C.Bear and the Cactipus

The meandering days of summer …

C.Bear awoke from a daydream in a fright, and told us all that he had just had a most scary “BearMare”.

Well, of course everybody wanted to hear all about it: “What did you see in the dream, C.Bear? What happened?”

“Well, you know that big ol’ cactus in the back yard in Phoenix? The one with all the arms and the big hole in its trunk that looks like it’s lookin’ at you?”

We all knew which cactus he meant, of course. The Saguaro cactus can grow to be twenty feet tall, maybe more. Birds poke holes in the outer skin, and the holes enlarge each year as new bird families nest. A proper Saguaro can look quite formidable, with its many flailing arms, one or two eyes, and assorted nesting and perching denizens.

“So I dreamt that this big ol’ Cactipus was chasin’ me! And I ran, and ran, and ran … and …”

“So what happened next, C.Bear?”

“I ran and ran, and ran some more … and …, you know how us Bears can’t run very fast?”

“Yes, yes, what happened next?”

“Well, this Cactipus was wavin’ his old thorny arms and acted like he wanted to rip all my stuffing out. I dreamt that he almost caught me, and I skittered as fast as I could … but then I tripped and fell!”

“Oh. NO, C.Bear! Did the Cactipus catch you?”

“Of course not, silly, everybody knows that Cactipuses can’t run!”

After an appropriately somber moment of reflection on how we’d been “had”, the fellers all exploded into titters of laughter. We joined them as they tried to chase C.Bear around the bedroom, but we couldn’t catch him either.

 

The days of summer meander through the middle months of the year like a slow, lazy river. This is a surefire recipe for Bear boredom. We do try to introduce new activities to break the daily routine for them, but it is hard to second-guess what is going to capture the Bears’ imaginations.

In earlier days, when there were fewer Bears, and A.Bear had not yet set up his school for them, we used to ask that the Bears take turns leading the others in saying “Good-night”. It was expected that the designated Bear would begin his little exercise by counting to three, as in “One, two, three … Good-NIGHT!”

Most of the Bears now already count well past three. No longer is this much of a challenge for them. Some Bears, such as Thelonius, would exploit their turn by hamming it up for everyone a little bit. Thelonius would sing his little “Thelonius’ Song” until someone told him that enough was perhaps enough, and only then would he say “Good-night”.

The older Bears soon saw how they could take advantage of their “Bear Channel”, so that they could channel the Phoenix Bears into the ceremony. This was their secret Bear communications link, introduced by A.Bear to the other leader Bears, and its use spread gradually to all but the very newest of the others.

Thus evolved our new custom of exchanging news over the Channel, so the Bear Of The Day could exchange current events with our Phoenix contingent.

Mostly this might seem a little silly, since Bears do not do much anyway on an average Bear day. The nightly news would often consist of repetitious things like “an … an we hollered at the squirrels today”. We still felt this was good for the Bears, and encouraged Bear awareness and communications skills.

For our own parts, we did’t mind this increased scope of Bear bedtime ceremonies. “We hollered at the squirrels” has the welcome ring of unadorned truth. This often made much more sense to us than what our network stations call the “Ten O’Clock News” format — a stylized and curious juxtaposition of factoidal events and tabloid gossip, which itself becomes a focus of mimicry, criticism and satire.

 

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: At the beginning of summer we traded in the Bronco for a nice little compact car, and that meant that Junior’s perch of three years, on the dashboard of the Bronco, got traded in too. So we threw in a little retirement party for Junior, and a retro ceremony for his pop, G.Bear, who had ridden for the five full years preceding Junior’s stint.

To make early retirement more palatable, we even put together some miniature framed Distinguished Service Awards for both of our retirees. We could not locate gold pocket watches of the proper size for the presentation, so we just had the cake and ice cream and party hats and speeches, the sort of thing people expect after the better part of a lifetime of devoted service to a company or great cause.

But it became increasingly evident that Junior missed his “saddle days”. While he liked being with his friends all day, it seemed that he had tremendously enjoyed being the center of all that attention when he left for work, and when he came home at night. That had been when all the other Bears would call out “good-bye, Junior!” and “Hi, Junior”.

Junior hinted several times that he would consider an offer to return to work, but at first there were no takers. To keep a Guard Bear planted to a dashboard, we use a system of velcro patches, one of which is stuck to the dash, the other of which must be sewn onto the bottom of the Bear. This is quite a bit of work, and part of the retirement deal was that Junior had to turn in his Patch.

As the summer doldrums settled in, Junior kept up his insistent hints, and finally pinned us down to a specific date. We barely made it, but Junior got a two-patch system to help keep him from being flung off the dash in the event of particularly tight cornering or hard stops and starts.

