b_-j_-daniels-picThere is no place on earth like Yellowstone Park. A writer friend of mine is on her way to the Park this week and it got me thinking about the Yellowstone I knew as a kid.

I grew up in and around Yellowstone. That was back when feeding the bears was one of the attractions. We always carried crackers and a squeeze-bottle of honey and the bears would come up and wait patiently by your open car window while you honeyed up a cracker.

My father did the original rock work at Canyon Village. You know the huge fireplace that hangs down from the ceiling? He built that and did the rock work on that building so for a summer my family lived in the campground at Norris Junction.

I remember one day my visiting cousin Stevie from Texas and I were building a fort in the woods when I looked up and saw a black bear headed for us. Stevie took off for the campground at a dead run. We always laugh because he crossed a creek and didn’t even get his shoes wet.

I was raised around bears. Back then they seemed to be everywhere. We were taught not to be afraid of them since we were around them all the time. Not that we didn’t realize they were dangerous.

One day two mama grizzlies got into a fight right outside our trailer. They sent their cubs up a tree while they battled it out. It was some fight.

Living in Yellowstone and next door to it, we came away with our share of bear stories. While at Norris Campground, a young couple in a VW bug were putting up their tent and left their car doors open. They happened to have a bag of oranges in the back seat. A bear crawled in and begablack-bearn to eat the oranges.

Panicked, they ran down to the ranger station and demanded he get the bear out of their car. He laughed and told them the bear would leave once he was through with the oranges.

And the bear did. Right after that, the couple threw their tent into the back of the VW and were out of there.

My father hired two young hodcarriers while working in the Park. One night they went into Gardiner, had a few drinks and on the way back saw a lone black bear cub beside the road. They’d had just enough to drink that they thought picking up the cub was a good idea. They grabbed the bear and threw it in the back seat.

They didn’t get a half mile up the road before they came flying out of the car. That cub tore the inside of their car to shreds before taking off into the woods.

One of the bricklayers who worked for my father was feeding the bears crackers and honey with his family when his kids got in a disagreement in the back.

He turned around to holler at them. The bear waiting beside his car grew impatient and reached in, grabbed his head and turned him around again. He had scratches from the bear’s claws but no serious injuries.

Bear stories were always the highlight of the campfire chats in the Park in those days. That was back when the campfire chats really were around campfires and we sat on logs and sang songs. My mother always wanted to sing The Yellow Rose of Texas, since that’s where we were from, Texas.

The rangers wogrizzlyuld tell stories about tourists wanting them to wrestle a bear so they could get a picture. Or about the woman who put her baby into a bear’s arms when it stood on its hind legs. She snapped her photo, then retrieved her baby.

While we knew the bears were wild and could be dangerous, they were so common place, sometimes even we forgot just what they were capable of.

I once saw a bear reach into the back of an old station wagon, the kind with the rear window that went down, and take out a box of groceries. It was during a bear jam. The bear sat down in the middle of the road and proceeded to open the can goods. I’ll never forget the way the bear could tear open a can with its claws.

What was scary was that there was a baby sleeping in the back of the station wagon next to the box of groceries. The bear could have just as easily taken the baby.

I still love seeing bears. For years we frequented the dumps at both Gardiner and later West Yellowstone to watch the bears. First the black bears would show up. Then about two in the morning, the black bears would take off and the grizzlies would take over.

During my teens, I lived just outside of West Yellowstone on Hebgen Lake. Where do you think everyone went to park and makeout? You guessed it. The city dump.

At our place on the lake we often had grizzlies in the yard. I remember one night walking home from a neighbor’s house on the point across the bay. I heard something behind my little brother and me and turned to see a grizzly bear following us.

We had been taught to just ignore them – and most definitely not run. The grizzly followed us all the way home.

Years later a grizzly pulled a camper from his tent in that same area and ate him. That campground now requires everyone to stay in hard-sided campers.

Few people see bears when they go to Yellowstone Park now. My daughter saw her first bear on a trip to Canada even though she’d been born and raised around Yellowstone.

I know it’s better for the bears to have less contact with us. But I miss seeing them and I’m glad I grew up in that wilder time.

A friend of mine jokes that the romance in my books isn’t about the hero and heroine but about my love for the part of the west where I have lived and still live.

