Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oswald's Bear Ranch

About 8 miles into the countryside past the little town of Newberry in the Upper Penninsula lies a bear rescue ranch. I'm not necessarily a proponent for keeping wild animals in captivity, but like so many other accepted practices in the world, I must make peace with it.

Since I was passing through the area this past summer with some time to kill, I paid the $10.00 lone traveler fee and walked the grounds while observing the 28 or so black bears that resided in these mostly natural habitats - except for the fences.

This one particular young bear had an incredible spirit and a unique look. Instantly, I felt a connection with this bear. His fur was brownish instead of black. He plopped down with his arms hanging over a small ledge in the earth where it had eroded and transitioned into sand. He layed there looking around as he flexed his paw open and closed on a small twig.

The owner of the ranch is Dean Oswald. In the gift shop, there is a wall full of framed accolades highlighting his athletic prowess; from hockey, baseball, wrestling and boxing. He actually turned pro in boxing. Had his nose broke 17 times. He was a Marine (he turned down a wrestling scholarship to join the Marines) and FireFighter. He and another man were the originators of the Tough Man contest in 1979.

Before leaving, a stop into the baby bear pen was made. After paying a fee, I entered with a ladel of honey and was able to rub the little guys head for a moment, as he was fixated with the honey spoon. His head was like a rock with very coarse hair.

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