“Once upon a time,” I told the handful of kids who pay rapt attention to anything I tell them.
(It is a proven fact that you can make the 4- to 6-year-old crowd believe anything you tell them and I believe myself to be especially adept at telling stories that they will swallow like a catfish seeking chicken liver. So let me tell you the story that I’ve told the kids. It is a New Year’s tale.)
“Once upon a time there was a teddy bear, let’s call him Papa, and he learned to talk. And before you knew what was going on he was running for the U.S Senate, got elected, and then he became President of the United States of America and inherited the domain of a huge, formidable den.
“Papa was the ultimate good bear and his heart was as big as the Hope diamond but he had become President of the country and he didn’t have much more than a vague clue about how to enjoy that new status. He relished in the glory and he traveled the globe, but the dogs and other vermin kept after him like hounds on a crippled coon.
“And soon he was treed right in front of his den, crippled and all that because he had been bitten many times as he tried to fight back. He found himself out on a lower limb with hundreds of wild foul —smelling dogs and coyotes and other vermin barking at the base of the tree or sitting there howling directly under his precarious and ever shaking perch. And he didn’t have much of an idea as to what it was that he had done wrong. Nor did he realize that the canine bunch will chase any bear no matter how tame and lovable he may be. You don’t have to be a mean or bad bear to get chased by the dogs. They will go after almost any bear, especially if it is a male or even female leader bear and if it is mean and tough, that’s all the better. But a tame and gentle bear is better than no bear at all and much easier to run up a tree.
“So Papa Bear called on Mama Bear for help and she stuck her head out of the den from time to time and yelled ‘stop that now, you evil dogs.’ Mama Bear was beautiful and she had two beautiful little female cubs. So the dogs and other vermin jointly decided to leave them alone because they were so intent on having Papa roasted and on the dinner table. They figured they would get to Mama and the cubs later because that’s the way it had worked the last time they treed a bear. And, besides all that, Mama and the cubs pretty much stayed in the formidable den.
“But Papa Bear had many friends and he called upon them to toss bones to the wild dogs and other vermin to see if they could keep them at bay or at least get them out from under his shaking limb. Of course, the biggest dogs took the fattest bones and ran off to the edge of the woods to chew on them, which made the other dogs bark louder. Except for the little starving dogs because Papa Bear made sure they had scraps enough to keep them fed.
“The elder and former Papa Bear came out of his own private den and chased away some of the dogs and vermin. The previous Mama Bear had become a leader of the country and the former cub had just become married and they were all doing quite well after occupying the biggest den. And they did what little they could to help out Papa Bear.
“But, alas, Papa Bear had no idea where to run or how to call off the dogs and other vermin and it seems that he is about out of bones. He is still up in that tree and the limb is shaking harder because all the vermin have gathered at the base of the tree and they are shaking the trunk. So Papa Bear’s limb gets more wobbly all the time.
“He is still up there. Come back next year and I will tell you if he fell. But, for right now, that’s all we know about this story.”