch. In a second, she was up on the porch and in the camp. Grandpa promptly shut the door.

As a result, the BBQ chicken was safe. The bear, however, was a bit miffed and sniffed around on the porch for several minutes. Finally, the bear figured out that the great smelling campfire BBQ chicken was now beyond his reach. The bear reluctantly made his way back into the woods, continuing his search for his supper.

The campfire BBQ chicken, corn-on-the-cob, and tossed salad made a wonderful dinner.  In addition, the rest of the family got to enjoy hearing the tale of how Grandma rescued the chicken from the hungry black bear many times over the years.

Check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot, on Amazon.com.

Adirondack Bear Tale #7: The Demise of Old Three-toes!

The Demise of Old Three-toes.

Old three-toes was a very grouch bear.Three-toes was a grouchy, old bear. He was also big for a black bear. Folks around Burketown who occasionally spotted him estimated he might weigh between 450 and 500 pounds. This is fairly large for an Adirondack black bear. You knew when old three-toes was poking around from his distinctive tracks. His left fore-paw was missing the two outer toes, leading of course, to his nickname. Nobody really knew how he’d lost those two front toes. Speculation was abundant. Maybe he’d lost them in a fight with another bear, or perhaps a near miss with some kind of bear trap. Whatever the cause, it almost certainly contributed to his sour disposition.

A couple of camps down Burketown Road from my grandparent’s camp and in the direction of Burke’s Marina, lived a friend of the family. A local contractor and handyman, he’d built the camp belonging to my other grandparents on the lot next to ours near the end of the road. For the sake of this story, I will call him Mike.

As of late, old three-toes had become the frequent topic of discussion up and down the road.  Folks spotted him on the prowl regularly and he’d been getting in to some real mischief, causing damage to camps, screen windows, front porches, etc. So far nothing serious had occurred, but many felt it was simply a matter of time.

On this particular morning, Mike got up early to go fishing. And, living alone, began cooking himself breakfast. He’d opened the front door to his camp to allow the cool, crisp morning air to pass through the screen door. Unfortunately, this also allowed the smell of cooking bacon to waft its way out through the screen door, and be carried along on the same morning breeze. The tantalizing smell of cooking bacon proved to be irresistible to old three-toes who happened to be passing by. The bear turned, and followed the enticing aroma right up to Mike’s camp screen door.

Three-toes decided that the screen door was not going to keep him from getting to that delicious smelling bacon!  Mike heard the crashing sound of three-toes clawing right through the screen door. He turned in time to see the big bear coming down the short hallway to his kitchen area. Mike quickly retreated from the kitchen area and in the opposite direction. He made his way to his den where he kept a loaded 12-gauge shotgun on his rifle rack.

Mike grabbed the 12-gauge and headed back to the kitchen  where three-toes was making quite a mess of things. He yelled at the bear first, hoping to scare it off. He did not really want to shoot the bear. Unfortunately, three-toes was having none of it. This was now his bacon and, as far as that went, it was also now his kitchen. Mike simply had no choice. Taking careful aim with the shotgun, he fired.

While many in the Burketown area were saddened by the death of three-toes, a lot of people slept a bit more soundly at night. It is an unfortunate thing when black bears lose their fear of people. It never turns out well for the bear.

I hope this story touched you, and reminds you why it is so important to not feed the bears. While black bears can indeed be cute, they are still wild animals.

And, please take the time to check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot.

 

Adirondack Bear Tale #6: Aunt Betty Swats a Bear

Toasting Marshmallows at Uncle Wagner’s Camp!

Aunt Betty swats a black bearOur camp sat near the end of Burketown Road near the Miller’s old camp and Jack Camp’s old place. Jack Camp, a permanent resident, was the local coroner and constable, and kept an eye on things for those of us who owned summer camps in the area.

Across the road was a camp that  belonged to my Great Uncle Wagner and Aunt Betty. Uncle Wagner was my Grandfather Klippel’s older brother. My Nanny and Grandpa had a camp back down the road, closer to Burke’s Marina. Uncle Wagner’s camp has changed ownership since those days.

This particular evening there were several younger family members sitting around the stone-encircled campfire in front of Uncle Wagner’s camp. There was myself, my younger brother, three cousins who were all boys, and two other cousins who were both girls. We probably ranged in ages from 8 to 15. And, we were having a grand time toasting marshmallows on sticks we had cut earlier from a nearby Beech tree.

It was funny how some of us liked to see the marshmallows blaze, preferring them charred on the outside and melted on the inside. I preferred mine golden brown on the outside and warm in the middle. Therefore, I would concentrate a bit harder than some on the task at hand, selecting just the right nest of red hot coals, and turning the marshmallow constantly to get a nice even golden-brown color. I guess that is why I was the last one to notice that a black bear had come out of the woods, no doubt attracted by the enticing smell of burning marshmallows. I guess Aunt Betty must have heard the ruckus as we all started yelling and scattered to give the bear plenty of room.

Aunt Betty to the Rescue!

Aunt Betty was a short, stocky woman and not afraid of much that I can remember. Uncle Wagner, Aunt Betty, Grandpa and Nanny Klippel were sitting at the kitchen table in the camp playing Rummy 500. This was a favorite Adirondack evening pastime in our families. In addition, we also regularly enjoyed playing Pitch, Cribbage, and Pinochle. Family card games were a regular event. Our parents were across the road in our camp spending a quiet evening reading. I guess they probably needed a break from my brother and me. We could sometimes be a handful!

