Blackie the Beer Drinkin’ Bear …

Saloons and beer are synonymous with Texas… but add a black bear and you got troubles that not even an old west sheriff could handle.

The much chronicled story begins in the 1890’s and takes place in Claude, Texas, a newly established small town along the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad about thirty miles east of Amarillo in the panhandle.

One of the saloon owners, Jim Scarborough, had an unusual pet and sometimes customer … a black bear rightfully name Blackie. A bear in itself would today be an oddity here, but a century ago there were many down in the Palo Duro Canyon.

According to the ol’ timers, Blackie was captured as a cub during a round-up in Ceta Canyon and taken to the Rush Creek Camp. Later he was adopted by Scarborough. The saloon keeper kept the animal on a long chain just outside the saloon door.  Perfectly tame, Blackie furnished considerable entertainment for cowboys who stopped by for a slug.  Frequently the bear would wander inside and beg for beer.  A customer would usually buy him a little nip. Satisfied, Blackie would give the donor a grateful nudge before lumbering outside the saloon and resume his sentry duties.

Blackie sometimes caused a bit of commotion with dogs that ran loose through the dirt streets. They’d yap and snap at him when they passed the saloon.  Needless to say, they annoyed the heck out of Blackie. It didn’t take long before the unusual saloon icon figured out a way to handle the suckers.

Knowing the length of his chain, he would allow the mutts to back him in a corner knowing full well the radius of a circle his chain allowed.  Having plenty of chain length, he would then pounce, give the dogs a good whoopin’ and send them howling back home with their tails between their legs.

Every now and again, Blackie would manage to slip his chain and take a stroll through town. Although nobody was scared of him, he generally got into some kind of mischief when he went on the lamb.

Before he was fully grown, when roaming the streets, his favorite trick was to head for the hotel managed by a Mrs. Weaver. As was the custom in the day, she kept a rain barrel but hers was just outside the dining room window of the hotel.

One hot summer day while Mrs. Weaver was fixin’ the noonday meal she heard water splashing. Fairly certain it was Blackie, she grabbed up a broom and headed for the front porch.  She clobbered the bear every time he raised his head above the rim of the rain barrel. Blackie finally managed to escape the barrel, the broom, and woman who was mad enough to peel the skin off a rattler with her bare hands.

But ol’ Blackie wasn’t about to let a woman get the better of him.

Seeing the front door open, he ran inside, down the hall, through the hotel’s dining room, leaving a dripping trail all the way.  It didn’t say this in the account I read, but I’d imagine, like most furry animals, he shook and let water fly all over the place.

Blackie  finally escaped  —  the hard way by jumping right through the dining room window …  right into the rain barrel all over again!

Ol’ Blackie was a favorite of the whole town despite his many forays in Mrs. Weaver’s rain barrel; and I’m sure he was responsible for other mischief in the small Texas town.

I sometimes wonder if ol’ Blackie had something to do with the fact that for many years to come Armstrong County was dry … no liquor served or sold in the county, even today.  What do you think?


To kick off the holiday season with Bloggin’ Tuesday, for one lucky person who leaves a comment, I’ll send them a signed copy of our anthology, A Texas Christmas.

I’m pleased to say that  A Texas Christmas is a Rhapsody Book Club selection in their 2012 holiday catalogue in hardback, but it, along with our other five anthologies, are still available at and in both mass market and ebook formats.

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

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30 thoughts on “Blackie the Beer Drinkin’ Bear …”

  1. I loved to read Blackie’s story. It’s strange to know bears were so common in town those days. I can’t imagine having one on my porch right now…

  2. What a great story, Phyliss. Interesting that even when Blackie got loose he stayed in town instead of heading for the tall timber and freedom. Guess he’d decided that was his home territory.

  3. I can’t imagine befriending a big bear, especially one who likes to drink beer. Cute story though! An expensive lesson. I think she ( Mrs, Weaver) needed to have a second rain barrel on the other side of the hotel for Blackie.

    We’ve had a few black bear sightings in Wisconsin. Luckily, they seem pretty harmless.

  4. Thanks for a smile to start the day. Since our son was attacked in our back yard by a black bear, and has the scars to show for it, I don’t think the idea of a bear roaming the streets of town would appeal very much.
    No need to enter my name in the giveaway, I already have the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Am still trying to get my son the blacksmith to make a Christmas tree for me. I’ll be rereading it this year and for years to come.

  5. What a wonderful story… I can’t imagine taming a bear, but if you get it as a cub, it certainly could be done. I laughed when I read the part about the rain barrel.
    Thanks for sharing this info…

  6. The cutest story ever, Phyliss! When we were in Tahoe last summer, the resort has a picture of a bear just chillin’ in the jacuzzi out by the pool! They frame it and sell in the gift shop. It’s adorable…but I’m glad I didn’t go out for a swim and see him in person!

  7. That was soo funny… It makes me think of my family’s visit to Yellowstone in the 1960’s. You could watch the bears go down the line of ‘bear proof’ trash containers as they opened every one!!

  8. Thanks for that great story. Can’t imagine seeing a bear drinking beer and being tame so no one was afraid of him. I can just imagine Mrs. Weaver chasing Blackie with the broom. Those must have been good times.

  9. Thanks for the fun story, Phyliss! A great way to get through the second half of the day. It reminds me of the stories of Navy Captains and their pet bears aboard ship.


