1891: They Tackled the Bears | AspenTimes.com
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1891: They Tackled the Bears

In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.”Jim” and “Nelly,” the two silver tip bears occupying the vacant lot adjoining the Times office, have been the cynosure of many eyes since their incarceration, but the focus was readjusted by B. Clark Wheeler’s offer in yesterday morning’s paper, of $15 to any one who would muzzle or chloroform them long enough to fix new and larger collars around their necks. These animals have been living on the fat of the land since their captivity, consequently they have grown rapidly and have been rolling in adipose tissue. Their necks have increased with the rest of their bodies and are now nearly as large as Cleveland’s and in fact No. 12s would not fit them.Well, as soon as day broke yesterday the delegations of bear charmers and bear trainers commenced to flock in toward the corner of Cooper and Monarch. The first applicant was a big terrier who declared that it was his business to captivate bears on the “Ould sod.” “Big Jim,” the bear, got up on his haunches and sized up the brawny form of the Irishman as he put one brogan over the edge of the pen. The other foot followed its mate, but in a twinkling both were out on terra firmer carrying the thoroughly frightened man out of harm’s way, for the brute had untelescoped himself at the joints, making quite a different sized creature from the apparant soft bundle of fur. He had also uncorked himself with a “wouf” that seemed to come from the bowels of the earth, and had made a vicious swipe with his paw that meant business, but the man that trained “b’ars” already had a plenty and declined with thanks, saying, “I don’t feel exactly right this morning,” and sloped.By this time there was a fair sized audience perched on the fence and adjacent building – not to “see the elephant” but to see the boys have fun with the bears. The next applicant for the $15 was a man very common in the big cities. His clothes could be heard a block, and his breath would go about as far. He wore a hat which he called a “dice” and it was cocked at a grotesque angle, which seemed to be in sympathy with a very pug nose. A cigar stub protruding from between his closely shut teeth made a third angle and the three articles seemed to be pointing to some spot in infinity whither his rather faded eye constantly followed. He knew what was wanted but opened up as follows:”Now I get der fifteen, don’t I? Yer ain’t runnin’ no bunco game or yer won’t flim-flam me out er de dough when de job’s done? I want a square deal, pards, and don’t stand no tuff work. See?”He advanced toward the pen in proper attitude, left hand about two-thirds extended and his right well down, guarding the pit of his stomach. It was the “home guard” against the Goths and Vandals.The bears were up and doing as a reception committee of two and “Nelly’s” black eyes were snapping viciously, while “Big Jim” was feinting a little with both mitts to see how his shoulder muscles were in shape. Without the call of time “Der Kid” waded in, “Nelly” acting as a reserve force and referee.”Jim” had never taken boxing lessons, but knew something about the manly art of self defense and when “Der Kid” tried to land a stiff right arm swing, he simply stepped to one side and gave the bruiser a backhanded left in the bread basket that made the dry bones rattle. There was a sharp rally here, “Jim” doing some very clever fighting with both paws landing heavily, and the round ended with “Jim” sending a straight left flush to the center which made the claret flow.At the opening of the second and last round “Jim” evidently determined to rush matters, and grabbed his opponent around the legs. “Der Kid” howled “foul,” and “Nelly,” who had remained inactive up to this time – thinking all fair in war – determined if it was “foul” to at least make it a fair fly and she chipped in. “Der Kid” scooted, much bruised and minus a part of the caboose of his trousers.The evident want of reciprocity on the part of the bears deterred most of the contestants trying, so the contest narrowed down to Ed Clemons, their old trainer, and C. F. Webber of the Times force, the all round athlete. After an hour’s maneuvering and real and brave, hard work, the two men succeeded in effecting a change of collars, not lines, but not without several scars from the long claws. If they (the bears) had known that the change would have given them a new lease on life they would have probably accepted gracefully, but like men they didn’t know when they were getting the best of it.


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