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Bear family comes to town: Local author tells a furry tale

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Once upon a time, but not so long ago, a mother bear and her three cubs became celebrities of a sort in Glenwood Springs. It was the Millennial Year, 2000, when the bear family was seen in town eating fruit off back yard trees, overturning trash cans, and promenading on 7th Street to the delight of onlookers.

Joan Anderson of Glenwood Springs avidly followed their exploits.

“I thought, this has got to be recorded,” she said, and at the urging of her daughter, Angie Parkison, Anderson decided to write a children’s book about the bears.

Anderson recently published “A Visit to the Valley,” the charming story of the Mama Bear and her three cubs, Ruff, Tuff and Puff. She also illustrated the book with watercolor pictures of the bears in familiar locales in Glenwood Springs. The cover of the book shows them marching down the hills behind the town, with the stores on the 800 block of Grand Avenue in the foreground.

The story tells of the bears’ hunt for food before beginning their winter sleep.

There were few berries and acorns that year because of drought, so the bears went to town to search for food. They feasted on the contents of trash cans Mama Bear knocked over. A man with a flashlight chased little Puff, the runt of the litter, up a telephone pole.

Their search for food led them through Glenwood Springs neighborhoods and even down by the train depot where crowds of people looked on, scaring Mama and the cubs. They ran down to the river bank and swam across but not before Mama had to rescue little Puff by carrying him on her back across the river.

The bear family finally made their way back up to the hills to their den and settled down for their winter nap.

Anderson, who owned Anderson’s Clothing with husband Phil for 28 years, wasn’t an author when she decided to write the bears’ story, but she has one in the family.

Angie Parkison published a history of Glenwood Springs, “Hope and Hot Water: Glenwood Springs From 1878 to 1891,” in 2000.

Parkison’s husband, Don, also had some sage advice for Anderson.

“He said, `Keep it brief and to the point and write it for an eight-year-old. Let the pictures tell the story,'” she said.

Reluctant at first to illustrate the book – she’s only had one art class, and that was 35 years ago – she tried her hand at the pictures and came up with 34 watercolors for the book.

“It took me about eight months,” she said.

At first, she thought to get a publisher interested in the book, but after waiting months to hear back, she decided to publish it herself with Parkison’s help.

Anderson was impatient to have the book published before people forgot about the Mama Bear and her three cubs.

“I wanted to do it so people would remember this bear,” she said.

Parkison composed the story on her home computer, melding the text with the illustrations.

She then took the finished product to Gran Farnum Printing, where the printers explained that an offset printing of the book would be very expensive. They suggested she take the pages to a local copy shop and have them reproduced on a color copier, which she did.

Gran Farnum printed the cover and sent the covers and pages to a bindery in Utah, Parkison said.

So far, 200 copies have been printed. They’re available for $16 at local bookstores including Through the Looking Glass and the Book Train downtown and Red Mountain Books in the Glenwood Springs Mall.

As a sad postscript to the story, Anderson said she heard the Mama Bear had been sighted around town the following year, but with only two cubs. Puff, the little runt, apparently did not survive the winter.


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