Somewhere in the forests of Montana:
It was time for the Grizzlies’ annual holiday party. The party was highly anticipated – the food was always great, and it usually happened right before hibernation.
Mr. G: So are you ready for the big night, dear?
Mrs. G: I don’t know. I’m not sure I have enough food. Maybe I should go hunting one last time.
Mr. G: (laughs): You always have more than enough. We snack for days. What are we having?
Mrs. G: Well, I wanted to try something different. I saw a couple of joggers. I thought they might be tasty but I didn’t get a chance. Probably just as well. I talked to some of the other bears later. Apparently that kind are gristly. They said that the others are too fatty. So it’s back to the usual cows and sheep.
Mr. G: (disappointed) I suppose that means you’ve invited all those herbivores again. Some of them are delicious. (The guests gets uncomfortable when they see a relative on the menu.)
Mrs. G: Of course I did. That’s part of the tradition. The herbivores have a day when they don’t have to worry about us eating them. The humans call it a “truce”. They don’t seem to last very long. It won’t hurt us to do it for one day.
Mr. G: I suppose. I’d hate to think that we can’t even be as civilized as the humans. So where did you find the food for them?
Mrs. G: The Rabbits sent their regrets. Because of the early bad weather, the decided to den up early. She felt badly, so she sent a huge bunch of greens. Once I knew what to look for, it wasn’t hard to get more.
Mr. G: Nasty things! I don’t know how anyone can get them down, much less live on them.
Mrs. G: I don’t understand it either. But they are guests, so we need to serve them something they can eat. And none of your jokes about inviting them to be dinner. It frightens them.
Mr. G: Hmmph! (as he wanders off)
On the night of the party it was clear and cold. Mrs. G. had just finished the preparations when they heard a rustling.
Mrs. G: Just in time! Our first guest.
Mr. G: It’s probably your freeloading brother coming to eat all the salmon chunks before anyone else gets here.
Mrs. G: Be nice to him. You know he’s been depressed since that girl left him.
Mr. G: What did he expect? Her family’s from Alaska. You know how snobby those bears are.
Sure enough, the brother headed straight for the salmon. Mr. G went over but was interrupted by the arrival of the Black Bears. Hugging his cousin, he asked how things were going.
Mr. B: Haven’t you heard? The humans got my friend from China.
Mr. G: You mean the one that was here for last year’s party? I felt a little badly that he had to bring his own food. Mrs. G couldn’t find bamboo anywhere. She took a real liking to him. He was rather nice to look at with that black and white fur. What happened?
Mr. B: It turns out that he was getting his food from a place they call a “nursery”. One day he got careless and went during the day. A human saw him.
Mr. G: How awful!
Mr. B: He got away, but they knew he was there and they hunted him down. I guess they don’t see very many Chinese bears around here. They took him to a “nature preserve.” I don’t know what that is.
Mr. G: I hope it isn’t one of those awful places where the human cubs scream all the time and throw things at you. I saw one once. I still get nightmares. Bear cubs would never behave that way.
Mr. B nodded. His wife joined them. She gave Mr. G a hug.
Mrs. B: How are you darling? You look wonderful! Where is your lovely wife? I must say hello to her and tell her how fabulous everything looks. I’ll leave you boys to whatever it was you were up to.
Mr. G groaned inwardly. He could not understand why his cousin, as good a bear as he had ever known, had decided to mate with her. He’d met her down in Yellowstone. She’d been in some “Don’t Feed the Bears” video and thought she was a star. Mr. B had brought her home to meet his family and convinced her to stay. It wasn’t even her looks – her fur had no gloss and her eyes were too big for her face.
He overheard her ask Mrs. G if she had any berries, “Because all I ever eat is a small bowl of berries, as you know.” What kind of bear was she anyway? Mr. G had never met a bear who didn’t like fish. Besides, she always looked like she was ready for hibernation regardless of the time of year.
He was getting really irritated when he was interrupted by the arrival of the herbivores. They always came in a group, just in case the bears had changed their minds about the “truce.”
Mrs. G: How wonderful that you could all come. We’re looking forward to a special dinner. Mrs. Rabbit sent over some beautiful herbs and grasses. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.
Mr. Squirrel: That was very thoughtful of her. I have brought some nuts to share as well. You are so kind to share your home with us Mrs. G, I hope you don’t mind.
Mrs. G: Not at all, Mr. Squirrel. Anything you’d like is fine. (To herself: How can anyone consider nuts a meal? He’s as bad as Mrs. B with her berries.)
To be continued…