"There's a Bear in the Willows!"

A few years back we were up at the family cabin on a warm July weekend. One night, cousin Nick was telling stories to the younger kids. As they listened, his stories got scarier and scarier so he could keep their attention and get a big reaction out of them. Toward the end, he started telling stories about how there were bears around the cabin that would eat kids. Their eyes got huge as he told the story.

He pointed to an old bear skin rug hanging on the wall. A sheep rancher had shot it years ago and they tanned it with the hide, claws, and head attached. He told them to look at how sharp the teeth and claws were and how menacing the eyes were.

Finally, one of the older kids hollered out, "there aren't any bears up here! You're lying!"

He tried to convince them that the bears came around all the time but they grew more incredulous.

After dinner, the kids (there were 20 or so) went outside to play hide and seek while the adults played volleyball. They played until dark. Some of them came in to get flashlights and jackets so they could keep playing in the willows and tall grass. 

It got dark enough that the adults all came in to play cards and start a movie. Suddenly, we heard screaming and a herd of kids came wheeling around the end of the cabin from the direction of the willows. They were all terrified!

They were screaming, "BEAR! BEAR! There's a BEAR in the willows!"

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As the last of the kids got to the door we heard a very strange growl and could see the head of a bear peering around the corner. The kids screamed again and some ran to their parents. 

All of a sudden the bear stood up. It was cousin Nick wrapped up in the bear rug. He was laughing so hard he could barely stand. 

He had taken the old bear rug off the wall and sneaked out to the willows and hid until a large group of kids was nearby. When the moment was perfect, in the dark of night, he let out a loud roar and started chasing after the kids. 

It took some of them a couple of years before they would go near the willows again.

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