When I was a kid — way before the World Wrestling Foundation, E.T. or even Star Wars — the Saturday evening entertainment wasn’t a night out at the movies, it was watching black bears gorge themselves on table scraps at the Newcomb dump.
Back before it became politically incorrect to heave your bags of trash into the big crater in the earth, dumps in locales like Newcomb, Long Lake and Tupper Lake were legendary for nightly visits from bruins who became supersized on discarded leftovers.
We’d kick back in ratty lawn chairs and watch them for hours as house flies buzzed around their tiny clamshell ears. We’d give them names like Bone Crusher, Pizza Face and Budweiser.
Oh how we’d chuckle.
Locals would recognize them year after year and would speak about them over morning coffee.
They’d say things like, “Pizza Face looks like he’s a muffin over 600 pounds this year.” And, “I nearly smacked Budweiser this morning with my pickup.”
Even more fun was watching the visiting flatlanders who — forgetting the fact that Budweiser, Pizza Face and Bone Crusher were wild creatures capable of swatting them off the planet like a black fly — would attempt to feed them by hand or get close enough to add one to the background of a family portrait.
I once saw a guy nearly lose his hand in an attempt to feed a marshmallow to one absolutely humongous bear as his three young children looked on in horror. Of course, we later named the bear Marshmallow.
Oh, those were the days.
Today, things are different. Dumps are now transfer stations (just exactly where do they transfer all that great bear food to anyway?) and bears have been forced to fall back on their natural instincts for food.
Editor’s Note: The following is a firsthand account written by my son Harrison, age 10, with help from my daughter Malena, age 8, about an encounter they had with a wild bear at their home in Schroon Lake. They titled the piece, “The Sunday Bear.”