January 13, 2013

Kenneth Weene and Massachusetts

There was one unruly side to my youth; it was my hair. Straight parts and hair that knew its place were the expectations, and my head had clearly taken exception. Thick, dark brown locks went in every direction – including and perhaps most noticeably straight up and out.

My mother, tears in her eyes and voice, told me to comb it more often if only because it upset her so. My father yelled, which of course intimidated me but in no way affected a single strand. The barber up the street simply charged an extra quarter, which I’m sure pleased him no end.

It was my aunt who decided to “solve the problem of Kenneth’s hair.” To that end she bought me a present – or more exactly, two presents. The first was a silver brush and comb set: Two oval shaped brushes – perfect in shape and size to fit my hands – and a graceful black comb – one end the teeth thin and close together, the other thicker and with more distance. The second gift was a jar of Canadian Bear Grease, made – according to the label – from genuine Canadian Grizzly Bears, or as we New Englanders tend to say, Bars.”

“Rub it in before you comb. Then, once you’ve combed your hear, brush it nice and slick.” Yes, that was the word, the desired effect – “slick.”

It did seem to work. My mother fretted less. My father did less growling – at least on that topic. My brother even stopped calling me “Porcupine.”

I can’t say that family life was good, but at least it was a bit less difficult. Was that the reason my father decided on a family outing? I don’t know; but an outing we took – to the zoo. There were two zoos in Greater Boston at the time. We often went to Spot Pond, where the walking was pleasant and the collection of animals limited; this time we were going to the big zoo, the one at Franklin Park.

We didn’t often go to the big zoo because – well, to put it quite simply – it smelled like a zoo, and my mother didn’t like that. I, the family animal lover, on the other hand, always begged to go to Franklin Park. “They have all the animals,” I would say. And I am sure that I meant in the most childlike simplicity that the zoo housed all the animals in the world.

Was it my pleading that got us to Franklin Park that fine Sunday afternoon? I don’t know that either; but I do know that we were there and I was so happily going from cage to cage. Happily that is until I arrived at the Grizzly’s cage. That is when pleasure turned to terror. The great beast took one whiff of my pomade, rose on his hind legs and smelled again, dropped back to all fours and charged in my direction — all the while making sounds that rent the spring day like a giant rut down the middle of a highway.
Yes, he was in Grizzly rut, and I was – if scent was to have its say – his intended bride.
I did what any young boy would have done. With a shriek I was gone.

That night I threw away the bear grease and the silver brush and comb set. I resolved to once again allow my hair to grow wild. And never again did I ask to go to the big zoo.

Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, Ken has learned to not wave the pencil.
A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Ken Weene is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education. He is a writer by passion. Ken's short stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications. His novels, Widow’s Walk, Memoirs From the Asylum, and Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, are published by All Things That Matter Press. 

You can learn more about Ken and his writing at http://www.kennethweene.com 

(Pictures provided by author)


  1. Good thing there were bars between you and the bear, Kenneth. Or we might not have got to hear this tale. Enjoyed the read and your sense of humor.

  2. I loved this peek into your past. I can relate. When I was 8 my hair suddenly became curly--really curly like most of my McNeal clan. In the 60's when I was a teenager, the going style was straight like Cher's. I can tell you the different and ineffective ways I tried to tame it. Now, like you, I give in to the way nature intended.
    I wish you all the best with your writing career. If your books are like this true story, I have no doubt of your success.

  3. Love your writing "voice" Ken. Your books sounds exactly the kind I like to read. Thanks Annette for introducing me.

    I have pinned this page to my "Books Worth Reading" on Pinterest.

    Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

  4. Great stories. You have an amazing sense of humor. I needed a good laugh today and bear grease did it. Thank you for ending the day in smiles.

  5. Love your stories and your humor.

  6. Great story about the hair. Enjoyed reading the post a lot.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  7. Great story from your past. Bet you're glad you never ventured out in the woods with the bear grease on your head!

    kareninnc at gmail dot com


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