It’s true. I write about what I love. My latest series, Whitehorse, Montana, is set in country that is still wild and remote and a little dangerous. I like that. J

The Whitehorse series continues Sept. 9 with Smokin’s Six-Shooter and Oct. 11 with One Hot Forty-Five.

Look for more Whitehorse books when the new mini series Whitehorse: The Winchesters begins next April with 6 more Harlequin Intrigue mysteries.

My thanks to Petticoats & Pistols for having me back!

B.J. Daniels









B.J. is giving away FIVE books! All you have to do is leave a comment and you’re entered in the drawing. Don’t miss this opportunity to win a really great Romantic Suspense.

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  1. Welcome, B.J.! Thanks for visiting with us today!
    Great stories, though I’m not sure I would so
    calmly be able to tell the tales! I would still
    be shaking in my boots just thinking about the
    various incidents! Can you tell I’m not an out-
    doors person? LOL!

    Pat Cochran

  2. We do get a few black bears around here, in Wisconsin, but I have to say I’m not comfortable about a confrontation with any of them.

    We camped out in Yellowstone in a tent shortly before that young man was killed. He was from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and only 21 years old. It had a huge impact on us.

  3. B.J. I am glad you were able to grow up around the bears like you did I am sure they understood that you guys were not going to hurt them and so they left you guys alone. I think the bear following you and your brother home was probably making sure you didn’t get hurt and made it home safely.
    I have never seen a bear in the wild not sure what I would do, the only bears I see at the zoo. I do love to watch them but not so sure I would be comfortable if they could be right next to me. To bad they got such a bad name from what some of them had done to people (not saying what they did wasn’t terrible) Great story would love to hear more and I am sure you have tons you could tell us.

  4. Great stories! We have our share of bears, but I’ve never seen one, except in the zoo. Here bears still mostly avoid people. If they started coming to my yard, I would definitely get myself a couple of Karelian bear dogs.

  5. BJ,

    What an informative piece. I love animals so much. I do have an interesting story when I lived in AZ. My daughter was only 2 years old and we were outside suddenly I heard a noise and I looked behind the storage building and there stood a black bear. It raised up and came after us. I grabbed my daughter and ran up the steps, fell, but I still managed to get inside my home as it banged on the door trying to get in. It was really scary. I called 911 and they came and finally they had to kill the animal because there was nothing else they could do for it was very aggressive. Really scared me to death and needless to say the back door was all dented.

    Still I love all animals and it broke my heart that they had to kill it. To me all animals are sacred.

    Walk in peace and harmony,


  6. Wow, those are some interesting bear stories. I’ve never been out West (yet). I like to watch bears on nature shows. That’s close enough for me.

  7. BJ – welcome back to Petticoats & Pistols. We always love having you!

    And wowza – did you ever have some incredible stories to tell! I’m amazed. Feeding a bear honey and crackers? NO THANK YOU! LOL.

    Melinda, what a scary story you had to tell as well. Your little girl was so fortunate you were there to rescue her. Scary stuff!!

  8. Welcome back, BJ! I loved the stories, especially the grizzly “walking you home”. The lady putting her baby in the bear’s arms for a photo op is nearly unbelievable.

    Smokin’ Six Shooter was a feature in my HQ enews. Congratulations on the release!

  9. Hello B.J.,

    Glad you were here today to share your experiences not only at Yellowstone but of one of the most beautiful creatures on earth, the black bear. I loved your stories and wish I had the opportunity to visit during that time. Have a great day.

  10. Fascinating! It’s surprising that more people weren’t hurt by the bears, but then there was so much wilderness that who would know? Thanks for your stories.

  11. Hello B.J. welcome to the P&P! Great post! I have never been to Yellowstone park and have never been aroung bears, except in a zoo. These have been some interesting stories about bears. Maybe some day I will get to visit Yellowstone and see the bears and then I will have stories to tell. Thanks for sharing with us today!

  12. BJ I think you got in on something really special. Dangerous…but special. 🙂
    The story about the mother putting her baby in the bears arms is madness though.

    One of those moments when you think survival of the fittest has been thwarted too much.