Junior is “back in the saddle again”, and looks out for _everything_, and brings us up to four lucky green lights in a row, and he just couldn’t be happier. And we must admit that we had missed him. It is good that, if we like our work, we should all be permitted to work until we drop in our tracks or become an impediment to the fast track of progress.

 

UFFY MANIA:One evening Bob came to Alex with one of those advertisements they stuff into Credit Card statements. “Look!”

It was an ad for an Uffy. This little Bear had the same blue gingham bow, yellowish brown fur, and rumpled impish expressions as our Uffy Brothers. Those who have been paying proper attention will know that the Fellers already count among their ranks five Uffys: Cuffy, Duffy, Ruffy, Scruffy and Tuffy. We have seen the advertisements before.

What you don’t know, is just how many of the Fellers there are now. You would likely under-guess, and we’re not saying, either. We do have a partial moratorium on new Bear acquisitions, until we can get an extra shelf, or we find some other way to accommodate them all.

We still make exceptions for Valentine’s, birthdays, vacation trips, and Christmas, of course.

So Alex said, “Great! Let’s get THREE of them!”

And we laughed, like two co-consirators in some great gag. Where would we PUT them?

Why, Phoenix, of course.

So it was agreed, and ordered, and in about three weeks the mailman deposited three individual boxes on the front porch, tastefully gift-wrapped in dark blue paper with a cutesy regular pattern of tiny little teddy bears. It was a pattern, on reflection, that boldly said “do not steal me” to your average front-porch package thief.

We didn’t open them for a few days. We left the packages in the family room, even though C.Bear several times said pointedly, “I smell Bears!” to anyone who might be listening.

The next part of the New Bear induction process is Naming. There is no particular gestation period for a package that contains Bear, but we prefer to be right about the naming the first time around.

The Bear Chronicles record early mention of a “Bandana Bear”, whom we later renamed as our Happy, and there is mention of a number of “no-name Bears” who had to find their way into the society of Bears via the Pile For Unwanted Bears, or who otherwise lacked proper credentials and introductory papers.

Bears don’t mind such informalities, of course. They naturally welcome newcomers, and it is they who are always asking for new siblings. It was we People, who stand on ceremony and the Proper Way, who were holding up the bandwagon. What to name the new Bears?

Going through the alphabet, we saw shortly that the Uffy formula had been pretty well exhausted. We discounted “Buffy”, “Fluffy”, “Muffy”, and a number of other variations on a theme. A Bear may be named after many things, but never in the style of a cat or a dog.

Finally, we hit upon “Huey, Louie and Dewey”, after the famous Duck nephews, because there were three of the new Uffys, all brothers, and they were somewhat like nephews in the seniority department. They would all have a last name of Uffy, in the style of that clan.

Bob thought at first that might not be fair, because not all the Bears appeared to have last names. “Of course they did”, Alex replied; “all of them have the last name of Bear”, so that would include all the Uffys.

And this formula seems to have worked. We are down in Phoenix right now as it happens, but Huey, Louie and Dewey Uffy are still back in San Mateo, being trained in Bear lore by none less than A.Bear himself. We predict they will know practically everything a modern Bear has to know to get around in this world, except how to play cards. That will have to wait until C.Bear and Phoenix sit them down for a “friendly hand” of Bear Poker.

Then, their training completed, the new Uffys will join Scruffy down here, ready to carry their weight in the smaller (but growing) Bear community in the greater Phoenix area.

You can skip all your “6 billionth Bear” jokes; The Fellers do not think what we people have done with their planet is all that amusing, and, in any event, we are not quite prepared to discuss a concept like “billion” with our Bears just yet.

 

TAMING OF THE CACTIPUS: As written earlier, we are down in Phoenix now, so of course C.Bear wanted to go out back to look at our several Saguaro cacti in the back yard. We all picked out one in particular, after a time, that looked mostly like a Cactipus. It has two upturned arms, and at least two families of small noisy birds are making their homes in various eyeholes in its lofty frame.

So, we propped C.Bear up on the patio railing this evening, to watch and study Mr. Cactipus, and we asked him if he was “scared” now. “No”, he said, “not really.” By day, the images of our greatest enemies are just familiar faces, and, by night, they are mostly magnifications of our own great imaginations.

I asked C.Bear what he thought of that. He said, “I don’t know about all that stuff, but, I’ll tell you what, that Mr. Cactipus isn’t fooling anybody any more.”

And so it was ordained, and duly recorded in the Bear Chronicles.

 

Fear is that little darkroom where your negatives are developed. — Michael Pritchard

 

© Alex Forbes, October 15, 1999

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