I'LL NEVER FORGET "BROWNIE"
The year was 1925 and I was in my 8th year. Our family was living in Kalama, a small town in the boondocks of S. W. Washington. Our home was in an area known as China Garden where we raised hound dogs especially trained to pursue cougars and wild cats. Hunting with hounds was a popular sport of that era. We had several different breeds of hounds such at Blue Ticks, Walkers, Red Bone and the most popular, the Brown and Tan. We also boarded several dogs for people in Portland who came out on weekends to be guided by my Dad and brother and see their animals work.
One Sunday afternoon my Dad returned from an all day trip in the mountains just before darkness was falling. He called me to his side as .he said he had something to show me. Whereupon he reached into his pack sack and brought out a very small bear cub. It looked like a rat, with eyes not yet open, and weighed about 8 ounces. He then related to us how he had jumped off a high log into about two feet of snow at the base of a large fir tree and broke through into a mother hears hibernation nest. She woke with a start and came charging after him. He did not want to shoot her but was in such a precarious position that he had to in self defense. Upon hearing cries coming from the cave he crawled in and found "Brownie". Now came our dilemma. What to do with him. Mother heated some milk and using an eyedropper filled his little tummy, wrapped him in cotton, placed him in a shoebox and put him in the warming oven of our big wood fired stove. We did not expect to find him alive in the morning, but lo and behold he was fine and dandy and wanting more food. In a few days we had taught him to use a nursing bottle and thus began about two years of a relationship with one of the smartest, most interesting animals I had ever been around. In no time it seemed his eyes were open and he soon was able to leave his shoebox, and had pretty much the run of the house. When Spring came he was moved into a section of the woodshed that we prepared for him. He was clean and neat and seemed to know what was expected of him. He had several habits, which I found out by reading about hears, was natural for the breed. One was after each meal he would go to my mother, stand on his hind legs and put one of his front ones around her leg and his paw from the other into his mouth blowing and slobbering on it with rather a loud humming noise. This would last for almost five minutes, and he got very mad if interfered with until he was ready to stop. Soon he was large enough to play with me and loved to rassle and roll on the ground. My two older sisters were scared to death of him and he loved to torture them as he had a great sense of humor. In the hot days of summer we had a large stock lank in the hack yard and Blanche and Irene would fill it with water and climb in to cool off. This was also a favorite place of Brownie's. Sneaky little old me, when I saw the girls in the lank, would quickly open the door to Brownie's pen and he would run for his dip. When the girls saw him coming they would jump out and run across the yard calling for help, whereupon Brownie would forget all about his swim and take after them hell bent for election. I became a real favorite with my sisters. He would always mind me, and the only time he refused to was once when my Dad had killed a cougar that had been killing a neighbor's goats. Some people from town had come out to see the cat and wanted to lake a picture of the cat and the bear together. When I brought him out he saw it and began to roar and ran to it and began to chew' on its leg. He refused all efforts to calm him down and ran under the house and would not come out all day and made all kinds of noises that I had never heard before.
But all good things seem to always come to an end because when he had grown to about 150 lbs. and we were playing together he would grab me around the waist and squeeze me so tight that I couldn't breathe. My family became concerned that he could really hurt without being mean but just playful. My Dad knew some people who had a restaurant and gas station along old Highway 99 with a small animal zoo in back as an attraction. So Brownie was given to them.
One of the saddest days of my life was when they came to pick him up. I put him on a leash and handed it to the man. When the man started to take him to the car Brownie stood on his hind legs and backed all the way across the road crying as if his heart was breaking. I know mine was.
I'll never forget you, Brownie.
Written April, 2000