  13. Hi BJ, thanks for visiting the Junction. I love those covers!

    And I totally love bears and Yellowstone. Years ago, my future FIL drove the herd to Idaho and passed through Y-stone. We’d just missed Old Faithful and he didn’t want to wait another hour. Boy, did we all have tantrums. He relented LOL.

  14. Enjoyed reading the comments about the bears. I really enjoyed visiting Yellowstone and we went fly-fishing in West Yellowstone. Beautiful area and worth saving for all of us to visit and enjoy.

  15. Good morning everyone! It is so great to be here! I’m glad you enjoyed the bear stories. They kinda come with living near Yellowstone.

    Laurie, that young man’s death near our house had a huge impact on all of us. It was really tragic and now they require you have a hard-sided camper to stay there.

    I hope you can all get to Yellowstone (and see Old Faithful go off 🙂 Winter is a cool time to come out too.

    Again, thank you for the wonderful weapon. It’s nice to be here.

  16. LOL. You’d think I was a mystery writer. I believe I meant to say thank you for the WELCOME not weapon. I don’t even want to think where that came from.

    I started the day on the tennis court early this morning. Then my husband made me a chile relleno omelet. Those are definitely going to be a keeper in our recipes. Yum.

    I’ve been canning like crazy. My husband raised a huge garden. That’s where the chiles came from this morning.


  17. Welcome! I live near the Smokey Mountains,an we have a large bear population here,so seeing the pictures of the bears brings to mind how careful you must be,we have had several attacks lately,they are hungry an used to ignorant people feeding them,an they think everyone has food,or will be food!

  18. Very interesting bear stories. We went to Yellowstone at least 3 times before we saw Old Faithful go off. Twice while my husband was in the service and we were driving home on leave. Didn’t have much time but we drove through the park hoping we could catch it. The last time we were there we spent a couple of days. I brought home a Montana fence post candle holder as a souvenier. It is quite a conversation piece.

  19. Oh my goodness – what stories. Although I love animals of all kinds, some of those stories seemed way too dangerous. I’ve never seen a wild one – just in the zoo or tv – not the same thing lol. I think it’s wonderful that you write what you love and know so well.

  20. Pam, thanks for much for the wonderful bear photos! It is still such a thrill to see a bear. My husband just got back from the West Boulder, down by Livingston. He had the dogs with him and thought the rustling in the bushes below him on the mountainside was one of them until he saw a big black paw reach up out of the bushes!

    Vickie, you’re so right about our ignorance of wild animals. It’s scary to think how dangerous it was to put honey on crackers for them. They still come down into towns to steal dog food and garage. We even had bear scat in our front yard when we lived in a subdivision in Bozeman. But we never left any food out.

    Judy, your fence post candle holder sounds great.

    I’ve been thinking about putting a murder mystery in West Yellowstone for sometime now. Writing about the area has me thinking it must be time. 🙂

    Great to hear from all of you.

  21. I just read an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about bears, of all things. 🙂 The new rule I regret is, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” They believe that once a bear starts looking to people for food, then they will become more aggressive toward people.
    Anyway, they are replacing the garage cans in Yellowstone with bearboxes, that apparently keep the bears out (I find this humorous because for years the bears have been figuring out the new garbage cans).
    But these apparently work. A bearbox costs $1,000. Anyone who contributes a bearbox, gets his/her name on a plaque on it. If you’re interested, go to http://www.ypf.org/bearbox or call 406-586-6303.
    Thought you’d find that interesting.

  22. Wow B.J. What great bear stories! Thanks for sharing. I definitely keep my windows up even in Wild Country Safari places!! I hope to get to Yellowstone someday!

  23. I have always wanted to visit Yellowstone.

    Bears are beautiful animals but dangerous. I have spotted a few in the Smoky Mountains.

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

  24. It is great to hear from all of you. I was afraid everyone would be off camping for the long weekend. 🙂

    Yellowstone really is something to see. It is so varied with mudpots and geysers and a beautiful lake and always lots of buffalo and elk. Anymore the former “bear jams” are now moose jams — with the road blocked because everyone stops and gets out to see what’s going on.

    Fall or spring is the best time to see the Park. Or as I said, by snowcoach in the winter.

