News from Vermont #266 - The "Bear" Truth

July 11th, 2012


Hello again Maple People,
It's a "kid" thing to question the difference between a lie and a "little white lie". Back when I did, my mother set me straight quicker'n a flash..."Lies are awful. Don't ever lie!" she said sternly. Then with a wink, she admitted "white lies" are sometimes OK, especially "little" ones. I wanted a better answer than that but she left it for me to figure out. At sixty-four, I can honestly say I've never told a lie but there have been a few "little white" ones, and you, my readers, bore the brunt from one of 'em one time.  
 I started writing my email newsletter "News from Vermont" some twelve years ago. The idea came out of a meeting with my web provider, David Zahn. Dave said it would "liven our web" site if only I could find someone to write it in a home-spun, "Vermont" way. Our meeting ended that day with both the "seed" he'd planted and a long-tabled recollection: I'd been told as a kid that I had flair to write. I went home and immediately "penned" volume 1 of 265 volumes (and two books) so far. In one of those early volumes, I admitted that I had never seen a bear before. When I ran it by Dave, he went right up into the air..."Don't ever admit that you've never seen a bear!" he said "You're a Vermonter for God's'd be like a West Virginian admitting he'd never made a little 'shine'". Dave, an honest man, wasn't asking me to lie; he was just asking me to "scratch" what I'd written and try again. I did the next best thing...I exercised my "little white" option.
The story I concocted had me out in our Christmas tree plantation suddenly being joined by a mother bear and her cubs. It has long since been lost but as I remember it, I took enough "literary license" to make Stephen King proud! It went something like this: "The mama snorted angrily and then began her slow approach. I, terrified and about to soil myself, stumbled backwards, turned and shimmied up a slender maple tree..."
I also remember that folks really liked the story and that their words of praise made my head swell in spite of a "smattering" of guilt. I made up my mind that when I did finally see my first bear (if ever), I would have to fess up and guess what...last week I saw my first bear! It was at Indian Head Resort over in North Lincoln, New Hampshire and the Swing North Big Band was about to play (yes, it was a New Hampshire bear but by God, New Hampshire bears count!). We were just setting up in Indian Head's ballroom when someone said there was a bear out front. Like a wild animal, I leapt through rows of expensive instruments and bandstand paraphernalia and miraculously got to the windows without tipping anything over. Down below by a small pond was the object of my lifetime of dreams, a sleek and beautiful black bear. It scouted around the edge of the pond under the guise of "food search" but I knew it had really made an appearance just for me. Soon an Indian Head employee appeared to chase it off, obviously use to the task. Mr. Bear got the message but momentarily stood erect in my direction, seemingly to accept kudos, and then ambled away back into the woods.
"Bear!....I've never seen a bear!" I shouted, trying to drum up excitement but it seemed my fellow band members could have cared less. "Of course" I thought, everyone has seen one but me! There was just one person who I knew would understand...Betsy. She has listened to me for thirty-five years now harping about my life sans Ursus Americanus. I called her on my cellphone and amid the acrid clatter of brass horns warming up, I told her. "I'm so happy for you honey" she said like I had just won the Congressional Gold Medal.
I sit here post-confession worrying that you'll now mistrust my writing. All the experiences I have penned over the years, though, (except for that early "bear" story) have been true. I do, however, believe that every writer worth his salt will, on occasion employ a little "license" and as my writing skills improve, so will my use thereof. Yes, dear reader, it can be a "fine line" but as mother told me long ago, lies are bad. When it comes to important things though like "shine" in West Virginia and bears in Vermont, sometimes a "white one" is OK, especially a "little" white one.
Happy Spring!