menagerie

Down, down, down the mountain they come, the grizzlies.

You see him there?  Look close.  Doesn’t look so ferocious, does he?  Muchin’ on grass is all.

Ursus arctos horribilis… now there’s an interesting thought – some fellow with a neckerchief took the time pen that name.  This time Wikipedia blames George Ord.   There he is, there’s George.  Appears he mistook grizzled for grisly, as in “horrifying, repellent, terrifying, gruesome…

Heck, in the right light, that could apply to anyone.  Okay, maybe moreso if you’re pushing 1500 lbs and have a bit of a reputation.  Darkly humorous anecdotes abound in the Northwest, many on the theme of advising unwary German tourists on encounters, precautions to take, and just how utterly useless they all are.

I guess every northerner fancies himself an amateur on the subject of bears.  But honestly horrible isn’t a word that comes up too often.

So this gets me to thinking about James Capen Adams, better known as Grizzly Adams.  The real namesake, not the 1970’s movie/TV adaptation starring the stupendously hirsute Dan Haggerty.  The woodcut of Adams’ likeness suggests he also rocked some serious facial hair, but aside from that I’d wager his life’s trade had little to do with that gentle care bear of the California mountains (do check out the old youtube intro to the serial, for nostalgia’s sake).

figure

You see the real Grizzly Adams made a living from killing and/or capturing, training, and performing with wild animals, bears in particular.  Barnum’s circus days.  And supposedly, he was a nature-loving sort.  He sure loved cookin’ it up, anyways:

With the head of the bear we made a repast as splendid as it was strange. A hole large enough to receive the mass was dug in the ground, and a large brush fire built over it. When the fire had burnt to coals and ashes, the head was rolled in a cloth, placed in the hot hole, more brush piled on, and a fire kept up for several hours, when the head was entirely cooked; and delicious eating it made…

Grisly?  Hm… well karma got him in the end, it seems that Mr Adams eventually died of complications following an incident where an uncooperative monkey trainee bit into his exposed brain tissue… the latter the result of having an old mauling wound repeatedly opened afresh by one of his ursine stage buddies.  Gruesome… yeah.  I say let’s call him Grisly Adams!  Homo sapien horribilis.

Grizzlies are now extinct in California, except for the one on the State flag.  Happily, they have these mountains here to descend, this sedgegrass to munch, some fish to eat, and even a few homo sapiens, at a safe remove and hushed and awed, to tolerate.

btw, just to get even, the Germans have named a professional hockey team the Grizzly Adams…!

(Look I’m not making this stuff up… it’s either true or the people at Wikipedia have a deep sense of irony and a lot of time)

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