  25. Welcome back to Petticoats & Pistols, B.J.! Loved your post! I’ve never been to Yellowstone, but one of these days I’d love to see it. Your bear stories are terrific. I’d be very wary, though. Bears are BIG!

  26. BJ,
    Have been a fan of your Harlequin Intrigues for many years. Have several sitting on my to be read shelf at the moment.
    Amazing what we do in our youth and/or ignorance that is really dumb. Not that we know any better, but we look back and sometimes wonder how we survived. Unfortunately, even now when we know how dangerous it is to get close to wild animals, we see people doing really stupid things. We were in Yellowstone a few years ago and despite all the warnings, still saw people walking up to bison and elk (during rutting season). There was a traffic jam out on one of the roads and maybe 50 people had stopped to watch a mother black bear and her cubs. The mother and one cub were up a tree getting pine cones and one cub remained on the ground. There was a ranger there keeping people from going right up to the tree. As it was, the bears were barely 100 feet from the road. One gentleman stopped and had just come from a parking lot where a large grizzly had just walked through among the cars.
    I grew up in the Adirondacks and only had black bears to contend with. We only had trouble with them a few times when picking berries. Lately though, they have become more aggressive both in NY and here in the Smokies where we now live. We are near a bear preserve and they are in peoples yards, crossing the roads, getting into corn fields. One attacked my son in the field behind our house a few years ago. This is the time of the year they are on the move and everyone is concerned. The one that clawed my son threatened a neighbor a few days later. It has left claw marks on the side of another neighbor’s house. My sister in NY is having trouble with one that keeps coming up to the house and looking in the windows.
    Good luck with you new series. I’ll be looking for it.

  27. LOL. I hope none of you have bear nightmares tonight! Or that it keeps you from going camping!

    This was really fun. Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

    I thought I would go ahead and announce the winners since it is getting late back on the east coast.

    I drew names and they are: Tracy, Quilt Lady, Mary Connealy, Tanya Hanson and Jeanne Sheats. Just send me your snail mail addresses and I will be happy to send you a book! My email is bjdaniels@mtintouch.net

    Again, thank Pam and everyone at Petticoats & Pistols. It is always fun,

  28. Hi BJ, I loved the blog and already told you about my bear story on the Intrique website. Really enjoyed the bear stories! Cee Jay

  29. All wild animals are beautiful, but people should always remember that they are just that, wild and to be on the alert.


  30. Oh my, you are one brave woman! I don’t even want to think about ever coming into contact with a bear. I laughed so hard at your cousin’s feet not touching the water because that would definitely be me! I’m the one in the family who gets ribbed because once when I was little, my dad had gone crabbing and was boiling the live crabs in a pot on our stove. One crab decided he wasn’t going down without a fight, so he grabbed the side of the pot with one claw and swung himself back out. Let me tell you, I bolted all the way to the back of our shotgun house, slamming every door behind me, and hid in my grandma’s laundry room until someone rescued me. haha, I don’t know where I thought that crab was going, but I didn’t stick around to find out! I definitely couldn’t keep my cool if faced with a bear.

    I’m new to this site and the genre, but that gorgeous thing on the cover of Smokin’ Six Shooter has me convinced it’s a good place to start!

    Thanks for the laugh and the great stories!

  31. LOL N’awlin Dawlin’, that is a great crab story! My daughter is really brave growing up in Montana. But she was here visiting and a bat go into the house. Her husband was astonished when she covered up her head with a coat and hid in a chair until they got the bat out. He said, “That’s the first time I’ve been you afraid of anything!”
    So we all have our fears huh. 🙂

    I think I have a much healthier respect for bears now than even as a kid because of the run-ins with humans that ended up with the human getting hurt or killed. My husband tho isn’t afraid at all. I make him carry bear spray when he goes with friends in Yellowstone. I told him if he doesn’t want to save himself fine, but he will want to save his friend. 🙂 Men.

    Thanks again everyone. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

  32. Diane, that’s a great museum. And the Tetons are beautiful to the south of Yellowstone. When I lived on the lake north of West Yellowstone, we didn’t have a high school so we were bused 65 miles down to Ashton, Idaho to school. I got to see the Tetons every morning and afternoon. That was one of the joys of that trip!

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