Bear Wraslin'

I can still hear that band's endless elevator tune as one challenger after another signed up, and signed off, foregoing all rights to claims of  personal injury of every sort that any normal wild animal could inflict.  

Round one (the only one) started with the bear in the center of the ring, hunched over into a ball.  At first, I had no idea just how to grab him. After all, he was only about three and a half feet high, and looked to be roughly nine feet around. This being the case, you can imagine my astonishment (maybe, you can) when, as I approached, he suddenly stood upright, transferring his physical mass in morph-like fashion from the previously stated dimensions to those that would stun a quantum physicists. 

Simply put, when he shuffled his back feet together, his six feet seven-ness towered over me.  

Although he made it clear that it was not by his own choosing, he sported a muzzle. Good thing, too. He was constantly slobbering through it and trying to bite me, all the while groaning, growling and leaning my way with all 450 pounds of his muscular, fur-covered self.  To my recollection, it was 'all even' for every bit of 6 seconds, and then I put the 'move' on.  

Actually, I accidentally tripped him and we both went crashing down. I remember the referee saying to me as we hit the mat, "Don't trip the bear. He doesn't like that."  Too late, I had done something my worthy opponent did not like... at all. I landed on top of him and remember a faint, dulled shout of "Yeah!!" from the crowd.  Faint, no doubt, because my ears, nose and  mouth were packed with fur. His arms were similar to small sequoias, gently squeezing the life out of me with an inescapable bear hug, and quicker than you can click out of this page, the animal twisted himself up on top of me, slobbering away and gouging his muzzle into my neck.

Match over. 

Upon his turn, my friend, Jerry Cook's fate was sealed just as quickly -  although we still argue over who was able to avoid defeat the longest. (The bear's trainer said he had never been pinned. No wonder, either. Nothing less than a fully loaded concrete truck could have managed such a thing.)

This escapade came about when Jerry called one day in 1973 and said, "Hey, there's a bear we can wrestle over at the Boat Show at Freedom Hall." 

How it was that bears and boats came together under one roof never crossed our minds. We'd been in boats before, but since nether of us could recall wrestling a bear, we felt that not participating would leave a serious naturalist's gap in our education. A camera was taken along, and there you have it. 

Click here for a fuzzier view...