Outdoorsman shares tales of the woods with kids

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Outdoorsman Bruce Hendren talks June 23 to a Summer Reading Program audience at the Pawhuska Library. The theme for Summer Reading 2021 is "Trails, Tails and Tales." Hendren, who is shown with the preserved remains of a beaver, shared stories and advice with children and their parents about wild animals.

Scout leader Bruce Hendren enjoys the outdoor life. His face lights up with a smile and his eyes twinkle when he talks to kids about animals they might encounter in the woods.

Nonetheless, he warned youngsters last week at the Pawhuska Library not to try to handle and pet wild animals.

“Do not try to touch a raccoon that’s alive," Hendren said. "They may act like they’re tame, but they’ll turn around and bite you.”

He related a story about a woman who had been bitten by a prairie dog that had seemed harmless.

"Try to stay back," he cautioned.

Hendren gave a talk June 23 as part of the Pawhuska Library's 2021 series of Summer Reading Program offerings. He showed an audience of children and their adult family members beaver and deer skins, a bison-skin robe and pelts of some animals – among them a red fox and a skunk. He also brought with him a beaver and a raccoon mounted in lifelike poses, and a sample of porcupine hair.

“I actually have eaten raccoon before,” Hendren told his audience, adding that it was really rather tasty.

He emphasized the importance of taking the time to teach youth about the outdoors.

“If you want them to learn, you’ve got to teach them,” he said.

Bruce Hendren, who gave a talk about wildlife June 23 at the Pawhuska Library, pulls a bison-skin robe over his shoulders to show children in his audience how he could use the robe to stay warm. Hendren's talk was an element of the Pawhuska Library's 2021 Summer Reading Program.

Hendren, who traces his family heritage to a Native American tribe headquartered in the upper Midwest, talked about how special it was for him to once have the opportunity to shoot a bison. 

“It was really a cool experience, knowing that my ancestors did the same thing," he said, reflecting on how his forebears hunted bison as a primary food source.

Hendren also showed his audience a bison-skin robe that a friend gave him, and talked about how he uses it to stay warm when he is camping in cold weather.

“It’s really been a treat for me because I camp out a lot," he said. "When it lays on you it just warms you up.”

In addition to the bison skin, Hendren showed his audience a pair of bison horns and explained what types of practical uses were made of them.

“Back in the old days they didn’t throw anything away,” he said.

Hendren helped his audience make the connection between the desirability of animal hides and the exploration of the North American continent. The desire of European colonists and settlers for hides – for instance, beaver hides – was a motivating factor as they spread across the land, he noted.

The theme this year for Summer Reading was “Trails, Tails and Tales.” The series of programs began May 26, the last Wednesday of that month, and has continued on Wednesdays in June. Summer Reading is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Yvonne Rose, Pawhuska’s library director, and her staff have worked with presenters and community volunteers to make the weekly events possible.