Uncle Charlie Gets Scared Sober

LickingBearby Anniel7/25/16
My father’s youngest brother, Uncle Charlie, was known as a — hmmm, a bit of a scamp? You know the kind, kicked out of movie theaters for scaring girls and making them scream in the serious parts, throwing popcorn from the balcony, it was mostly small stuff. He also raced midget autos, climbed mountains and cliffs, high-jumped, tobogganed, and ski jumped. He thrived on adventure, and sometimes drank too much. Oh, and his heart was on his right side instead of his left.

Both my father’s and grandfather’s normal left-sided hearts were broken when Charlie was killed in a midget auto crash when I was two, and no one ever spoke about him, I think because it took too long to get over the hurt.

One day I found a photo of me in a funny looking auto. I was obviously screaming my head off. Puzzled I took the photo to my mom and asked about it. Dad and Mom finally told me about my Uncle Charlie. They said he had loved me and sometimes took me for short rides in his midget auto, but I wasn’t always happy about it.

That photo kind of broke the ice and got the whole family, even grandpa, talking about Charlie again, and laughing about his exploits.

The following, “Remember the time when Charlie. . .” story is true, but kind of revolting, so beware if you are squeamish.

When I was young we often went to Island Park, Montana, near Yellowstone, so lots of bears were around. I still can’t believe how blasé my mother was when she would calmly shoo them away.

One summer when my father was already a teetotaler and worried about Charlie and some of his drinking buddies, my parents rented the dry cabin they had lived in for several summers. There was not only no well, but no electricity either. Charlie and a buddy showed up to stay for a week and went out boozing every night, coming in late and passing out in their bedrolls on the floor.

One night Charlie was sick with a massive hangover and got up to vomit. He was staggering around in the dark room unable to find the door when he saw the stars out the side window, rushed over, threw the window open, stuck his head out, and proceeded to vomit in the garbage can under the window. A bear who was raiding the can grabbed Charlie’s head and began licking his face and mouth. Did you know Bears will eat anything?

Charlie’s screams woke up everyone in the place. By the time Dad got the Coleman lantern lit the bear had fled, and Charlie was stone-cold sober and crying on the floor. Mom and Dad were able to laugh as they told us kids that story. As I recall they said, my Uncle was a changed man. He didn’t even leave the cabin until it was time to go home, and he, too, became a teetotaler.

Whenever we would go to Island Park I would remember that was the place where both my father made his decision not to drink, and for the short time he had left, my uncle made the same decision.

And I am grateful I never had to learn an easy lesson the hard way. I’m still afraid of bears. • (855 views)

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18 Responses to Uncle Charlie Gets Scared Sober

  1. Lucia says:

    I’d say your uncle was a wise man to learn that he had a destructive nature that needed to be controlled. So much of society believes that people are naturally virtuous and all they need is a chance to let it out.

    I had a scamp of an uncle too who died at the age of 21 from cancer. My grandmother and mother believed he was an angel whom the Lord took early, but I think he would’ve broken their hearts if he lived.

  2. GHG says:

    Annie, I love reading your stories. They are a welcome respite.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    Your gave me my laugh for the day. I can just see the bear licking uncle Charlie’s face.



  4. Bell Phillips says:

    The most amazing thing about this story is that Brad typed “bear licking man’s face” into his computer and found a picture to put with it. The way the internet is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found an even more on-point photo, but thankfully didn’t use it.

    Great story, Annie.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    Your mother’s calm reaction to bears reminded me of a radio commercial from many years ago that involved a family’s reaction to an appearance by Bigfoot (they made a family photo with him).

    • Anniel says:

      I wish I knew where the photo of me in the midget auto wound up. Bigfoot, hmmmm. George Norie’s fans see him a lot. The radio ad must have been for an Instamatic Camera.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I go bike riding and hiking all the time in woods where black bears frequent and have only ever seen one (partially). I had absolutely no fear of bears until I started encountering bike riders who had bells on their bike that were constantly tinkling on their own as they went over bumpy ground. The point was to alert the bears of their presence (and hopefully were not acting as a dinner bell).

    Now I think far more about bears than ever, a victim of the nanny-state mentality, I guess, where we take measures against every possible harm. Or maybe they are just being suitable careful. I’m not sure yet. But if they’ll lick your face and are happy with that, then there is perhaps less to fear from bears than those with the tinklers believe.

    On the other hand, I heard a story the other day about a couple who was hiking or walking somewhere and a bear came up to the couple…slowly…and licked the leg of the lady. The man then started to jump up and down and make all kinds of noise and the bear promptly ran away. The man apparently recognized (so he believed, so it may be) that the bear was actually tasting the woman to see if she was edible. Put that down as a second-hand story. I can’t absolutely vouch for the veracity of it.

    • Anniel says:

      One short true story told to me a few years back. A man living in a rural area in Alaska built his son a sandbox near their front door. The kid was about two and would take his toy trucks out to play in the sand. Te dad told me that one day he opened the front door and saw a bear sitting by the boy so he grabbed his rifle from its rack over the door. He had it aimed and ready to fire when he realized the bear was simply watching his son at play. The kid was making “vroom, vroom” noises and running his trucks up and over the bear’s feet and legs.

      The dad stood there for about ten minutes with his heart racing before the bear quietly got up and walked away. He said he couldn’t pull the trigger on the bear who never hurt his son.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Must have been a no-meat Friday.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, Tonka trucks are pretty cool. Everyone likes them.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          A cousin of mine once had a sandbox right outside his house, and we were playing in it one day (about half a century ago) when something (probably a noise) led us to look up at the sky. We say some silvery ball moving across the sky in the distance. It’s the only UFO I can ever recall seeing, though I can make a guess that it was probably some sort of balloon. But who knows? Something made us look up, after all.

      • Rosalys says:

        Wow, Annie! Two great stories in one post! I love these stories of yours.

        And Mr. Zu’s – we haven’t had one from him for a while.

        • Anniel says:

          We’ll keep all bears far away when you do a cruise to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. Wait, that’s wintertime, the bears are hibernating, and no cruises. Just lots of snow to shovel.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    I told my wife your Uncle Charlie story and she thought it was very good.

    We both wondered if the bear was a Baptist.


  8. Glenn Fairman says:

    That was pure gold, Annie.

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