Aunt Betty exploded through the screen door of their camp armed with a straw broom. The black bear being young, maybe a little older than a yearling, did not know what he had unwittingly stumbled into. He just wanted marshmallows, but what he found was more like a stirred-up hornet’s nest. Wielded by Aunt Betty, the sweeping end of that broom attacked that poor bear from all angles at once and Betty let loose with a barrage of “Shoos, Scrams, and Git’s.” The bear quickly decided the marshmallows were definitely not worth the trouble, and took off just as fast as he could back into the woods letting loose with bawling sounds that were a cross between a bellow and a whine.

All Well that Ends Well!

All us kids were safe and sound. But, that incident ended any marshmallow toasting for the night as we were herded into their camp. Our parents, alarmed at the sudden change in the sounds coming from across the road, had appeared just as the bawling bear disappeared into the dark woods and quickly escorted us back across the road. We were soon settled in for the night up in the loft. I don’t think that bear ventured into our region of the Adirondack Park ever again.

 

 

 

Adirondack Bear Tale #5: Black Bears and Birds

Uncle Ken, Black Bears, and Birds!

birdsWhat do black bears and birds have in common, you might ask?  Well, let me tell you. Besides the fact that they both love birdseed, they had my uncle in common.

Klippels tend to be stubborn. My grandfather was stubborn, my mother was stubborn, her sister was stubborn, and my uncle, Kenneth Klippel, was stubborn. Now, that’s a lot of stubbornness! Mostly, it was stubborn in a good way … the kind of stubbornness that allows one to stick to their guns and get things done.

Uncle Ken also enjoyed watching birds. Upon his retirement, he moved from Binghamton, NY to Raquette Lake where he settled into the camp he and my grandfather had built many years earlier. One of the first things he did was set up a bird feeder in the front yard. Nothing fancy. Just one of those shepherd’s hook-type metal supports with a bird feeder hanging from it. That is when the problems began!

The first clue that this would become problematic was when he awoke early one morning to some strange noises on his screened-in front porch. Upon investigation, he discovered a young black bear had broken into his screen-in porch and was busily munching away on the large bag of wild bird seed Uncle Ken had stored there. Luckily, he was able to shoo the bear away. Subsequently, he began storing the bird seed in the old outhouse that had long been converted into a tool shed. Things seemed quiet after that and the problem seemed to be taken care of. At least, until the next spring!

The Battle of the Bird Feeder

One evening, Uncle Ken returned from a fishing excursion into the north part of Raquette Lake. He and a few friends had left early in the morning to go fishing for Lake Trout.  When they returned, and he pulled in to park at his camp, he noticed the bird-feeder support was pushed over, the bird feeder was pretty badly smashed up, and the bird seed was, of course, gone. Nonplussed, he simply went into Old Forge and got a better support and a new bird feeder. The next day, the new birder feeder was in place, and his happy little feathered-friends were back. This however, was not the end of the story. Not by a long shot! The battle of the bird feeder quickly escalated and was waged over a period of several years.

Several times the bird feeder was raided by a black bear and the bird seed eaten. Each time the bird feeder had to be replaced and the mounting system became more substantial each time.

The Battle continues …

birdsI still remember the year he’d tried to use a 4×4 post. Uncle Ken had dug a hole, set the 4×4 in it, and poured concrete around it for a strong base. I was staying at our camp for a week that summer and got to observer the construction project first hand. This time he’d seen the bear, and it was a big one. He was headed out for the day when he discover the bear in his front yard. The bear simply snapped the 4×4 over and began busily munching down on the bird seed that had once been in the now mangled bird feeder.

Uncle Ken, angry now, went in to get his shotgun. The bear was gone when he returned. I guess the bear had decided that he’d over-stayed his welcome. Uncle Ken later told me that he really wasn’t going to shoot the bear, he just wanted to scare it off. Later that afternoon, he headed back to Old Forge for more concrete and a steel pole. “Something like a basketball goal post,” as he put it. When I headed back to Tennessee, he was out there re-digging the hole for the new “steel-pole” bird feeder base he was putting in.

The battle is finally won … the birds lose!

The next year I returned, only to notice that there was no bird feeder in place. Intrigued, I continued up to our camp, unloaded my gear, and then walked down the road to Uncle Ken’s camp to get, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story!”  Uncle Ken was sitting on his screened-in porch when I walked up. I asked about the “goal-post” bird feeder. Uncle Ken just shook his head. He’d come home after a trip to Warrensburg to visit with a lady he’d become friendly with, only to find the metal post pushed over, the bird feeder demolished, and of course, the bird seed gone.

“The bear just pushed the damn thing over, pulling the concrete base right out of the ground,” he explained.

“At least, the bear had to work for it,” I observed, trying hard not to grin. I did know how stubborn he was and how much he hated losing, especially to a bear. “Are you going to try again?” I asked.

Uncle Ken again shook his head. “Nope!  If I do keep this going, eventually I will end up having to shoot that damn bear … and I don’t want to do that. Might upset the neighbors!”  I nodded, understanding that under his gruff exterior, he really had a big heart and he really didn’t want to shoot that bear. Uncle Ken went on, ” I guess the only real losers here are the birds … but they’ll be alright.”

 

If you enjoyed this story, check our the other Adirondack Bear Tale posts on my blog, or my military action/adventure novel, Serpents Underfoot, available at Amazon.com!