Gentle Ben

03/30/2013 children  28 comments

 

Who wouldn’t love to read a story of a boy and his pet especially when the pet is a full grow male brown bear? Mark loves gentle Ben, and is trying to save him from his cruel master Fog Benson. Marks father gives him a chance and buys Ben for him. He learns the responsibility of feeding a hungry bear. Mark works on his fathers fishing boat during the salmon run, off the coast of Alaska to pay for the fish Ben eats. The family’s bad luck starts when Fog is hurt by Ben and the town gives Mark an ultimatum, turn Ben loose in the wild or they will shoot him. The story follows their family through these trials showing their faith and fortitude believing a better day would come. Fog Benson and a half a dozen men, including Mud Hole Jones, the big game guide, were congregating in the Club Bar one rainy night. With exception of Jones, all the men were seiners. And typical of seiners with nothing to do until next season, they were spending their time in idle talk. In the course of the evening they discussed everything of interest in and around the sound, and eventually touched on Ben and Mark Andersen.  “I seen ’em this summer,”Jim Patton said leaning heavily against the bar. “that little kid was leadin’ th’ brute across’t th’ tundra like a dog.” “he follows the kid like a dog to,” Ted Adams said. “That’s nothin’. I watched ‘im feed th’ critter a sandwich once,” Charlie Cotton marveled. ” The bear ate it right outa the kid’s hand. No foolin’, I saw it.” “I saw that too,” George Robbins agreed. “Who’d ever thought a kid could train a bear like that? A brownie  mind you.” Fog Benson was taking this all in, a scowl on his flushed face, his thick-lipped mouth set in angry lines. ” That kid never trained nothin’, ” he said with disgust. “Then who did?” Charlie Cotton asked. Benson prodded his chest. “Who do you think owned him for five years?” “You sayin’ you can make that bear lay down, get up, and follow you around like a dog?” Charlie Cotton challenged. “I’m sayin’ if there was any tranin’ done, I done it.” Benson was half angry at being doubted…. They trooped out and up the hill to Ben’s shed, a noisy, laughing crowd bunched together in the pale glow of a hurricane lantern. When they entered the shed Ben was just waking from a week’s solid sleep. He lay half buried in  the hay, staring into the light, utterly listless, his vitality at its lowest ebb. For a moment the men were struck silent by the size of Ben. Charlie Cotton said , ” knew he was big but not this big. Mud Hole Jones said under his breath, “an honest- to- god trophy. George  Robbins said uncertainly, “You sure you wanta go through with this Fog?” “Stand back,” shouted Benson advancing upon the listless Ben. “Get up,” he commanded. “Get up, Ben, Up! Up!  Ben did not move. Benson hauled back and kicked Ben resoundingly in the stomache. He kicked again and again, the sound solid and meaty. Still Ben did not move. In sudden rage Benson dropped the bottle and seized the scythe hanging on the wall. He jabbed Ben again and again, shouting the while. The sharp stabs of pain brought Ben scrambling sleepily out of the hay. He retreated to the end of the chain, with Benson following, brandishing the scythe. Ben was confused by the light, the strange men standing about laughing , urging Benson on, and Benson’s wild shouting. Benson was enraged by the laughter and at the bear’s seaming stupidity. He struck blindly at  his head with the scythe. the sharp blade sliced int Ben’s tender ear almost ripping off a third of it. The searing pain brought the bear suddenly wide awake. With unbelievable speed he was on Benson with a full-throated roar of pain. His great claw-studded paw lashed out, ripping into Benson’s face. It lifted and hurled him across the shed, where he crashed against the wall, a sensless, bloody wreck. There was sudden silence. Ben stood reared on hind legs to his great imposing height. The flickering lantern light threw shadows over his huge form until he looked like some prehistoric monster from another world. He swung his great head, growling ominously, the sound like the rumble of distant thunder. The men backed toward the door. Mud Jones bent over the unconscious Benson and said, “We got to get him to a doctor quick. His face is a mess.” The sudden violence had sobered them. They gathered up Benson, making a cradle of their arms, and carried him hurriedly down the trail to town… I read this book many times. It has some twists and turns in it you don’t expect. I enjoyed the suspense in the story and the great love Mark had for his bear, Gentle Ben.  Author’s note The setting of this story is Alaska before statehood when it was still a territory and America‘s last frontier. It is a land of violent contrasts, of flowers and strawberries growing in the valleys, and of giant glaciers hanging menacingly over those valleys, of timbered forests and brush lands and rugged mountain ranges, and of barren miles of tundra stretching away without a rise or break to mar its flatness. A land of hot summer days and stillness a hundred miles deep, a land of shrieking gales, and cold that cuts to the bone. It is a land where people still travel by dog team and canoe, but also where the prospector in the most remote backwoods will fly by the most modern plane. The people who lived there were, by necessity, a tough and hearty lot, as the first settlers in a new  country always are. There is no Orca City as such. But its description could fit any one of a dozen fishing villages along the cost. Because fish piracy was so common before statehood that it was almost recognized as a legitimate business, the battles between the cannery people and the pirates were numerous and often fatal. Laws were so lax that old timers often said, “In the North, if you really want too, you can get away with anything you’re man enough to do.

 

 

 

English: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis...lodgeontheriver-300x225

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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