There is an age-old disorder that affects newcomers to Alaska known as “Bearanoia.” Usually this anxiety filled affliction is largely due to spending too much idle time listening to—and believing—anything an old Alaskan says regarding bears. This Nugget takes place in the Livengood mining camp and shows the lighter side of life at the expense of a newcomer.
Fairbanks Daily News Miner- June 10, 1918
BEAR OF A WAY TO SCARE BEARS
Oldtimer Reveals a Secret Charm to Chechako to Protect Himself from Bruin of the Hills
An interesting story is going the rounds of a novel and without doubt effective means of self-protection which was adopted by a Chechako (a newcomer to Alaska, pronounced ‘Chē-chä-ko) to protect himself from assault by bears while traveling in the woods in the Tolovana country (today known as Livengood, pronounced ‘Lī-vin-good).
It appears that a well-known sourdough made a trip to his home town Outside after a number of years in Alaska, and upon his return was prevailed upon by one of the younger citizens of the town to bring him to Alaska that he might delve for the elusive paystreak and acquire wealth and affluence untold.
The trip in was made over the long trail in the dead of winter, and the monotony of the days’ rides was lightened by reminiscences, on the part of the Sourdough and others on the stage, of incidents pertaining to experiences with bears and other species of wild animals which they had encountered during the years of their lives in Alaska.
The bear stories were particularly harped upon, and the effect on the Chechako was that he began to have momentary expectation of running into a herd of them with each new turn of the road. His fears were set at rest, however, when he learned that Bruin was still profoundly wrapped in the arms of his long winter sleep, and the journey to their destination (of Livengood) was accomplished without further apprehension on the part of the newcomer.
The work of prospecting a piece of ground, belonging to the Sourdough, filled the mind of the Chechako for a number of weeks, and the bear stories were for the time forgotten. But the miracle of spring bursting forth, brought back with a shock, the thought that Bruin would soon be about. The telling of the killing of one of the species by a chance visitor one evening confirmed the fears for his safety, so that evening he inquired to his Sourdough friend, what to do to protect himself. He had a beautiful rifle, of the very latest model, but to carry it with him continually as he felt he should do was an ample measure of safety, seriously interfered with the proper application of pick and shovel and guidance of the wheelbarrow. Said friend told him in the utmost confidence, that and effective means of self-protection would be to wear a cow bell suspended around his neck, its jangling tending to frighten away any predatory beast which might otherwise have evil designs on his person.
The Chechako soon afterwards espied a large bell hanging in the eaves of the cabin, one which had been used on the pack horses when they were turned to pasture, and he made haste to acquire it. Fitting it about his neck with a stout cord, he never presumed to leave the cabin without it. The old Sourdough, to make his joke perfectly good, put the other men in the vicinity onto the story, and they put themselves out of their way to give Chechako assurance that he was using his head.
The climax of the affair was reached when the Chechako rushed wildly into the cabin one day with a young bear close upon his heels. The bear had followed him for a considerable distance to discover what the ringing noise was.
Note: Even today, folks wear bells out in the woods and “Bearanoia” is still just as prevalent as it was in the old days. This bear of a History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska, who remind everyone to remember your bells when going out in the woods!