Photos by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 — Larry said he did it all the time, walked Cocoa down a path behind the general store to the river and let him play. Nobody paid much mind. Normal to hear them crashing through the water, wrestling, like brothers. The guy who’d owned the store previously kept pit bulls, loud and mean, awful things, and so Cocoa was an improvement even if people had never seen such a creature before in the Ozarks. Larry called him a cinnamon bear, though the chest stripe suggested a land far more exotic, and in the mornings you’d find him sitting on the bench swing outside the store, straight-backed, folded paws, just another customer waiting for Larry to open shop. Imagine that—You come over early looking for coffee and find Cocoa, silent and watchful, like you hadn’t yet come all the way up from a dream. Larry kept him on a chain most of the time and used the stick not for hurting but for guiding. Suggesting. Keeping a little distance. On this day, though, the play turned bad and Cocoa ended up on top of Larry, pinning him to the bottom of the Little Buffalo, watching his air go. It was a great game—all those bubbles, the little arms flailing, the lousy stick floating downstream. When Cocoa finally let off, Larry slowly rose and stood there in the water, half-drowned and drooling. Eventually the two dripped back toward shore. There were chores ahead, customers waiting. Day was getting hot. Who knows what had passed between them or where things went from there.
#arkansas #ozarks #littlebuffaloriver #bears #sunbear #bearsofinstagram #rivers #adryseason #watershedstories #new_haiga #wildcountry #backwoods @natgeo @natgeocreative
Part of a series exploring the small stories that surround and connect us, and how we stumble through them—capturing, missing, and making meaning.