  10. Stefanie D, thanks for dropping by. In most cases, I’m not sure a black bear was all that common in the Panhandle even at that time. I think because he was captured as a cub and hand raised is probably the only reason people weren’t scared of him. We have no bears now days and even in the 1890’s very few, so he was a real honest to goodness oddity. I would have been scared out of my pantalooms, but then at that time they had so much to be scared of and had such thick hide that a young bear they had known since he was little was nothing to them. Hugs, P

  11. Hi Elizabeth, you bring up a great point about him staying in town and not heading for the hills. I say that with tongue in cheek because we have no hills in the Panhandle or at least in the area of Claude. He was smarter than the average bear (teehehe)and knew which side his bread was buttered. Have a great day. Hugs, Phyliss

  12. It sounds like he must have been fairly happy with his life (or just use to it) since he stayed friendly and never ran away. Either that or he didn’t want to give up his alcohol lol. Thanks for a fun post.

  13. Oh wow, Blackie sure sounded like a very interesting bear… I can not imagine seeing a bear like him around… 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  14. Cute story but I don’t think I would want a bear wandering the streets even if he was friendly. My sister recently drove by the city park where she lives and took pictures of a mamma bear and her cubs enjoying the shrubs and greenery. These were definitely not tame and as she sat in her car she wondered about all the people walking around to get a closer look. Fortunately no one was harmed and the bears wandered back to the nearby woods.

  15. Hi Laurie G, I like your idea about a second barrel. Makes total sense.

    Renee, thanks sister filly for dropping by. Gotta love a black bear, as long as he isn’t wild. We don’t have much experience with bears here, but I have total respect for them!

    Hope you both have a great day. Phyliss

  16. I really enjoyed reading this article. It is interesting a bear would like something salty when they are known for liking sweet things like honey.

  17. Patricia B, I’m so sorry to hear about your son. I’m sure just the thoughts of a bear running wild isn’t much fun for you. And, thank you for your kind remarks about our anthology. The idea for the Christmas tree actually came from an article that fellow filly, Linda Broday, sent me about a woman in Shallowater, Texas, who with the help of her friends fashioned a Christmas tree from a strand of Brinkerhoff barbed wire taken from the historic XIT Ranch, which is still in existence and is right north of Amarillo, where I live. So, when I saw the picture I could only imagine my hero (which by the way the 4th and 5th generation Humphrey is in my current work in progress LOL) trying to make a tree for the children. Thanks for stopping by. You’re a gem for sure. Big hugs, Phyliss

  18. Margaret, I can only imagine a bear in the mall. Again, since we don’t have bears here, my experiences are when we’ve gone up to the mountains and it’s basically when we have to remove the lock on the outdoors trash can to keep them out. I think a bear in the mall, other than Build a Bear, is funny, but I’m sure it wasn’t to the people in the mall. Now in our neck of the woods, it’s horses that we have trouble with. I’ve been in two honky tonks (one I owned … yes, I owned a true Texas honky tonk years ago LOL) when some liquored up fool galloped in the front door and out the back on his horse! Those were the days. Have a great one, sister filly. Hugs, Phyliss

  19. Hi Kathleen O, I love the part about the barrel, too.
    Charlene, I’m with you about not encountering a bear of any kind unless there’s a huge chain link fence around it with a sign that says “Zoo closes a dusk.”
    Oh Tanya, what a funny story. I can just imagine a bear in the Jacuzzi. A upshot off my story, I guess. LOL
    CateS, funny story. I don’t think then make a trash can tough enough to keep a bear out. It’s in their DNA!

    Thanks ladies for reading my blog and leaving a comment. Hugs, P

  20. Hi Melinda, we sure like the cover, too. Thanks for the compliment. Kensington does some pretty awesome covers. Hope all is well with you.

    Joanne B, thanks for stopping by. Times were certainly more simple than today.

    Kirsten Lynn, I’m not familiar with the Navy Captains and their pets. Sounds like a story there. Thanks for leaving a comment, and glad it made you smile.

    Mary, you are so right. Wouldn’t that make for a funny scene in an historical? I’m gonna keep my blog and when (I’m not about to say “if”) historicals come back in full swing, I might just use the idea. It is funny. Have a wonderful evening, sister filly.

    Hugs to all you ladies, Phyliss

  21. Loved the story about Blackie. Our daughter lives near the LITTLE town in Colorado and feeds the birds. She is especillay fond of the hummingbirds and hangs about a dozen feeders out. She has had to move the feeders much higher due to the fact that a bear helps himself to them. He hits the wall to try to knock them down!! Not unusual for him to peek into her windows at her.

  22. Phyliss, this is one of the funniest stories! I wish I could have seen the altercation between Blackie and Mrs. Weaver. It makes me think of all the things like that that must have happened “back in the day” that we’ll never know about. Thanks for sharing this and giving me a laugh today.

  23. Catslady, hum, you might have something there … Blackie didn’t want to leave the alcohol. I can only imagine how much fun the cowboys had at Blackie’s expense. LOL

    Colleen, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m with you about not being able to imagine having a bear like Blackie around.

    Good evening, Hilltop Farm Wife. I think it’d be neat to see a mama bear with her cub, but I have no intentions of being on foot when I do so. As I said before either a very high fence between them and me or a locked car and then I’m not sure I’d be too comfortable.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful evening. Hugs, P

  24. Hi Joye, thanks for dropping by. I wonder if they served peanuts with their beer and that’s why he liked a little nip every now and again. I’d forgotten what all they used in beer in the 1800’s, but probably the same as today, so it might well be sweet to a bear.

    Connie J, I love the story about the hummingbird feeders. That might be why the ones up in the mountains are up so high. Never thought about it.

    Hi Cheryl. Glad to give you a laugh. I thought it was an interesting story. As a writer, I’m sure you have all kinds of ideas running around in your mind picturing Blackie and Mrs. Weaver.

    You ladies, have a great evening. Hugs, Phyliss

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