By Charles Towne
One time not so very long ago and not so very far away… a wolf and a bear met in the forest. It was during the season of plenty when the hardness of winter was but a memory. The berries hung heavy on the bushes, the game was plentiful, and the fish in the streams were beyond numbering.
The wolf and the bear met on a trail. That the trail was made by the bear and generations of his kind did not matter to the wolf. She thought that because she walked there the trail belonged to her, therefore she would not yield.
The bear stood on his hind legs and looked down upon the wolf and talked to her in a powerful bear voice that caused the trees to shake and the ground to quiver. “Why do you not yield to me sister wolf? You know that I am mighty and that with one caress of my paw I can end your puny life and yet you stand in my way!”
“Yes,” agreed the wolf, “What you say is true. You can push me aside as a great wind moves the chickadee, but if I step aside you will think me afraid and have contempt for me!”
“Ahhhh yes,” said the bear, “but if you do not move aside I will move you and in that moving your life will cease! Perhaps I will respect you and remember you as brave but I will also remember you as very, very foolish. What merit or honor is there in that?”
The wolf considered the bear’s words but she was young and looked upon yielding as weakness. “Oh brother bear,” she reasoned, “if I step aside and let you pass all I can boast is that I yielded the trail to you but if you step aside I can go to my clan and when I tell my tale they will consider my words and think me brave and worthy, so step aside and let me pass.”
Not at all impressed with the young wolf’s logic, the bear did not move.
The wolf and the bear were hungry and thirsty. The longer they stood there the hungrier and the thirstier they became, but stubbornly neither would move.
A berry patch, ripe and overflowing with luscious, sweet, juicy berries grew at the side of the trail.lOhhh my those berries were beautiful! Sweet, moist berries, just waiting to be eaten. The wolf and the bear could see the berries from the trail. They could almost reach the berries, in fact, they could almost taste the berries. But neither would venture into the berry patch, each imagining and rightly so, that the other would presume ownership of the trail. Thus they stood glaring at each other, each of themcasting frequent and hungry glances in the direction of the berry patch.
While they waited, a mama bear with her two half-grown cubs wandered into that beautiful delectable berry patch with its luscious sweet berries and began eating ravenously. Mrs. Bear and her cubs were not trying to lay claim to the path, but they claimed the berry patch as their own and they gobbled those sweet, scrumptious scrumdiddlyumptious berries by paw full after paw full. They slurped up great mouthfuls of the juicy berries until the juice stained their paws and dripped from the corners of their mouths. Soon, too soon, Mrs. Bear and her berry fat cubs waddled off, leaving behind them a trampled down and very sad berry patch, and as though adding insult to injury, Mrs. Bear burped a very big berry burp and then relieved herself before following her cubs into the forest.
The wolf and the bear stood there in the trail looking at the ruined berry patch and a steaming pile of bear droppings.
The bear tore his eyes away from the, ‘used to be’ berry patch, and in his most intimidating voice he roared, “Get out of my way you silly runt, you insignificant, puny little mouse!” And he roared another great earth-shattering, ear-splitting, tooth chattering roar.
You might say that he was just a little upset.
It was quite obvious that the bear had enough. Pulling back his lips he snarled a great big hideous, ugly, nasty and very vicious snarl. He exposed his gleaming sharp fangs as he prepared to leap upon the proud, brave, courageous and very foolish wolf.
Seeing her danger and realizing that if she continued her present behavior she could expect an early demise, the wolf spoke.
“Ho, oh mighty one, wait! I have an idea, let us walk together down the trail, you and I. My claws are not worthy of the name. I could never match you in a fight, but if we walk together you can say that out of the goodness of your heart you allowed me to walk beside you. The creatures of the forest will look upon this as an act of great generosity on your part and they will call you a good and generous chief.”
The bear, hearing the words of the wolf, considered them worthy and thus the bear and the wolf set off down the trail together.
Everything went fine and time passed. The wolf and the bear grew to appreciate certain things about each other. The creatures of the forest both great and small saw the two of them and heard of the bear’s generosity and patience. Word also spread of the wolf’s wisdom and courage, and time passed.
One day as they strolled down the trail together, the traveling companions came to a place where a rock slide had crashed to the valley floor very nearly blocking their path. Oh, there was a trail all right, a very narrow trail, a stingy trail, a piddly little trail, a trail so narrow that only one of them could pass at a time. Oh my! The bear, exercising his chiefly prerogative, began to enter the narrow trail, that stingy, piddly narrow trail that twisted and meandered through the boulders left by the rock slide.
