Today is Fred Bear’s birthday. If he were still alive Papa Bear, as they called him, would have turned 110 years old. Each year I recall his birth date, just as I remember the day he died in 1988.
I suppose in a way I was born into a privileged class. Certainly not privileged by monetary or material standards, but because I was born a northern Michigan native and grew up in the shadow of Fred Bear. My earliest memories of him are seeing him at the Bear Archery headquarters just a few miles down the road. My dad had become a bowhunter, no doubt inspired by our neighbor, and the hobby meant frequent trips to the only archery supplier around.
On one such occasion Fred Bear greeted us at the door. While my dad took care of business, Fred led me around the store by my hand. I remember him telling me to hold his hand as we walked around as there were many things that could hurt me if I were not careful. I viewed in complete amazement the magnificent trophies he collected from around the world and even received my first archery introduction from the father of modern bowhunting himself. On a later adventure to Bear Headquarters (they were all adventures for a little kid) I received my very first bow from Fred Bear. I don’t know if it was truly a gift or if my dad bought it and just allowed him to give it to me. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I still have a bow today that transferred from his hands to mine.
I have no doubt, that despite my young age, it was Fred Bear who ultimately influenced my love for archery. At the time I did not recognize him as a celebrity or legendary figure. He was just Fred Bear. It was not until many years that I recognized just how fortunate I was to have known, even for just a while, this great man. I am forever thankful for his influence and I wish there more people like him in the world today.
He once said, “I feel like one of God’s chosen people, having had the opportunity to share, with many fine companions, these varied and lovely realms of our natural world.”
And I, Papa Bear, truly believe I was favored by God for the opportunity to have spent time with you.
Photo of Fred Bear from the Bowhunter’s Hall of Fame http://www.bowhuntershalloffame.com/members/bearfred/index.html