Lost Boys and a Fire


black bear with front paws over log
Simon Pierre Barrette / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wana Bear

As told to Philip Polhemus by Wana Bear

In this story you will meet several of Wanakee’s furry and feathered friends.

Wana Bear is a big old black bear who lives on the back side of Look Out Hill. He has been around for as long as I can remember and his calling from God is to watch out for all who come to Wanakee. He makes sure that all are safe and protected.

Hootie Owl is the sky patrol. She flies over Wanakee making note of all that is happening and if a need arises, she reports to Wana Bear.

Dusty and Karri Fox are the ground patrol and have the same responsibilities as Hootie.

Bucky and Bea Beaver are water patrol and have the same responsibilities as Hootie and the Foxes. They report to Wana Bear through Hootie.

Amos Coon and his family are guardians of the director’s house and live close by.

Tree Knocker the Pileated Woodpecker is known as TK.

Wesley Groundhog, lives under the Barn and helps keep the grass down in Family camp.

Hester Skunk, wanders around keeping unwanted humans away from camp.

Rusty Squirrel is a friendly little rascal who calls the lower cabin in site 7 his home.

Rusty and Hootie were sitting up in the big oak near site 7. It was a beautiful day and they were enjoying the coming of spring. “I do believe I hear Wana Bear coming down from Look Out. I bet he is hungry and grouchy after his long sleep. I think I will check it out,” said Hootie as she flew off. A few minutes later she was back. “Yup, that is one hungry, grouchy bear.”


Fox squirrel looking up from snowy branch
Mark Moschell / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Rusty Squirrel

Rusty laughed, “I think I will go greet him with a cheery good day. This should be fun.” Off he went, down the tree and over to the trail just in time to say, “Hey welcome back from your winter’s sleep. I trust you slept well and are ready for a new year.”

Wana Bear growled, grunted and said, “I hope you have some extra acorns? I’m starving. I am so hungry I could eat bird seed and I’m not a fan of bird seed but…”

“Sorry Wana,” Rusty replied, “I don’t have any extra acorns but there is good news. TK has been working on a dead pine down near site 4. He says it’s loaded with good stuff. Also Bucky says the fishing looks good.”

“Thanks, I’ll go look and see. I was heading for the lake anyway. Thanks for the tip.”

As Wana headed to find TK’s tree, Joey Wright, Billy Long, and Brad Stone were dropped off at the Hamlin Park for an afternoon of hiking the trails. But as young boys will do they decided it would be fun to go exploring and the next thing they knew they were lost and I mean LOST! How they got all the way to site 7 no one knows but they did and by this time it was dark and turning cold. Joey said, “Billy, try your phone again. Maybe there is a signal.”

Billy had been trying for the last half hour but no bars. When he tried the phone this time it was dead. “I think we are in big trouble, I know my mom is going to kill me. We have got to do something. Let’s check out that cabin.”

Rusty was listening to all this. He had settled down for the night when the boys arrived. “Great, just what I need is a bunch of lost boys staying in my cabin.”

Brad went to check out the cabin and Joey was stumbling around in the dark. He found the fire pit and wood box. As he felt around, much to his surprise there was a box of matches. “Hey look at what I found, matches and firewood. Let’s build a fire and maybe someone will see it.”


Red fox walks among small branches sticking out of in snow
Alan Krakauer / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Dusty Fox

It didn’t take long for the fire to get going. Rusty realized big trouble was coming. He had seen Dusty and Karri Fox headed toward the upper cabin so he darted past Brad, scaring him half to death and scrambled up to the upper cabin. “Go get Wana. I think we are going to have a bad fire.” They headed off in a dead run to get Wana who was enjoying the stars at Look Out. He was full, the tree bugs were excellent, and Bucky was right, there were fish to be caught. It had turned out to be a good day.

Sure enough, the boys hadn’t cleaned out the fire pit and soon the dead leaves around the pit started to burn. The boys tried to put them out but it was spreading too fast.

Wana had smelled the smoke and was coming down the hill as he met the foxes. They could see the fire was starting to spread. “Dusty, you find TK and tell him to go ring the bell. Karri, tell Rusty to go to the farmhouse and pull the fire alarm.”


Barred Owl perched on bare tree branches
Mdf / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Hootie Owl

Hootie also had smelled the fire and heard Wana. “I’ll get Amos’ family and I am sure Wesley and Hester will hear the bell and come running. They will know it is a fire.”

When the boys saw Wana, they screamed and started to run. “Stop!!” yelled Wana, “Don’t you dare run. You’ve got to help me stop this fire.” The boys couldn’t believe their ears but they did stop.

“Did that bear just tell us to stop?” asked Brad.

“You bet I can talk, now come here and help!” replied Wana. “Start down here and help me rake the leaves away and maybe we can stop the fire.”


Pileated Woodpecker in tree
Joshlaymon / Wickimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

TK (Tree Knocker) the Pileated Woodpecker

TK started pounding the bells and it wasn’t long before Wesley, Hester and the Amos family were headed to help Wana and the boys. When the boys saw the other animals and that the fire was still spreading they decided it was time to go even if a bear could talk, they weren’t staying.


Tom Friedel / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Hester Skunk

Hester realized that the boys were bolting. “I guess I better take care of them.” She jumped in front of them and said. “You run and I’ll spray you good. But if you follow me I’ll lead you to safety. The firemen should be here soon and Wana Bear and the rest will fight the fire.”

“This is some crazy place,” cried Joey. “The animals talk and if we don’t follow this skunk we’ll get sprayed.”

It wasn’t long before the fire trucks arrived. There was no fire they could see but they did smell smoke. As they were looking around Hootie flew over their heads and hooted. “Up the hill, you dummies!” The men looked around, saw Hootie flying up the hill and then saw the fire.

Now the big trucks could only make it up to site 5. They saw the boys following the skunk. When Hester saw the firemen she headed for the woods and let the firemen take care of the boys.

It wasn’t long before the fire was out. The boys’ parents were called and all were safe and sound. Wana hoped they were grounded forever.

But there was a mystery in all this. The boys insisted bears and skunks could talk, but no one believed them. Then there were the questions, how did the alarm get pulled when the farmhouse was locked? Who was ringing the bell when the fire trucks pulled up? Who had cleared the ground so the fire was almost stopped? And then there were the strange voices singing, “We are the keepers of Wanakee.”

After everyone left, the animal crew met still singing their song. Wana Bear cleared his throat and said “Well done, you’ve saved the camp and three boys. Great work! Thank you all, it was a job very well done. Good night and sleep well.” They all went their separate ways singing, “We are the keepers of Wanakee.”

Wana Bear Stories