Suddenly the wolf leaped in front of the bear and said: “What are you doing brother bear? You cannot go first!”
The bear, angry at this impudence, growled a ferocious growl, but the wolf continued. “No, what will all of the creatures say if you lead the way? Why they will say that you are chief and I am your servant. I say again, no, that cannot be!”
“Yes, I suppose you are right.” Grumbled the bear. “But if our brothers of the forest see me following you they will say I do so because I fear you and so I will lose their respect. No, I cannot let you go first.”
The two of them stood there in the trail, arguing and quarreling. There was a terrible racket what with all of that snarling and growling, spitting and fuming. Each of them unwilling to be a follower.
All of the creatures, great and small heard the noise, and they came and saw. They all said, “What a silly wolf, and what a foolish bear!” So saying, they laughed at the two animals, and went a little way and made another, better trail. A trail wide enough for all to pass.
The wolf and the bear argued and squabbled until they became tired and hungry, and so they began to fight.
The bear clawed the wolf and the wolf bit the bear. They bit and clawed and they clawed and bit until they were covered with each other’s blood.
The wolf and the bear, each weak and exhausted, near death, finally stopped fighting. They dragged their wounded and torn bodies down the trail to a stream and bathed their wounds. They fished and gathered berries and lay in the sun and told wonderful stories and their wounds healed.
One day when they were strong again the wolf and the bear proceeded down the trail. Soon they came to the rock slide with its narrow trail where only one could pass at a time and again they quarreled and soon they fought.
They bit and clawed and roared and growled and clawed and bit until they were again covered in blood! They dragged themselves back down the trail to the stream and bathed their wounds, caught fish, ate berries, and told stories. Their wounds healed and time passed. Winter came a cruel, hard, cold winter. The stream froze so there were no fish, and the berries were all gone. The wolf and the bear knew that if they fought one more time they would both surely die.
Sad as it may sound they died, for neither the wolf nor the bear would yield. They had become accustomed to the fight, it had become a way of life and thus a way to death.
And thus my story must end. But wait! We should not end on such a sad note. Let’s go back and try again.
Winter would soon come, the stream would freeze and they would not be able to catch any fish and there would be no more berries. The wolf and the bear knew that if they fought one more time they would both surely die. And so they decided, with great wisdom and with no small amount of sadness, to go their separate ways.
The wolf returned to her pack where all the other wolves were glad to see her. The bear went to the mountains and found a very warm and cozy cave (with all of the amenities) and he slept the winter through. From that time on the wolf and the bear lived happier and wiser lives.
P.S. When the wolf and the bear met on the trail they greeted each other with respect. Each allowed the other to journey where he would, at times sharing the same stream, or the same berry patch. Thus they lived full and happy lives, the wolf and the bear.
So now can my story end? What’s that, you want another ending?
O.K., how about this one.
Winter would soon come, the stream would freeze and there would be no more fish, and there would be no sweet berries to eat. The wolf and the bear realized that if they fought one more time they would both surely die. With great wisdom, they decided that it would be good if they found another trail. (That rock slide really had caused them a lot of trouble!) They went a little way and found that nice trail that the other animals had made. They followed this trail and soon found that there were narrow places in even the best of trails. They had shed enough blood. Sometimes the wolf led the way and sometimes the bear but most of the time they walked side by side. The wolf and the bear followed the trail to a place where it is always summer, and the berries are always plentiful and the fish always abundant. I would like to say that they had no more problems, but what with wolves being wolves and bears being bears we know better than that, but they did learn to live together as friends, happily ever after.
A PRAYER CONCERNING RELATIONSHIPS
Why is it father that we wolves, bears and wild cats, eagles as well as owls and tigers, elephants and hippos and the tiny little mice and the ‘possums, platypuses, porpoises and every creature that you made with such loving care can’t seem to be able to get along? Could it be that we never will be able to have beautiful relationships with you until we learn to love and care for one another? Work your will in us and help us to understand that it is not religion that you value, but relationship. Open our eyes and help each of us to see the value in our neighbors, not just across the street, but across the world. Help us to understand the true worth of all people, kindred and tongues that we may all dwell together in love, peace, and harmony one day, soon. Thank you, Father, thank you Papa God, and praise you. In Jesus’ blessed and Holy name, Amen.
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.