On the rancho, grizzly bears were considered the outlaws of the animal world. They lived in the nearby foothills, too close for anyone’s comfort, especially since it was easy for them to pay a call at the back door or saunter down the main street of the then pueblo, looking for snacks. When they were hungry, almost nothing stopped them from plundering. Grizzlies were frightening and scary, but no one had been eye to eye with one until the Plum Bear came along.
A plum tree right next to the kitchen adobe was so heavy with fruit its boughs were hanging near the ground, where the bear could have picked all the plums he wanted. But no, our bear climbed the tree, not an easy task for a bear. The Plum Bear decided that he wanted the plums on the end of the bough on top of the roof. Anyone who knew anything about fruit knew that the ripest ones were at the top. Our bear was a fruit expert, and his only choice was to climb the tree and climb onto the roof of the adobe so he could get the best plum. The roof of the old adobe was not made to support bears.
Some women were busy cooking when the bear fell through the roof. His descent into the adobe must have surprised him as much as it surprised the women making tortillas. They ran screaming out of the little house, leaving it to the perplexed bear.
Horses were always kept ready, with riatas coiled at the saddle bow. Upon hearing the screams of the women, several men jumped on their waiting steeds and surrounded the Plum Bear, who had made his way out of the house. He was swiftly lassoed and tied up to a nearby sycamore tree, the best kind of tree for securing bears.
Whenever I heard this story as a child, I felt immensely sorry for the bear who had only wanted to get the perfect plum at the top of the tree. I wondered then, and still do today, if he ever got the plum.
CATTLE GRAZING IN PEACE
Today, instead of Grizzlies, the rancho is home to wild boar, wild turkeys, and white tailed deer. My grandson, a wildlife biologist, takes care of the wild boars, and takes paying customers to cull the deer population when necessary.