The Power of Native American Fetish Carvings – Story of the Midnight Bear

This is a true story and one that I wrote up for our local newspaper. Here in Colorado, there are many bear incidents every year but I never expected to have one of my own. You’ll never convince me that the outcome didn’t have something to do with the bear fetish. You’ll see. Here’s my story.

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Gerald Burns

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Gerald Burns

By Cherry Hill
Correspondent
North Forty News
Larimer County Colorado
October 2007

It was the last Wednesday in August when the cricket moved into our house.

We were just headed to bed when I heard a loud chirp on my side of the bed. Richard and I looked behind and under everything in that corner for the elusive cricket but finally gave up about 10:30. Around midnight when we were just into that wonderful deep sleep, I surfaced because of an odd noise that didn’t fit my dream.

Quite matter-of-factly I said, “Richard, there’s an animal in the house.” Groggily he replied, “I heard it, too, but thought it was you stomping crickets.”

He got out of bed and grabbed the flashlight from the nightstand. A minute later he came back reporting that the front door was wide open and the remote controller bin near my recliner had been knocked over.

“One of the cats probably came in, knocked it over and got scared and ran back out.”

For 20 years during the warm months, we’ve slept with our solid doors open, inviting in the cool mountain breezes through the screen doors. On a gusty night, a screen door could blow open, but on this particular night, it was perfectly still.

“How did the door get open and why would a cat head to that specific spot?” I wondered as I lay there not able to sleep.

Then I heard it again. This time, Richard rolled out of bed more with the interest of an explorer. After a minute or so, I tiptoed out to see what was going on. He said in a hushed tone, “You gotta see this…” and for 10 minutes, like two CSIs we combed the living room and dining room with flashlights uncovering clues: front door wide open again, screen shredded, saliva on the recliner, controller with one button popped out, black hair and seeds on the TV table, muddy tracks across the Wall Street Journal, scrape marks and bite marks all the way through my movie notebook and into the top of the wooden table next to my chair.

These calling cards most definitely said a bear had been to visit – and TWICE in the last half hour!

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Travis Panteah

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Travis Panteah

As we went to work with the cleaning supplies and vacuum, I realized that my Native American horse fetish collection that was just inches from the bite and claw marks was exactly as I had left it the night before – completely undisturbed. A fetish is an animal hand-carved out of stone by a Native American artist, typically Zuni. Fetishes are said to embody the spirit of the animal.

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Darrin Boone

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Darrin Boone

What’s odd though, is that just a few days before, I had purchased my first non-horse fetish – a bear that I placed on a book to stand guard above the horse herd. That bear was now lying on his side on top of a book entitled “The Wisdom of the Native Americans.” Could it be that the midnight bear knocked over the bear fetish on his way out the door? Or was it that the bear fetish, using all of his power and strength, pushed the midnight bear out of our house and then was so exhausted that he just had to lie down and rest? Well, I’m sticking with that last version.

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Emery Eriacho

Picasso Marble Zuni Bear by Emery Eriacho

Once we got all the slobber wiped up, we went back to bed. This time we closed and locked both doors.

The next morning, I inspected the back door and saw the bear’s paw marks there, too. It was lucky he wasn’t able to get in the back because that’s where our freezer, spare frig and pantry are located. What a mess that could have been!

I also noticed that on the front door there was one perfect left paw mark in mud on the glass. I could just picture the bear standing on his hinds, balancing with his left paw on the glass as he shredded the screen and pulled open the door with his right. I said to Richard, “Let’s leave that one print there for awhile. I like it as a reminder of our close call.”

Also with the clarity of daylight, we figured out why the bear had been drawn to my recliner area  – he was after the chocolate and caramel calcium chews I keep in a small drawer there. Maybe it was a bear with osteoporosis !!

It was time for our morning cup of tea and a piece of that freshly baked banana bread…but where was the loaf? I had taken the loaf out of the oven just before we went to bed and put it on a cooling rack on the dining room counter. So THAT’S what the bear came back for. We chuckled and knew that forever after, in our house, it would be known as bearnana bread.

Acoma Jet Navajo Bear by David Yazzie

Acoma Jet Navajo Bear by David Yazzie

We know we were lucky. We’ve heard of entire house doors ripped off their hinges, refrigerators and freezers ransacked, furniture shredded, and lots of smashing and crashing as a bear desperately searches for food or panics trying to get out of a house.

Most visiting bears are not so discriminating or polite as was our midnight bear.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Native American Fetish Carvings – Story of the Midnight Bear

    • Thank you ! I can just picture the bear being drawn to our house by the smell of the sweet banana bread wafting out the door…….him coming in the first time but being startled away before he located the treasure…………..then waiting until it was quiet again and then blasting in, grabbing the loaf and high tailing it. We learned that the same week a bear (perhaps the same one) ravaged the back yard of our neighbor, knocking over bird feeders, their burning barrel and barbeque grill and generally destroying anything he could get his paws on. There wasn’t anything of substance that was edible in their back yard yet he smelled residue here and there so kept looking and trashing until it was quite a mess. Because there was a sweet loaf on our counter, he got something to eat and left. We were very very lucky.

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