In the season of 1967 one of the first to arrive at Kellys Camp was Joan Berry of Ephrata, Wash., a schoolteacher descended from the original homesteader. With her three children, ranging from 6 to 16, Joan Berry moved into her customary dwelling, "the big house," largest of the cabins on the property. Her husband, Don, would commute back and forth to his radio station in Ephrata.
It was shortly after the middle of June when Mrs. Berry first saw the bear. She glanced out the back window of the house toward a little indented area where garbage and trash barrels were kept, and saw an animal that puzzled her. Joan Berry was no stranger to grizzlies after a lifetime of summers in Glacier, and this bear was plainly a grizzly, with its dished-in face and conspicuous hump just behind the head. But she had never seen so ragged a bear. One expected grizzlies to be somewhat mangy and dull in the early summer, after a winter of hibernation, but this bear's physical appearance was markedly worse than average. The hair on the mane behind the hump, usually luxuriously thick, was short and thin, and when the animal leaned over to dip into the Berry family's trash barrel, Mrs. Berry could see bald spots along the line of the backbone. The head was long and narrow, almost misshapen. The animal had the frame of a large bear, upward of 500 pounds, but the body was so emaciated and scrawny that Mrs. Berry doubted if it would weigh half that much.
The strange bear was as different from other grizzlies in action as in appearance. Mrs. Berry would look up from her housework in the primitive cabin and see the animal digging into the trash barrels in bright daylight, and when she would make tentative noises to frighten the bear away, it would stand and look at her unabashedly, or even take a few menacing steps in her direction.
Soon the bear was visiting the garbage cans behind the big house every three days, almost as though it were on a schedule. After only a few visits, the bear seemed to become acutely annoyed by motion inside the house, and it would charge the walls or slap at the tiny windowpanes. The Berrys had disciplined themselves to remain inert when the bear was around, but they could not discipline their German shorthair. If the dog barked when the bear was outside, the result was an instant attack.
One night as Joan Berry lay in bed she heard the familiar noises from the garbage cans. The bear was right on time; it had been exactly three days since its last visit. Mrs. Berry jumped out of bed and ran to get the dog, but the big pointer had heard the noises himself and raced into the kitchen barking and growling. Almost in the same second there was a thump and the back door started to buckle inward. Mrs. Berry held her breath as the bear crashed into the door once again, and she pulled and shoved the dog into another room and locked him in. The next time she looked out the back window, the bear was calmly selecting foodstuffs from the cans as though nothing had happened to disturb its equanimity.
A few days after this incident, Kellys Camp was noisy for a change. The day was bright, and the camp was full of vacationers and multiples of their children running about. Up on the porch of cabin No. 2 a feast had been laid out on a big table. A good time was going to be had by all, for this June 29, 1967 was the 57th birthday of one of the most popular of the camp's regular guests: W.R. (Tete) Hammond, a kind and gentle man who, with his wife, had been spending summers at Kellys Camp since 1955 and had long since come to be regarded as the unofficial marshal of the place. It was late in the afternoon when the guests began arriving, and soon there were nine on the wooden porch. They were singing Happy Birthday to You and other tributes that embarrassed Tete Hammond no end, and then somebody served a few drinks. One of the birthday celebrants strolled to the end of the porch and looked down the steep flight of eight or 10 roughhewn steps that led to the forest floor and saw a bear standing there taking it all in. Somebody shouted, "Get the food inside!" Tete rushed to get a look at the bear before it could run away. It was the scrawny, mangy grizzly. As Tete watched from the head of the stairs, the bear calmly began walking toward the cabin. Tete shouted at it and made a few threatening gestures, but the grizzly continued on a straight line toward the foot of the steps. When the animal reached the bottom and began climbing, Tete shouted for everybody to get inside and picked up a heavy bench about four feet long. The animal was halfway up the steps when Tete lifted the bench and sent it crashing down. The edge of the bench hit the bear's foot, but the animal showed neither pain nor panic. It backed down the stairs, stood up on its hind feet and snorted, then dropped down and walked slowly into the brush.
Once again the party was resumed, but only a few minutes had passed when Tete heard screams from the south end of the camp. Someone was hollering, "Get a gun!" Tete went to his cabin and picked up his old lever-action .25-35 and hurried toward the noises. (Firearms, barred in Glacier Park itself, were permitted at Kellys Camp, since it was private property.) On the way he met his 9-year-old grandson and a girl of about 14 walking rapidly along the dirt road. Just as they reached Tete, the boy said in a loud whisper, "Don't run, but walk as fast as you can!" Tete looked down the road and saw the bear coming toward them at a range of about 60 feet. While the children rushed toward a cabin, Tete levered a cartridge into the chamber, clicked off the safety and drew a bead on the hurrying animal, and when it was clear to him that the grizzly was not going to slow down, he fired a warning shot into the dirt about three feet from the bear. The animal stopped short and rose to its hind feet in the classic position of attack. Tete cocked the gun again and raised it to his shoulder. He held the grizzly's head square in the sights and was about to begin a slow squeeze on the trigger when the animal dropped down and circled around the back of a cabin. Tete waited, and a short time later he heard a scream from the big house. He rushed over with his rifle cocked, but the bear had dashed to another part of the camp. Tete ran to his telephone and called park headquarters for help. An hour and four phone calls later, the bear was still foraging around the camp and no ranger had arrived. It was almost dark when the frightened citizens of Kellys Camp heard the sound of a vehicle driving up and two armed rangers got out. They explained that they were sorry it had taken them so long, but they had been attending a first-aid course. They told the people not to worry, that they had seen the bear scurrying up the ridge toward Trout Lake as they had driven toward the camp.
"I don't claim to be an authority on bears," Tete Hammond spoke up, "but I'll tell you one thing for sure. That bear wasn't acting right. No, sir, that was no normal bear."
A few days later a ranger executive arrived in Kellys Camp on a routine visit, and Joan Berry, who had been away from the camp on the bear's most recent intrusion, took him to one side and said, "We've got a sick bear, a crazy acting bear around, and I wish you'd do something about it."
The official asked for a description of the animal and Mrs. Berry told him that it was a dark grizzly with a big, emaciated frame and a thin, elongated head. "I'm sure that he's dangerous and somebody's going to get hurt," the schoolteacher said.