Vol. 10


The Bear Man

1893; Bagley, North Carolina, USA

My great-great-great-grandmother Mary Godwin lived many tales. Deep in her home in Clayton, North Carolina, she would recite these stories to her daughter, Blanche, who would write them down. I like to close my eyes and imagine them sitting by their kitchen stove — Mary in her rocking chair, Blanche on the floor listening intently.

One particular story took them back to when Mary was a young mother in the small town of Bagley, North Carolina, in 1893. In fact, Bagley was so small it had only two houses — one of which belonged to Mary, and the other to her sister.

Mary had two children, Clarence and Flora, and was expecting a third, Blanche. As most brothers do, Clarence took pleasure in aggravating his sister. To stop the quarreling, Mary would say, “Clarence, stop aggravating Flora, or the Bear Man will get you!”

None of them had ever seen the Bear Man, but had heard there was a man who walked from town to town, leading a bear on a chain. Clarence took lightly upon his mother’s words, not bothering to worry over a man and his bear that probably didn’t exist.

"The Bear Man" - Illustration by Andrew Uihlein: Man and bear play accordion by railroad tracks as boy hides behind logBut this, this was different — not some fantasy frightening children into behaving — for as soon as she said it, a strange music drifted down the railroad. They all looked up. To Clarence’s horror, the Bear Man, chain and all, appeared beside the railroad playing an instrument. Clarence dove behind an old pine log, left over from building their house, resulting in a mouthful of dirt. The Bear Man did not stop, most likely engaged in trying to get his bear to dance for crowds to his eerie music. This is what he did for a living. Sadly, Clarence did not know this.

Oh, how Flora must have loved to taunt her brother with the idea of the Bear Man and how ridiculous he looked as he dove behind the log! Nevertheless, Clarence always behaved in fear that the Bear Man would return.

Elizabeth Norris; North Carolina, USA

Illustrator: Andrew Uihlein; Missouri, USA (Also on book cover)


This copyrighted story and illustration may be copied for limited classroom use or reprinted in an article about The Grannie Annie.


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